Morning, folks. I don't really know what to say about the game last night. Rick made two of the greatest throws you'll ever witness in your life, Looper was great, Tony probably should have told him to hit the showers after the eighth, rather than sending him back out there, and Ryan Franklin scares the living hell out of me.
Okay. That about covers it. I haven't been keeping up with my draft writing, (some of you may have minded, others, not so much) so I wanted to put up a little bit of an update on how some of the chips are beginning to fall. We're just about a month out from the draft, and we can look now and see pretty well how things are shaping up. So, without further ado:
Gordon Beckham has been the story of the college season. He's pretty much a shoo in for Player of the Year honours, and now has no chance of falling anywhere near the Cardinals' drafting position. Some have projected him as going as high as the Royals at #3, but it would surprise me a bit if Kansas City took him. I think the Royals will be hard pressed to pass over Aaron Crow. He's an in state product, and despite his recent struggles, he's still shown exactly how dominant he can be at times this year. Beckham could go anywhere between 4 and 8, though. He makes sense anywhere in there.
Pedro Alvarez, the #1 talent coming into the season, suffered a broken hand early in the year, and looked to possibly be losing some money as a result. It doesn't appear, however, that that's really the case, as he's still looked at as being a top 3 sort of pick. He's been solid but not great this season, with less power than in the past, but that's to be expected with the type of injury he sustained.
Probably the biggest surprises to this point has been the fall off of two top high school prospects. Two of the three players I wrote about as "home run" picks, have really struggled and seen their stocks fall.
Tim Melville, the right handed pitcher from Wentzville, has had a rough spring, although he's turned it around a bit lately. He has been very inconsistent, with his velocity fluctuating significantly, at times dipping down into the mid 80s, whereas he had previously been solidly in the low 90s, and reaching even higher. The velocity has come back a bit recently, and personally, I'm not shocked at a high school senior having difficulty finding consistent mechanics and feel. There's a good chance he's around at 13 now, and I would still like to see the Cards take a chance on him.
The other player that's fallen off, and much more dramatically, is Harold Martinez, the high school shortstop out of Miami. He's been absolutely brutal this spring, and has fallen almost completely out of consideration as a first round pick. He still has the picture perfect swing that made him such a well thought of prospect in the first place, but has looked at times this season as if he's only trying to make a perfect swing, rather than trying to actually hit a ball. Most pundits now think his stock has fallen so far he's almost guaranteed to got to Miami U. and try to build his stock in college. I must say, though, that if he were sitting around in the, say third or even maybe second round, I would be sorely tempted to take the kid and buy him out of his college commitment. No later than the third, because you want to use a protected pick, in case he doesn't sign, but I can think of much worse risks. He still profiles as a dynamic third baseman down the line, and you very well might be able to pick him up with a value pick now, rather than where he was originally slated to go.
Among high schoolers who are climbing, rather than falling, two names really stand out: Kyle Skipworth and Casey Kelly. Skipworth is a left handed hitting, legitimately five tool catcher from California. He entered the season as one of the more intriguing prospects in the draft, and has really solidified that standing this year. He's being projected to go in the top 7-8 picks, and there have been murmurs of him going really, really high, like top three. Kelly is probably the second best prep shortstop in the draft this year, behind Tim Beckham. There are still some questions about Kelly's bat, specifically his ability to make consistent contact, but the tools are very real. He's a polished, above average defender, and has at least average, and maybe better, raw power. The Reds, a team known for taking high schoolers in the draft, appear to be a pretty solid destination for Kelly at #7, although it's still tough to say Kelly has risen that high, given that he came in as a late first round/ supplemental guy.
The biggest riser of all has been Buster Posey, the catcher out of Florida State. Posey, you may recall, is the player who was previously a shortstop and converted to catcher during the 2007 season. He's had a monster year, and has improved in all facets of his game, to the point that it's actually possible the Rays may take him #1 overall. They're certainly considering it, and he would be a pretty decent fit there, as catcher is one of the very few positions that the Rays' farm system isn't very well stocked.
