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2009 Draft Preview #10

First things first: nice job, Brad.

There's been quite a lot of angst lately, both here and other, ahem, notable outlets, about the presence of Brad Thompson on the Cardinals' roster. I've been very outspoken with my criticism, never hesitating to express my belief that Brad Thompson probably doesn't belong with the big club. So, in the interest of fairness, credit goes to where credit is due. Puppy Kicker did a fine job last night of keeping his team in the game and delivering some solid innings.

Now, does that mean that I've changed my opinion of PK's presence on the roster? No. No it does not. But hey, keeping this positive here. So kudos to you, Monsieur Thompson.

Second, from the Department of Corrections and Retractions, I wrote last week a very quick blurb about a pitcher from Baylor by the name of Craig Fritsch. I also used a video and linked to a site called Texas Leaguers, a mechanics analysis website. Later, I received an email from the site's founder, Trip Somers, who objected to my referring to him as a "Mike Marshall devotee." Mr. Somers is not, in fact, a disciple of Dr. Marshall, but uses similar terminology, and I misinterpreted certain things on the site. I do apologise to Mr. Somers, as I certainly wouldn't want Mike Marshall's name following me around. Texas Leaguers is an outstanding site, and I encourage you all to visit it for some really great video breakdown.

Alright. Now that that's out of the way, let's move on to the last batch of these interminable draft previews of mine, shall we? The draft itself is but six days away, and it's getting down to the nitty gritty now. I'll be doing more draft stuff over at the RFT, and I'm planning on trying to liveblog during the thing, if I'm able. (I'm scheduled to have a wisdom tooth cut out that day, so I'm not sure exactly what sort of shape I'm going to be in, but I'll give it a shot.) But today, I have three more collegiate right-handed pitchers as we prepare to watch the Cardinals choose their future next Tuesday.

Oh, wait! Actually, I do have one other thing. Randy Johnson will be going for his 300th career win tonight on the road in Washington. Such a momentous occasion doesn't come around very often, and I have a question for all of you to answer. There have been 23 players in ML history who have won 300 or more games, 25 who have hit 500 homers, and 27 who have collected 3,000 hits. Of the three, which do you think is the most impressive accomplishment? I'm honestly not sure impressive is quite what I mean, but it's as close as I can get.

Mike Leake, RHP, Arizona State University

DOB: 12th November, 1987

6'0", 180 lbs.

Player Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

Mike Leake is the poster boy for stats trumping scouts, as his track record is one of the most impressive of any pitcher in the draft, yet scouts are much less sanguine about his future prospects.

If you talk to a stathead, they're going to point out Leake's outstanding K/BB ratio, his high groundball rate, and things with acronyms that I don't entirely understand. If you ask a seamhead, though, they'll tell you he's undersized, his stuff is good but not great, and he gets by largely on excellent command and guts. If there were a pitching version of David Eckstein, he might look a little bit like Mike Leake.

The thing is, though, is that such a portrayal of Leake is hugely overstated. While his repertoire isn't overpowering, he certainly has enough tools to succeed in pro ball, along with all those intangibles that a certain type of baseball fan just loves to trot out.

Leake's fastball cruises along in the 88-92 range, with very nice sinking action. He can crank it up to 94 at times, but the pitch tends to flatten out and stay up when he overthrows it. He's able to work at a variety of velocities, and has excellent command of his heater, moving it to all quadrants of the zone. He pairs the fastball with a very nice curveball that probably grades out a tick above average. Consistency is a plus with his curve, but it isn't a hammer that buckles hitters' knees.

Besides the fastball and curve, Leake also throws a changeup and slider, with the change the more advanced pitch at the moment. It doesn't move a ton, but does feature a nice velocity separation from the fastball, coming in around 80-82 mph. The slider is short and tight, but he tends to hang it occasionally; of all Leake's pitches, the slider is the one that would need the most refining. Personally, looking at his slider, I think any team that drafts Leake would likely have him scrap the slider in favour of a cut fastball, something a little harder, but with more lateral movement.

Leake's athleticism is a plus, as he also plays a competent center field at times for the Sun Devils. He runs well, and should have the body control to maintain his mechanics and reduce his risk of injury.

For the Cardinals, Leake seems like almost too perfect a choice. He plays in a major conference, has an outstanding track record, features a two-seamer, and doesn't necessarily fit the physical mold, meaning he may be somewhat undervalued. He may not be there at 19, but if he is, I wouldn't be at all surprised to hear the Cards call his name.

