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2009 Draft Preview #9: Persons of Interest

Well now, that's certainly more like it, no?

Finally, a serious number that we can all celebrate, along with another dominating performance from a Cardinal pitcher. Well, alright, maybe dominating is a little bit strong, seeing as how Wainwright did more fighting than what we've become accustomed to the past week or so. The strike zone was a little tight, and it was clear that Adam didn't have quite the pinpoint control that he had sported recently, but it's impossible, really, to argue with the results.

Oh, shit.

I just realised, today is an early game, isn't it?

Yup. Just checked. Noon start. Well, crap.

Okay. Change of plans, everybody. First off, some stuff on the game last night, all bullet-pointy:

  • Wainer threw an awful lot of pitches for a six-run game; I would have liked to see him out of there after the sixth.
  • Excited about Rasmus' home run, not because he hit it out, but because he took it to center. He's been opening the front shoulder and pulling off the ball lately; hopefully this is a harbinger of things to come.
  • Great to see Duncan hit one too. If this offense is going to get back to being wicked good like it was in April, Dunc is going to have to be a big part of it.
  • Still think the roster needs to be fixed, and I've got the solution right here.
  • I shouldn't take such pleasure in others' misery, but lighting up Suppan was awesome. So tired of watching that guy bash our boys' brains in.

Okay. That's enough of that. Onward to some more draft stuff.

I had planned on doing a group of three college right-handers this morning, but I don't have the time for that now. Instead, I'll go with what I had planned for next week: a rundown of a bunch of names that I think may be of interest to the Cardinals for one reason or another. These guys aren't first rounders (or, at least, I don't think most of them are), but they are players that I believe fit in with the Cardinals' drafting strategy, or something they do as an organisation, or something of the sort. (Please forgive my lack of loquaciousness today; I find myself in a hurry I had not anticipated.)

Craig Fritsch, RHP, Baylor University- Fritsch is sort of the forgotten man of the Baylor pitching staff, behind his more heavily hyped rotation mate, Kendal Volz. Shame, too, as Fritsch has a remarkably intriguing arm.  He's a draft-eligible sophomore, which will quite likely drive him down in the draft, but at 6'4", 180 lbs., he oozes projectability.

Fritsch already has a fastball in the low 90s, a very good breaking ball that looks like a sidearm curveball to me, and a good changeup. His delivery is extremely unorthodox, though I like it pretty well. At the very least, it gives him a unique look and makes it tough on hitters to adjust to him.

With his near sidearm mechanics, Fritsch seems like a good candidate for bullpen work, but I like his changeup, and think he may make a starter in spite of his delivery. Here's a great scouting report from Texas Leaguers, along with some video and a nice mechanical breakdown. I don't agree with a lot of the stuff the guy says, as he's a Mike Marshall devotee, but he certainly does his homework. Really nice website in general.

  Josh Spence, LHP, Arizona State- Another guy caught behind a higher-watt prospect, Spence doesn't get the press that Mike Leake, the ace of the ASU staff, does, but he does get nearly the results.

Spence is the epitomy of a crafty left-hander, as his fastball usually hovers in the mid-80s. He does have an excellent slider, a nice changeup, and good command, which have led to some eye-popping strikeout totals. He also tends to  move his arm angle around, complicating hitters' lives further.

What Spence lacks in stuff, he makes up for in results, and a team with a track record of loving track records could very well pony up for him early.

Paul Applebee, LHP, UC Riverside- You may think you just read this report, but I assure you, it is different. Applebee is a soft-tossing lefty who has had a lot of success, but little attention from scouts. Where he does have an advantage over Josh Spence is in the area of projectability. While Spence is fairly short and mature physically, Applebee has plenty of room to fill out at 6'3", 185.

He doesn't throw hard, sitting in the 85-87 range, and his changeup is his best pitch. Fortunately for him, it's a really, really good one; one of the best changeups in the draft, in fact. He also shows some feel for a slider, but hasn't developed it all that well. Good sleeper pick for a team with a need for left-handed pitching and who values results over style.

Richie Shaffer, 3B, Providence HS (Florida)- One of my personal faves in this draft. Shaffer has that ideal baseball frame and outstanding tools that scouts just dream over, at 6'3", 190 lbs. He has outstanding arm strength, as he has been clocked in the low 90s off the mound. Above-average power potential, good but not great speed, soft hands, and a great work ethic make him an awfully attractive player.

