2010 Draft Preview part 5: Persons of Interest

Afternoon, everyone. And how are you today? 

Home game number two will be played tonight, and I have to admit to being extremely nervous. I'm nervous because Brad Penny is on the mound, and we need Brad Penny to be good. We need Brad Penny to be good because if he isn't good, we're relying on Kyle Lohse to be good, and I'm just not too very sure about that. I can count on Kyle Lohse to be inoffensive, perhaps even acceptable in a yeah-we're-paying-you-to-be-better-than-this-but-at-least-you're-healthy sort of way. But counting on Lohse to be actually, no foolin' good? I'm just not so sure. 

I'm also nervous because, just in case you hadn't heard, Jason LaRue is hitting the disabled list and we're not going to be subjected to two weeks of one Bat F. Gagnozzi while he recuperates from his dime beer night injuries. That's right, kids; Bryan Anderson is coming up to the show. He can thank whoever taught him to hit left-handed, as that's assuredly the reason he's getting this call up. 

So why does that make me nervous? Because I'm actually getting what I want, and that's always always always cause for nervousness. Because if Anderson comes up and just completely tanks something fierce, then it'll just prove to those in the Pagnozzi camp that Anderson never had any business being an option in the first place. We'll have to hear about the mysticism and intangibility of catcher defense, and how Anderson doesn't know how to Handle a Staff. In short, if the thing you want comes true, and then it's terrible, where do you go from there? So please, Bryan. Don't mess this up for us. 

More draft stuff after the jump. 

For most of these things, I'm generally focusing only on first-round type players, the sort of talented guys who might be left on the board by the time the Cards make a pick, but certainly aren't guaranteed to be. There's a pretty simple reason for that: those are the guys an amateur scouting type such as myself can actually find information on. You get down into the guys who are going to go in the middle or late rounds, scouting directors know who they are, but I certainly don't. 

Today, though, I've got a batch of players who aren't necessarily going to be first rounders. They might be, but then again, they might not. Regardless, all of these players are guys I personally find intriguing for one reason or another and could very well be options for the Cards to take with one of their many extra picks this year. 

Matt Harvey, RHP, University of North Carolina

Harvey, you might recall, was actually the other half of what was considered an historically great pitching duo committed to UNC back in 2007. Rick Porcello was The Guy, but Harvey was seen as being only a step or two down from where Porcello was and both were heading to North Carolina if they didn't get what they wanted in the draft. Porcello, of course, was drafted in the first round by the Tigers, signed a big contract, and is now making his living in the major leagues. Harvey wasn't drafted until later by the Angels and decided to go to college. 

Harvey still has a premium arm, but he's not quite the same pitcher he was coming out of high school. Back then he was seen as a true fireballer, a guy with a fastball that hit 97 and a monster curve he could ride to the bigs. Nowadays he still has premium velocity, though not quite the old smoke, and has turned into an extreme groundball pitcher. He's also ditched the curveball in favour of a very nice slider. 

Let's see...grounders, slider, throws hard, college product. Sounds like a Cardinal draftee to me. And personally, I think he'd make a good one. Harvey still needs to work on refining his game, as his changeup doesn't really match up to his other two pitches and he still gets by more on stuff than pitching, but after three years of college ball he looks to have every bit the promise he showed coming out of prep ball. 

Chance Ruffin, RHP, University of Texas

Hey, who out there likes Huston Street? Lets' see, one, two, three... Okay, now who wants to draft him? Well, you're in luck! We just happen to have Chance Ruffin available, and he's pretty much just Huston Street with a slightly less gunslingery name. 

I'm not really joking; Chance Ruffin has been doing Street's old job -- closing games for Texas -- for the last couple of years, and he's pretty much the same guy. Ruffin attacks hitters from a low arm slot that creates a lot of movement on his fastball, which he'll throw anywhere from 88-92, topping out about 94. The pitch plays up better than the raw velocity due to movement and Ruffin's ability to pound the zone with it. He also throws a slider with a big break that tends to get a bit slurvy at times. Most reports have him also throwing a curve, but I personally have never seen it and so can't really comment. (Or maybe I have seen it and thought is was just a slurvy slider. Either way, I didn't recognise a distinctly different pitch.) 

The other thing Ruffin shares with Street is an outstanding makeup, including that mythical Closer Mentality. He's aggressive on the mound, throwing a lot of strikes and forcing hitters to beat him. His delivery is interesting; it reminds me of Street in a way, but the tempo is much faster, almost a bit like Jess Todd without jumping at the plate so much. 

I definitely wouldn't be happy with Ruffin in the first round, but with several extra picks in the supplementals, I certainly wouldn't complain if the Cards popped him somewhere. He should move quickly and could end up setting up or even closing in the big leagues sooner rather than later. There's value to be had there, I think. 

Marcus Littlewood, SS, Pine View High School (Utah)

I like Marcus Littlewood. (I almost omitted his first name there but realised my error just in time.) He plays the middle infield, he's a switch-hitter, and he has a big, loose frame that suggests there should be some power in his bat down the line. He has a plus arm, plenty enough for short or even third base, and gets good reviews for his hands and instincts in the field. 

The problem is that while he looks like there should be some power there, said power is currently not apparent. He hits too much off his front foot, especially from the left side, which keeps him from tapping into his natural strength. That's the sort of thing which can be coached, of course, but as we've seen with Pete Kozma, sometimes a guy just is what he is. 