Sam Dyson, RHP, University of South Carolina

DOB: 7th April, 1988

6'2", 195 lbs.

Player Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

Sam Dyson is a bit of a wild card in this draft, as he has several factors working for him, and several others working just as hard against him. As a draft-eligible sophomore, Dyson could certainly scare off some teams as a tough sign, but he's been steadily moving up draft boards this spring nonetheless.

The interesting thing about Dyson's rise is that it hasn't really been so much that has rocketed him up the rankings, but simple attrition. There have been very, very few top draft prospects this year who have actually performed up to the level they were expected to, and so a guy with a big arm, even if that arm has some definite question marks attached to it, has had plenty of opportunity to make some money.

Let's start with the good, shall we? For one thing, Dyson throws hard. His fastball is in the mid-90s pretty consistently, getting up to 96 on the gun. He also flashes a plus slider that he can get up there about 86, 87 with good tilt. In short, he's a power arm, plain and simple.

Now, the bad. His fastball is of the four-seam variety, and doesn't really have a whole lot of movement. What's worse, when he misses with the heater, Dyson tends to miss up, leading to plenty of extra-base hits. He doesn't really have any third pitch to speak of; the scouting reports mention an average changeup, but I failed to spot one in either start I was able to get my hands on video of. To me, he looks like a two-pitch guy, albeit two pitches that are pretty damned good.

And now, the worse. Dyson had shoulder issues, a labrum problem, that kept him on the bench his freshman year of school. He's supposedly healthy now, but as a Cardinal fan, I've learned to run screaming into the night at the mere mention of the word labrum. I'm not a fan of his mechanics, as they're long in the back.

Bottom line: for me, Dyson is a future reliever. He's got two good pitches, iffy mechanics, and a shoulder injury in his past. Don't get me wrong; I think he could very well end up a very good reliever, but I think I would have to pass on him in the first round.

Eric Arnett, RHP, University of Indiana

DOB: 28th January, 1988

6'5", 225 lbs.

player Page

So, what's so great about this guy?

Arnett is a big, physical right-hander, with a body very much in the mold of Adam Ottavino, the Cards' first round pick in 2006. He's another pitcher who, much like Sam Dyson, has moved up the draft board significantly this spring. Unlike Dyson, though, Arnett's helium has had just as much to do with his success and improvement as it has the lackluster performances of many of the other top prospects.

Prior to this season, Arnett sat in the upper 80's with his fastball, touching 92. This year, though, his velocity has taken a step forward, sitting comfortably in the 90-93 range, and it's bumped 96 at times. Better mechanics have been cited as one of the causes of his uptick in stuff, but I can't vouch for the veracity of that claim, as I have no video from years prior to compare. (And, to be honest, the only video I could get on the kid this year is grainy and about 35 seconds long, so I'm not in a position to critique his mechanics much anyway.) The fastball has solid movement on it, with the kind of sinking life that just might attract the Cardinals' attention.

Even with his improved fastball, Arnett's best pitch is probably his slider. It's actually a little slow for a slider, with velocity that ranges in the upper 70s to the low 80s, but it has hard, late break and excellent depth. With that speed and the size of the break, I would almost be tempted to call it a slurve, but that's strictly a matter of semantics.

As for a third pitch, things get a little dicey. Arnett used to throw a standard changeup, but the coaching staff at Indiana taught him a splitter to replace it. The only problem is neither pitch is very good. Most project he'll go back to the straight change in pro ball, but even so, there's a long way to go for it to be a useful third pitch.

As I said, I could only get the barest of video on Arnett, so I don't want to say anything about his mechanics. Better not to say anything at all than to speak without proper information.

Arnett is a favourite of Erik over at FR, I believe,and I generally agree the players that Erik likes. I'm not a huge fan of Arnett, but you could also do worse than to grab a guy with a power arm and a very good breaking ball. He doesn't have a huge number of innings on his arm, though he did throw some high pitch counts late in the college season. He might very well be another guy likely to end up a reliever, but I think he has a much better shot of remaining a starter than a guy like Dyson does. Would he be my choice? Probably not. Will he be the Cardinals' choice? Only time will tell. I will say that I like getting anybody with the name of Arnett on my side.

That's the last of it, folks. I haven't run out of players, but I have run out of time. Unfortunately, I somehow get the feeling that the Cardinals are still going to take a player I didn't profile, and it's going to piss me off. Oh well.

As I said, I'll have more draft stuff leading up to next Tuesday over at the Rundown, so check it out over there. Take care, and bask in the glory of a temporary tie for first.