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2009 Draft Preview #2

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Well, howdy, y'all!

Yeah, I know; not really me, is it? Oh well.

Anyway, I thought this morning that we might take another look at some of the players who may or may not figure in to the Cardinals' draft pick this coming June. Sadly, I have not gotten started on this until slightly before noon this fine morning, so in order to try and get it posted by a decent hour, I'm going to have to keep this as short as possible.

Let's get right to it, shall we?

A fewdaysback, the always excellent fewgoodcards, over at Future Redbirds, did his initial top 30 draft rankings. Not trying to predict any picks or anything of that sort, mind you, just ranking the 30 best players in the draft. What is most striking about this year's draft is the overwhelming number of pitchers who look to be first round talents. Not all of them will end up as such, of course, due to signability issues, health issues, poor performance, and plain old TINSTAAPP thinking, but the point remains: 2009 looks to be as arm-heavy a draft as we've seen in quite a while.

Today I wanted to look at one of my favourite segments of the draft, and one that the Cardinals almost never mine with their early draft picks: prep school pitchers. I think the Cards simply see this particular draft segment as being too risky, and there is plenty of support for such a belief. Thus, there is probably almost zero chance that the Cardinals draft one of these individuals, but I'll cover them anyway.

There are three high school arms in this year's class that really stand out above the others; two lefties and one righthander.

Matthew Purke, LHP- Klein High School, Spring, Texas

6'3", 170 lbs.

Takkle Profile Page

Aflac All-American Profile

So, what's so great about this guy?

Matthew Purke is, quite simply, the most talented high schooler in this year's draft. He brings the repertoire of a power pitcher to the mound to go along with a solid feel for pitching, and should move fairly quickly in whatever organisation is lucky enough to land this young man on draft day.

Working from a low three-quarters arm slot, Purke throws a fastball that cruises easily in the low 90s, touching all the way up to 95 at times, and complements it with a biting slider that projects as a plus pitch already. He also features a solid changeup that nonetheless still needs refining.

The comparison you get most often when talking about Purke is that of Scott Kazmir; fewgoodcards himself refers to Purke as "...Kazmir with a bigger frame." That's a pretty apt comparison, as both are slender, hard-throwing lefties, though Purke, while impressive, isn't yet the kind of showcase circuit legend that Kazmir was. The other comp I really like for Purke, and I haven't really seen it elsewhere yet, is that of a slightly smaller version of 2007 draft sensation Madison Bumgarner. The two have similar mechanics, with both of them slinging the ball from a low arm angle, and Bumgarner, since turning pro, has begun throwing a slider that is already getting some hype as one of the best in the minors.

(If I did this correctly, Purke should be the first video and Bumgarner the second.)

Regardless of who you like to compare him to, the fact is that Matt Purke is a special, special arm. I don't see any way the Cardinals would ever have a shot at drafting him , but a man can dream, can't he?

Tyler Matzek, LHP-Capistrano Valley HS, Mission Viejo, California

6'3", 185 lbs.

Aflac All-American Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

Remember Brian Matusz from last year's draft? Lefty, four pitch arsenal, good control? Orioles took him fourth overall? Yeah, that's the guy.

Well, take that guy, subtract three years, and you've got Tyler Matzek. Whereas Matthew Purke is a bundle of raw, unfinished talent, Matzek is a much more polished pitcher, with four pitches that all profile in the solid-average range, and all four of which can be thrown for strikes. He's a little more filled out than Purke as well, and isn't as slingy with his arm action.

Much like Matusz from last year, Matzek's chief strength is in the depth of his repertoire, and his ability to control it. He throws a fastball in the 88-91 range, and has touched 94 at times, though the pitch tends to flatten out at higher velocities. A solid slider complements what may be his best pitch, a tight little curveball that shows potential of being a plus pitch down the road. His changeup has a little fade, and he does a nice job of selling it with his arm speed. Matzek can locate all four of his pitches effectively, making them all play up. He and Purke will likely duke it out all spring on people's draft boards, and which one goes first will largely depend on who has the better showing.

 

Jacob Turner, RHP- Westminster Christian Academy, St. Charles, Missouri

6'4", 205 lbs.

Aflac All-American Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

Jacob Turner is pretty much your prototypical power pitcher. He's big, right around the same size as a Mark Prior (frame-wise, at least; he still needs to fill out), he throws hard, and he's got a hammer breaking pitch to put hitters away.

This marks the second year in a row that the St. Louis area has one of the top prep pitching prospects in the nation, with Turner following in the footsteps of last year's Great White Hope, Tim Melville. I wanted the Cardinals to take Melville when he dropped out of the first round, but he eventually went to the Royals in the fourth, I believe.

Like Melville, Turner has a big, strong frame with plenty of room left to fill out, though Turner isn't quite as wiry as Melville was. Turner's calling card is his excellent arm speed, which allows him to deliver fastballs consistently in the low 90s, up to about 94 or so. He throws a curve in the mid-70s that already qualifies as an out pitch, though he isn't as consistent with his command of the pitch as he is his fastball. Turner's changeup is definitely his third pitch at the moment, though he hasn't needed it much, and it does show promise. He commands his entire repertoire very well, especially his fastball, and has above-average movement on all of his offerings.

My one and only issue with Turner has to with his delivery. I actually don't see anything in his mechanics that throws up a big red flag to me, though I can't be sure watching them at full speed, but I tend not to like pitchers who work with as slow a tempo as he does. He hangs back over the rubber, and is very deliberate. It's worked very well so far for him, and like I said, I don't see anything I really dislike at first blush, but if I were coaching the kid, I think I would try to get him to speed up his tempo a little bit, see if I couldn't get him carrying his momentum through the balance point a little more. Just my personal preference, though. What he's doing now is obviously working just fine.

 

Well, that's it for this edition of the draft preview. As I said earlier, I don't think there's much of a chance that any of these three players hear their name called on draft day by the Cardinals, but if history has taught us anything, it's that you never really know how the draft is going to work out.

Of the three, I think Turner probably has the best chance of being there at 19; he's a slightly less sought-after commodity, being dextrous rather than sinister, and being from a slightly colder weather area may hurt him a bit. Now, the wild card of course with any of these guys is signability. I don't honestly know about any of their representation, and frankly, I don't care that much right now. That will all be hashed and rehashed closer to the draft; for now, I prefer to look just at the players themselves.

Anyhow, that's another one in the bag. Hope you found it edifying, gratifying, and, um, some other word with -fying at the end of it. Have a nice Wednesday, everyone.

Edit: Turner is using Boras as an advisor; another reason he may be there at 19. Just a thought.