One of the guys I really liked for the Cardinals in the supplemental round, Zach Putnam, RHP University of Michigan, has improved his stock nicely this spring. He's shown the same good velocity and plus sink on his fastball that he's always had, but his splitter has improved all out of measure, becoming a truly dominant out pitch. He may still be a reach at 13, but definitely not as much as he previously was. The more I look at what he's accomplished this season, the more I like Putnam. With his improved splitter, he now has two plus pitches and a third that grades about solid average, in his slider. He had a very good repertoire before, and it's only gotten better. Again, I don't know if he would be a good value at 13, and I'm always hoping for more of a home run, usually high school, pick, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear the Cards call his name in June.
Another pitcher I like, Tanner Scheppers, RHP Fresno State, has also moved up the draft boards this year. He now looks as if he'll most likely go before 13, possibly to Oakland or Texas. Scheppers has shown good command of his power repertoire this season, while other, similar pitchers, such as Shooter Hunt and Ryan Perry, have struggled significantly to find the plate. Scheppers is now seen as being probably about the third or fourth best overall pitcher on the board, after guys like Crow and Matusz.
A couple of other risers:
Jemile Weeks, 2b, Miami- Back when I covered college position players, I thought Weeks was a back end of the first round/ supplemental guy. He's improved his standing a bit, to where he'll probably go in the 17-21 range. I'm not sure if he's still a reach at 13; probably a little bit. Still, he plays a premium position on the defensive spectrum, and he would move very quickly. The Cards could do worse than to try and fill their hole at second long term with Rickie's younger brother.
Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky U- Friedrich's tough to get a handle on; he came into the year looking as if he could go anywhere from 10 to 25, and there's still a ton of debate on the kid. Teams really like the strikeouts, and he isn't walking a ton this year, but he still doesn't have great velocity, and he has been a bit inconsistent this season. However, very few pitchers are performing very well at the moment, and Friedrich is, so you almost have to think his stock is rising, just due to the fact that he's pitching better than most others right now. I think he might be a nice fit for Oakland at 12, but I still can't really tell where he's going to go.
Aaron Shafer, RHP, Wichita State- Shafer has pitched very well this season, particularly of late, and he has some of the best stuff in the draft. He still scares the hell out of me, though. Why, you ask? Shafer's delivery has always been described as 'clean', and 'effortless', and yet he's had a tough time staying healthy. Guys with that profile worry me; I tend to think there's an injury just around every corner. I will say, though, that Shafer does have big time stuff, and the best name in the draft.
Overall, most of the big risers this year have been collegians, while a lot of the prepsters have fallen off. Actually, it's tough to say the big risers, because this has been kind of an odd year. There have been a couple of truly outstanding performances, (see Beckham, Gordon and Posey,) but it's mostly been a few players performing decently, while a whole bunch of others have played themselves back into the middle of the pack.
For whatever it may be worth, here are few players I'd like to see the Cards target:
Tim Melville- I still think he's a huge talent. He's neither the first, nor the last, 18 year old to struggle with his physicality and the stress of a draft hanging over his head.
Zach Putnam- He certainly fits the bill, and I think he's better than he got credit for.
Jemile Weeks- Locking up second base for awhile doesn't sound too bad...
Ryan Perry- Perry, a RHP from Arizona State, I believe, has huge stuff, but has had a tough time finding the plate this year. If he falls, he could be a great value pick in the second round.
Harold Martinez- He's been awful, but could be a steal in the third round. I don't think talent just evaporates. Again, not the first high school senior to struggle going into the draft.
Kyle Skipworth- if he falls, which he won't, he's too unique a talent to ever pass up, no matter how deep you are at catcher. He won't fall, though.
Aaron Hicks- The two way star from high school in Florida, Hicks is definitely raw, but has freakish, Jose Reyes like tools. Awfully tempting.
Crap. I've got to go. sorry to just cut off like this, but I really should have been done with this quite a while ago. I do love listening to myself ramble, though.