Thank you, Mother Nature. Sure, you've been kind of a bitch in the past, what with the earthquakes and wildfires and occasional tsunami action, things like that, but you totally redeemed yourself last night. Wiping out that crap start? Brilliant. Love it. More of that sort of thing, please.
Actually, more of that would be great. If we could just somehow end every game the rest of the year in the sixth, maybe seventh inning, El Birdos just might go undefeated.
Today we've got our second batch of right-handed collegiate pitchers on tap. Let's jump right in, shall we?
Ryan Eades, RHP, LSU
6'3", 205 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Ryan Eades is kind of an enigmatic figure. He's one of those pitchers who falls squarely into the raw college pitcher demographic that Jeff Luhnow's group delved into fairly heavily in the early days of his tenure as scoutmaster extraordinaire here in St. Louis but got away from later on.
The stuff, she is premium. The results, they are middling. At least, that was the story for Eades up until this season, when his pitching has finally started to catch up with his arm. To a certain extent, anyway.
Eades works his fastball in the low 90s, and there's a little extra in the tank when he needs it. His curveball...oh my. Like George Takei oh my. Ryan Eades' curveball is George Takei awesome. It's just beautiful. Not quite the big waterfall curve of an Adam Wainwright; it's a little too slurvy, even at its best, for that. But when it's on, hitters just can't touch the thing. He features a solid changeup as well, with probably four of five every outing that make you sit up and pay attention.
Even now, though, the consistency isn't always there for Eades. He got off to a brilliant start this season, but has hit bumps along the way. He got thumped against Arkansas last weekend (squaring off against Ryne Stanek, no less), and while he wasn't terrible, it wasn't what I was hoping to see from the biggest pitching matchup of the college season so far. The release point wanders for Eades; his mechanics come and go. His arm action is always pretty ugly, as he doesn't turn his arm over until extremely late. While he generally looks good on the mound, he isn't one of those guys who appears to always have things under control, no matter what.
For my money, Eades is a reliever in the end. I don't think his mechanics hold up to a starter's workload, and the up and down nature of his career worries me. I can't deny he has the stuff, though, and pushed into a role of being able to air out his best two pitches, I think he could develop into something tremendous in the bullpen. That's just my opinion, though.
He wouldn't be my first choice for the Redbirds with their top pick. Problem is, he won't be around when I would feel good about selecting him. In other words, this isn't a player I'm all that high on.
Bradley Shipley, RHP, University of Nevada
6'3", 190 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Shipley is a huge helium guy this spring, so much so that he's come from being projected as a late second round pick coming into the season to a player some have mentioned as a possible top ten pick. As I've said before, I tend to think players with a ton of helium usually settle in somewhat lower than the highest expectations for them, so I'm not honestly expecting him to go quite that high. Still, this is a pitcher who has made himself an absolute ton of money this spring.
To start with, Shipley throws hard. Actually, that might need to be capitalized. He throws Hard. His fastball tops out at 97, and it's consistently been in the mid-90s this season. That's a definite uptick from where he has been in the past, when he would bump 94 twice a start and the scouts mostly saw him as a results-driven, off the beaten path guy. He didn't come from off the radar, exactly, but the jump in velocity has significantly altered the view of him going forward. So it may be capital H hard he's throwing right now, but it hasn't always been that way.
Shipley complements his heater with a nasty slider that is one of the better breaking pitches in the draft this year; a hard tilter that was his main weapon up until this spring. The changeup has a ways to go, still, though he does a nice job of locating the pitch in general. He's solid as a rock upstairs, and prior to this season was lauded more for his approach and intelligence than his stuff. The new fastball gets all the press, but his makeup is still a big plus.
I like Shipley, though I admit to having general reservations about players who suddenly go nuts the spring of their draft year. It's not exactly coincidental so many do, of course; the dedication level rises, I'm sure, with both maturity and the potential for an enormous payout, and simple aging curve-related development can explain a lot of the jumps. Still, I always worry you're drafting a guy based on the absolute best thing you've seen from him, and something that isn't exactly indicative of who he's been for most of his life. Like trading for Pete Kozma based on last year's postseason, that sort of thing.
This is another pitcher I could see ending up in the bullpen, honestly. His newfound velocity and plus slider would seem to make him a solid fit for short work, and his makeup is such you would hope he could mentally handle the strain of the late innings. That may be selling him short, though, as for now his ceiling is still somewhere near the front of a rotation.
Jonathan Crawford, RHP, Florida
6'2", 190 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
So the last two guys have both been risers. Shipley came from out of nowhere (relatively speaking), and Eades is riding a jump in the quality of his stuff to the top of the draft.
Jonathan Crawford is the flipside of that particular coin.
If you have guys who put it together and rise, you're going to have guys who just prove how much can go wrong, too, and Crawford is one of those. He came into the season riding a wave of momentum from his sophomore 2012 campaign that included a no-hitter and had people buzzing about his arm from Tampa to Timbuktu. (Big college baseball fans in Timbuktu.) This year, things have gone nothing but wrong for him.
The numbers are downright hideous, and the scouting reports tend to follow suit: this is a pitcher who cannot figure it out at all right now. The control is nowhere to be found, the quality of his pitches varies widely from start to start, and while he still draws mostly positive reviews for his makeup, there is clearly a sense of frustration starting to creep in for the kid. Hard to blame him, honestly.
Here's the thing, though: Crawford still has one of the most impressive arms in the draft this year. His fastball can touch 98 mph at times, and his slider is positively wicked when it's on. The key phrase there, unfortunately, is 'when it's on'; there are too many times when Crawford just can't get the pitch anywhere near where he wants it. There is a changeup, apparently, but in the couple starts I've actually seen from him I didn't spot a single one I would write home about. Well, other than to say, "My Dearest Sylvia, this time apart has been torture, my darling, and I yearn for the day when I can feel your sweet embrace again. I dream of our wedding day, and eagerly anticipate all that our lives shall we once we two have become one. I simply adore you, my sweet, and I count the days until my path leads me back to your side. Also, I saw a dude the other day with a shitty changeup. Eternally yours, Aaron"
There are two things I like about Crawford. One is the stuff. The other is the fact he's falling. Perversely, while I occasionally object to paying extra for the best you've seen from a player, I'm oddly excited about the prospect of getting a guy on the cheap who has hit the skids, if the potential is there for a turnaround. That sounds stupid even just saying it.
Still, my point is this: as badly as Crawford has pitched this spring, he's no longer a guy likely to go in the first round. He could be had with a later pick, making him a different sort of bet entirely, at least in my eyes. He's still not likely to fall beyond, say, the second round, but even that is something.
I know you've heard me say this before today, but this is a reliever. Not in the same kind of, he-might-end-up-in-the-bullpen-if-such-and-such-thing-doesn't-develop-or-whatever way as the other two, though. Jonathan Crawford is a reliever. Just pick him, stick him in the 'pen, scrap the changeup, and work on refining the delivery. Fastball-slider and let's throw some strikes. Simple.
I'm not spending a first round pick on Jonathan Crawford. Maybe not even a supplemental one at this point. But if he's there in the second, I'm putting a bet on his arm, and my development people. The problems plaguing Crawford are by no means unfixable, and changing his role would be a great start on the road to turning him into something exciting.
Bye, guys. Happy Shelby Day!