Littlewood is a big fellow, going 6'3" and 200 lbs, and the consensus seems to be he just doesn't have the range to play shortstop, particularly down the road when he'll fill out and slow down further. I'm normally skeptical of the 'will have to move off short' scouting meme, but in this case it probably rings true. As a second baseman, Littlewood could be a monster, a high-average middling power switch-hitter who can play average defense. If he moves to third, then the questions about his power or lack thereof likely get much louder. 

Chad Lewis, 3B, Marina High School (California)

Another high school left side infielder, Lewis is an excellent pure hitter. He has a solid stroke from the right side of the plate that produces a ton of hard contact and should allow him to hit for both average and power down the road. I've read reports that say he has a hole in his swing, but I honestly haven't seen more than three at-bats of his and that's just not enough to spot something like that. 

In the field, Lewis is a solid defender. He's already made that conversion from shortstop over to third, but has retained plenty of his agility and skill. He has a slightly better than average arm that works but won't blow you away at the hot corner. You'll hear a lot when discussing Lewis that he just Looks Like a Ballplayer. In fact, I had to catch myself from saying it just a moment ago because I really hate using terms that mean absolutely nothing like that. Still, he has a great frame and room to add a bit more strength. 

I like Lewis. He isn't getting a ton of predraft hype, but I think he could very well end up being an excellent pick for some team come draft day. 

Addison Reed, RHP, San Diego State

A closer his first two seasons playing for Tony Gwynn, Reed has made the Braden Looper Leap and is starting this season. He was solid as a closer and the early returns on him in the rotation look fairly promising as well. His eventual draft standing will likely hinge largely on what role perspective teams see him filling. 

To be honest, I'm not all that high on Reed. He works in the upper 80s/ low 90s range as a starter, and his fastball just doesn't move a whole lot. He could get it up to 95 in relief, which helped make up for his lack of movement. He throws a slider that rates average or a little better, and has the makings of a very nice changeup. The changeup in particular could honestly change my mind about Reed if he continues to progress with it; it's a solid pitch already and looks better than that at times. 

I don't much care for his delivery, though it isn't awful. I do like that he drifts through the balance point and is aggressive driving toward the plate, but his pitching elbow gets a bit high for my tastes. Reed presents a question mark. He has enough pitches to profile as a starter, but his stuff looked much, much better in relief. If his complementary pitches continue to improve, he might make it in a big league rotation someday, but he wouldn't be my first choice. 

Cameron Rupp, C, University of Texas

I know, I know. The Cardinals already have a boatload of potential talent behind the plate, but you can never have too many catching prospects, and Rupp could be a good one. He's a good receiver, though not super agile, and has excellent size at 6'2" and 230 or so. 

There's a lot of raw power in Rupp's bat, and that's likely what will get him drafted. There are concerns about his overall hitting ability, but the power is very real. He has a plus arm behind the plate as well, allowing him to control the running game quite well. 

There are plenty of questions about Rupp's long-term future, as his athleticism isn't his strong suit, but a catcher with the kind of power he flashes at times is a very valuable commodity. He has only the one plus tool, but it's a tool that's exceedingly rare among the backstop population. At the very least, Rupp could make an intriguing backup catcher down the road somewhere in the mold of, well, Jason LaRue. He probably needs to start on the mullet now, though. 

Nick Tepesch, RHP, University of Missouri

I'm just going to say it: Tepesch is one of my favourite players in this entire draft. I love his arm, I love the movement on his pitches, I love the fact he's a localish kid. What I don't love is the tepid results Tepesch has achieved in his college career. 

Stuff-wise, there's absolutely nothing wrong with Tepesch. He throws a fastball in the low 90s with outstanding movement that hitters find very difficult to square up. When I've seen Tepesch throw, I've been especially impressed with his changeup, which features hard downward movement and pretty good arm speed, though that could still be improved. His curveball receives a lot of praise in scouting reports, though it looks average to me. 

There are really two issues that have kept Tepesch from becoming a top draft pick. First is his command, which wavers badly at times, and second is his game plan, which is just flat-out awful. I know it's been mentioned here in conversations, but for a pitcher with a fastball he should be able to just cruise behind, Tepesch seems intent on throwing an awful lot of offspeed stuff, especially early in the count. The fact he doesn't command either of his offspeed pitches at the moment certainly doesn't help matter any, as he's very prone to hanging a curve or leaving a changup about belt high to get belted high. And far. 

There are lots of scouts who don't like his delivery, but I don't really subscribe to that. It's a bit funky, but I don't see much in his mechanics that really worries me. It could certainly use some refining, as I'm sure it would help his command to be more consistent with his delivery, but I don't buy that he really needs a mechanical overhaul. 

The results just haven't matched the talent for Nick Tepesch in his college career, and I actually think that makes him an excellent draft choice. He'll likely go far lower than a guy with his arm should, and if a team could make some much-needed changes to his game I think he could go a long, long way. Hell, just have Lou Brown yell at him to forget the curve and I think the results for Tepesch would improve quite a bit. He's certainly a bit of a project, but I think the payoff, particularly in terms of where you might be able to snag him in the draft, could potentially be huge. 

Alright, that's another one in the can. I hope you'll all forgive the late post today; I had good intentions of writing this earlier in the week but simply didn't get the time. Take care, and I'll have a game thread up about 6:30 or so. 

The Baron's Playlist for the 14th of April, 2010

"My Descent Into Madness" - Eels

"Kettering" - the Antlers

"My Mom" - Chocolate Genius

"(Hospital Vespers)" - the Weakerthans

"St. James Infirmary" - Louis Armstrong

"Death Letter" - the White Stripes

"Arc of Time" - Bright Eyes

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