Lower supply of high school hurlers
Teams not likely to draft many young pitchers in first round
In last year's First-Year Player Draft, a total of eight high school pitchers were taken in the first round. It's a pretty safe bet that this year's top 30 won't come anywhere close to that number.
If you were to pick one main weakness in the Draft class, the high school pitching crop would get plenty of votes. It's not that there is no intriguing talent, but especially a year following a Draft that brought Jarrod Parker, Rick Porcello and Tim Alderson, just to name three, to the pro game, it does pale in comparison.
"It's nowhere near the elite class it's been in the past," one disappointed scouting director said. "There are a lot of hopeful first-rounders, but most of them aren't."
Some will still go in the first round, make no mistake about it, but according to this director, few truly belong there based on what they've shown this season. Which ones will be taken off the board early? Below is a list of a few possibilities. Keep in mind that there are a few high schoolers -- Aaron Hicks and Anthony Gose, both from Southern California -- who might be on this list as pitchers if they hadn't been reportedly adamant as being considered as outfielders only.
Gerrit Cole, Lutheran HS, Orange, Calif.: Once thought to be perhaps the top prep arm in the class, Cole can still throw plenty hard, up to a reported 98 mph. He's got some other pitches as well, though it'll be the arm strength that gets him drafted. But he's got some issues with his delivery, he has turned some off by being too emotional on the mound and he's advised by Scott Boras. All of those things make it a little more difficult to pinpoint where he might go.
Brett DeVall, LHP, Niceville (Fla.) HS: A pitchabilly high school lefty might sound uncommon, but DeVall does have advanced command for someone his age. He's big and strong and has the chance to have three above-average pitches. His fastball and changeup were ahead of his breaking ball, but when that develops, we could be talking about a pretty interesting southpaw here who could move pretty fast through a team's farm system.
Kyle Lobstein, LHP, Coconion HS, Flagstaff, Ariz.: He's struggled a little bit lately, but he's still considered one of the better high school lefties in the Draft class. When he's on, he's got the chance to throw three above-average or plus pitches and command all of them. When he's off, his command has suffered and he's appeared a little low on energy. Teams that think they can tap into the good and make it consistent may take a shot at keeping Lobstein from heading to the University of Arizona.
Kyle Long, RHP, St. Anne's-Belfield HS, Charlottesville, Va.: The son of NFL great Howie and brother of NFL first-round pick Chris, Kyle wants only to play baseball. His scholarship to Florida State University is for that sport only and if he were to go there, he could be an exciting two-way player. Some teams like the big and athletic Long as a hitter and want to tap into his power; others would love to put his left arm on the mound and see if they can help him reach the mid-90s, which he's touched, more consistently. Either way, he's raw, but with a makeup that is off the charts, don't be surprised if he taps into his potential and succeeds as a pro.
Ethan Martin, RHP, Stephens County HS, Toccoa, Ga.: He began the year as a two-way player with a lot of arm strength. Then in a game against top prospect Eric Hosmer and American Heritage High School, he put himself firmly on the map as a much more complete pitcher than people anticipated, with three above-average pitches that he could throw for strikes. He's continued to throw well all spring, possibly putting him into contention for a first-round selection.
Tim Melville, RHP, Holt High, Wentzville, Mo.: While a guy like Martin (above) or Jake Odorizzi (below) was rising, Melville found himself falling on Draft boards. Some of that was performance-related and he was throwing better late in the season to help stop the slide somewhat. He's still got a very projectable body and plenty of arm to have a future plus fastball. The secondary stuff lags behind, but there's potential there as well. How far he slid -- and whether it'll be far enough to push him to the University of North Carolina -- remains to be seen.
Alex Meyer, RHP, Greensburg (Ind.) HS: From a pure prospect standpoint, Meyer probably belongs near the top of this list. He's tall, projectable and has some pretty good stuff with a chance to have three good pitches. But then come the variables, the biggest ones being his commitment to Kentucky and the fact that he's advised by Boras. Signability might be a concern, so he might not necessarily go in the draft where he should based solely on talent and potential.
Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Highland (Ill.) HS: Few high school pitchers had as much helium as Odorizzi earlier in the year as the weather began to warm up in the Midwest. He's got four pitches that all have the chance to be Major League average or above, pretty good command and the all-important room to grow. The latest buzz had him going as high as the middle of the first round.
Michael Palazzone, RHP, Lassiter HS, Marietta, Ga.: Tall and projectable, Palazzone has been on radar screens for a while and has performed pretty well. The one caution flag comes from a shoulder issue that kept him off the mound for most of last year, though he's been healthy in 2008. He has one of the better curveballs in this group and could end up having three very usable pitches down the road. With some tweaks to his delivery, he's got plenty of upside to consider.
Daniel Webb, RHP, Heath HS, West Paducah, Ky.: If you're looking for pure arm strength, Webb might be your guy. The Kentucky prepster has been lighting up radar guns in the mid-90s all spring and hasn't let up. His other pitches lag behind and he'd be a bit of a project in terms of making him a complete pitcher, but rest assured there will be plenty of teams fairly early who won't want to pass on his combination of size, strength and velocity.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.