Last week, I made note of some key hitters taken in this year’s Amateur draft, so it is time to focus on some of the pitchers.
The obvious first choice to discuss is two-time first-round pick Mark Appel, who will probably be a #1 selection in most AL-only keeper and dynasty leagues next spring. The righty is an intelligent guy with the frame to retain his plus fastball’s velocity into the late innings. He combines the fastball with a plus slider and has the makings of at least an average changeup. The Astros' MLB roster is essentially one big stop gap. Expect Appel to move through the system rather quickly and to possibly reach the Majors as soon as next year, though 2015 may be a more likely estimate depending on what level the Astros opt to start him out at.
The Rockies quickly signed Jonathan Gray, who some actually consider to be the superior to Appel. The righty has been clocked as a harder thrower than the number one overall pick and has excellent command of his fastball to go along with a nasty slider. It will be very interesting to see which of the first two arms selected ends up having the better MLB career.
In addition to Gray, the Rockies were lucky to get Alex Balog to drop to them in the second supplemental round of the draft. The righty throws a heavy sinker, spins the ball well, and has a decent changeup. He profiles best as a middle of the rotation type, but his style of pitching should in theory fit well at Coors Field.
You’ll note that there will not be many, if any, high school pitchers in this discussion given signability issues of high schoolers not taken in the first round and the likely very long haul to the Majors even if they do sign.
The two prep pitchers worth discussing are Kohl Stewart (Twins) and Trey Ball (Red Sox) as both will sign. Stewart may have the upside of the top two college pitchers in the draft and already has a pretty good feel for pitching. Ball is a towering lefty with a projectable fastball as he fills out. Ball already has a pretty good changeup to go along with it and is working on his curve. Both will begin in low-A ball and will likely move one level at a time and may not be factors at the MLB level for four or more years.
The Diamondbacks selected Jordan Shipley out of the University of Nevada. Shipley may not have the upside of a Gray or Appel and does not have the breaking pitch that either of them do, but he throws fairly hard in his own right and throws the better changeup. It is possible he’s a more complete pitcher, though he may not project as an ace as the others do.
Ryne Stenak was a potential steal by the Rays. The righty is a very hard thrower who has a change, but due to the quality of his fastball/slider combo may at some point be moved into a relief role. I would expect him to start out in the Rays' system as a starter, but don’t be surprised if at some point this changes.
The Royals made an interesting selection in the first supplemental round of the draft with Sean Manaea. The lefty profiles as a middle to upper end of the rotation type. Manaea was originally projected to go much earlier, but was not quite as effective as he had been last year, possibly due to a hip injury. When healthy, he can reach the mid-nineties, has good size and has a deep enough repertoire to generate strikeouts. Manaea could be a risky selection for the Royals, but given the Indiana State pitcher’s upside and how far he slipped, the move could be well worth the risk.
It appears Alex Gonzalez may be the most common name in baseball. The Rangers selected (and have already signed) the Oral Roberts right-hander with the 23rd overall pick in the draft. Gonzalez is a consistent strike-thrower who generates ground balls as well as swing and misses with an excellent slider.
Marco Gonzales might be the top “crafty lefty” in the draft. At 6’1” and armed with a low-nineties fastball, Gonzales is not imposing, but he gets high marks for pitchability, command and perhaps the best changeup in the draft. Gonzales may not have the ceiling other pitchers do and will not take much to reach his peak. The Cardinals are not shy about promoting their young pitchers either, so he could move through the system rapidly.
Ryan Eades, originally projected as at least a second round pick, fell to the Twins in the third round. The righty has three pitches with plus potential but comes with the caveat of someone who already once has undergone labrum surgery on his pitching shoulder (high school).
A surprise pick by the Padres was Bryan Verbitsky out of Hofstra. A reliever with a good fastball, he could move fairly quickly through their system if he can show some signs of establishing a worthwhile secondary pitch.
Jonathan Crawford was selected by the Tigers out of the University of Florida with the 20th overall pick. While the Tigers drafted him with the intention of keeping him as a starter, Crawford, who has a plus fastball/curve combo, has no breaking pitch to speak of and could be a candidate to be converted to a relief role.
Rob Leibowitz has been playing fantasy baseball for over twenty years and has been writing as an analyst for 15 years. You can find his columns “The Diamond Exchange” and “The Prospector” here at Mastersball.com. A member of Tout Wars since 2001, you can follow him on twitter at @Rob_Leibowitz.