I would love to see the Cards nab Shaffer sometime in the second or third round; I doubt he falls any further than that. (Honestly, I'm not totally sure he makes it to the third round; he's moving up draft boards pretty well.) You want a comp? Alright. How about David Wright, with a little less foot speed, and lacking that level of polish at this time? 

 Mark Serrano, RHP, Oral Roberts University- A darling of results-oriented analysis, Serrano has put up some of the most impressive numbers this side of Strassburg. Unfortunately, he doesn't have the same kind of stuff, and so isn't in for the same kind of payday.

Serrano has a fastball that sits mostly in the upper 80s, though he has hit as high as 93 at times, and he commands the pitch remarkably well. He has a nice curveball, and shows the makings of an average changeup. If he sounds generic, it's because he sort of is. Lost of pitchers with similar repertoires; Serrano faces weak competition and does much more with his stuff than most. Not a sexy pick, by any means, but could be a good have in the later rounds.

Brett Nommensen, OF, Eastern Illinois University- Brett Nommensen is an on-base machine. As the lead off hitter and center fielder for Eastern Illinois, Nommensen has put up some truly astounding OBP numbers. His only plus tool from a traditional standpoint is his speed, but when looking at actual skills, Nommensen certainly takes a step forward.

He's smallish, at 5'10", 190, and doesn't look all that imposing. However, his plate discipline is off the charts, and he's shown a little bit more pop this season after dedicating himself in the weight room. A college senior, Nommensen presents an excellent value for a team that doesn't get hung up on his somewhat modest stature.

Joe Kelly, RHP, UC Riverside- Kelly already has a big league fastball; it's the success that seems to elude him. A big, lanky college reliever, Kelly has reached 99 mph with his heater, and has good movement on the pitch as well. He also has both a slider and a changeup that grade out as average.

Unfortunately for Kelly, his numbers don't match his talent. He's much more hittable than you would expect, and his command tends to desert him on occasion. Some have also pointed to a long arm action as giving hitters a better look at him; I'm not sure about that.

Regardless, the Cardinals have shown a definite proclivity for hard-throwing college closers in recent years, and Kelly fits that profile perfectly.

 Erick Whaley, RHP, Cardinal Gibbons HS (Florida)- I really like this kid, even though he's well off the radar. Virtually unknown to scouts before this spring, Whaley has taken a step forward with a growth spurt and improved velocity, shooting up to 6'3" in height and 90 mph on the gun.

A high 80s fastball right now, but plenty of room to grow into that, a nice changeup, and an okay breaking ball that still has a ways to go. He's got very nice mechanics that actually remind me a little bit of Jake Odorizzi, the RHP out of Highland Illinois last year.

There's a great video of Whaley over at Real Baseball Intelligence; I like what I see. If a team were willing to buy him out of a commitment to play at Miami and patiently develop him, the payoff could be substantial. Whaley probably won't go in a single-digit round, but he's just the sort of long-term project you hope to see a team gamble on in the late rounds.

Ryan Jackson, SS, University of Miami (FL)- You know, sometimes you have to work for a comparison, and sometimes it's just right there, sitting, waiting to be used. This is one of those latter times.

Ryan Jackson is a lot like Adam Everett. Similar build, both are defensive wizards, neither one are any great shakes with the bat. I will say that Jackson has shown hints of some actual pop at times, but it certainly hasn't been on any sort of consistent basis. On the other hand, a guy who can pick it like he can probably isn't going to bust, as defensive skills translate up the ladder much, much better than offensive skills do.

If a team, say the Cardinals, were to take a big risk in the first round, and then wanted to take someone really likely to give at least some value at the major league level in the second, Jackson would be right up their alley. At the very least, he should turn into the current version of Brendan Ryan, and while that isn't all that exciting in itself, it is certainly a useful player to have around while he's cost-controlled.

Shoot. I had quite a few more of these, but I'm running out of time. Please forgive the rush job on this; I completely forgot about the early game, and didn't start this until about 10:45 or so. I'll have a game thread up in just a couple of minutes. Enjoy the contest, everyone.