Yesterday we began our coverage of the 2012 MLB Rule 4 Draft by previewing some of the top hitters available this year. Today we will shift our focus and preview the top available pitchers in the collegiate and high school ranks. Although this year’s crop does not have the quality or quantity of excellent pitching prospects that the 2011 draft did, there are plenty of promising names, as there are some excellent top-end collegiate pitchers available and some notable depth in high school pitching as well.
So without further ado, here is Part 2 of our 2012 Major League Baseball Draft Preview, an introduction to the top pitching prospects available.
Mark Appel RHSP Stanford University -> The top contender to Georgia high school outfielder Bryon Buxton to be the first choice overall, Appel is blessed with a perfect pitchers frame and three above-average to plus pitches, a power mid-90s fastball with life, an inconsistent but at times unhittable slider, and a solid changeup. The knock on Appel is that his results, mediocre at times, have often not matched up to his elite stuff, making scouts pause and question why. A fairly polished collegiate pitcher, Appel expects to move quickly through the minor leagues and should have a solid career as a mid-rotation starter, with potential for more if he improves his command of the strike zone and the consistency of his breaking ball.
Kevin Gausman RHSP Louisiana State University -> Projected to be a high selection in the 2010 draft after starring on the summer circuit as a high school junior, Gausman did not produce the senior season expected of such a talented pitcher, forcing him to slip in the draft and attend Louisiana State. Gausman pitched well last summer on Team USA, and returned as a draft-eligible sophomore this season and worked as the Friday starter for the Tigers all spring, dominating at times with his plus mid-90s fastball, and a swing-and-miss changeup that rates a plus as well. The knock on Gausman is he throws both a slider and a curveball, and neither is particularly consistent or impressive. Gausman will be selected in the first 5-7 picks next week to the team that believes they can develop one of his breaking pitches and focuses on his immense talents and potential.
Kyle Zimmer RHSP University of San Francisco -> After an impressive stint last summer with Cotuit of the Cape Cod League, Zimmer watched his velocity jump this spring from the low-90s last summer to the mid-to-high-90s, in addition to his spike curveball and promising changeup that could become a plus pitch. A good athlete with a prototypical pitcher’s body, Zimmer repeats his motion well and has shown solid control of the strike zone. Zimmer is well-polished and should move quickly through the minor leagues, and has a strong probability of becoming a mid-rotation starting pitcher in his prime. Zimmer should find himself off the board in the first seven picks, with an outside chance of going first overall.
Michael Wacha RHSP Texas A&M -> Wacha finds himself a small step behind the trio of Appel, Gausman, and Zimmer in the eyes of most scouts, but he has plenty to offer himself, with a big thin frame and impressive arsenal including a above-average fastball, plus changeup and below average curveball and slider. The quality of his fastball and changeup and command of the strike zone should allow him to carve out a career as a #3-4 starter, and if he can develop one of his breaking pitches, he potentially could become a #2.
Marcus Stroman RHP Duke University -> Owner of perhaps the best fastball/breaking pitch combination of any pitcher in this year’s draft, Stroman possesses a mid-90s fastball and a devastating, wipeout slider that breaks powerfully downward like a split-finger. Stroman has pitched as a starter this season at Duke, and has flashed a changeup and the beginnings of a cutter. Unfortunately, most scouts believe Stroman’s future is as a closer due to his slight frame (5-9 180lbs.) and the lack of historical precedent for small right-handed starting pitchers achieving great major league success. That said, Stroman’s repertoire and record of success will be enticing enough that some team will select him in the Top-20, with an outside chance of the Top-10.
Andrew Heaney LHSP Oklahoma State University -> Heaney is the top left-handed college pitcher in the draft as a proven 3-year starter at Oklahoma State, and possesses a solid, wiry frame with some projection remaining. Heaney throws a good low-90s fastball, an above-average curveball and changeup, and owns impressive command of the strike zone. The team that selects him in the first round will appreciate his successful career pitching in the Big-12, high probability of reaching the major leagues, and the potential that his fastball velocity could increase as his body matures.
Chris Stratton RHSP Mississippi State University -> Inconsistent in his first two years at Mississippi State, Stratton pitched well last summer in Cape Cod, then broke out this season as a junior. Stratton possesses a strong pitcher’s frame and his repertoire includes a low-90s fastball, an excellent mid-80s slider with sharp downward movement, an inconsistent but occasionally impressive curveball, and a decent changeup with some deception. A strike-throwing righty with four solid or slightly above-average pitches, the team that drafts Stratton will overlook his limited track record of success and focus on the quality of his stuff and potential for improvement.
High School Pitchers
Lucas Giolito RHSP Studio City, California -> The biggest wild card in this year’s draft class, Giolito began this spring as a strong candidate to be the first high school right-handed pitcher ever selected first overall, but early in his season he injured a ligament in his pitching elbow, forcing him to miss most of his high school season. According to media reports, he is now back throwing off flat ground. In the past, Giolito has impressed scouts with his power mid-90s fastball that has reportedly touched 99mph, a demoralizing mid-80s curveball, and a major league average changeup. Considering his repertoire and near-perfect pitcher’s frame, based on talent Giolito should be selected among the top-3 picks overall but the questions surrounding his elbow and his rumored demands of a mammoth signing bonus make him the player to watch in this draft.
Max Fried LHSP Studio City, California -> A high school teammate of Lucas Giolito, Fried has distanced himself this spring as the top high school lefty in this draft, as his impressive low-90s fastball, a knee-buckling curveball, and impressive changeup give him three advanced, above-average pitches. Fried possesses a nice, easy pitching motion, and has a big frame capable of adding weight as he ages, making him most everything you would want in a high school pitching prospect. A polished lefty with the potential to be a #2/3 starter in the future should entice a team to select him in the top-12 picks, with a chance he could go in the top-5.
Lance McCullers Jr. RHSP Tampa, Florida -> The son of a former major league reliever, McCullers has a powerful arm with a fastball in the mid-to-high-90s, an impressive slider, and the makings of a solid changeup as well, though he rarely needs it in high school competition. Although McCullers throws three pitches, the number scouts normally look for in any potential starting pitcher, the amount of energy he exerts in his delivery leads many to immediately label him a reliever. Projected to be taken in the first round, the team selecting McCullers Jr. will appreciate his pedigree as the son of a big-leaguer and will believe in the development of his changeup and his future as a starter.
Lucas Sims RHSP Snellville, Georgia -> A member of various high school all-star teams in his career, Sims has a quiet and compact pitching motion and has a four pitch arsenal of a fastball, curveball, slider, and changeup. The fastball lights up radar guns in the mid-90s with life, the slider has impressive, quick movement, and his slow curveball misses bats. Sims is raw as one would expect a high school pitcher, but Sims has great potential to be an above-average starting pitcher, and should be taken in the 2nd half of the first round.
Tomorrow in Day 3 of our 2012 MLB Draft Preview, I will dig a little deeper to discuss other prospects worth knowing and I will introduce some of my favorite sleepers in this year’s draft class. Thanks for reading!
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