Draft notebook: Nimmo turns heads in Wyoming
Outfielder without high school team could land in first round
The Draft notebook will appear each Thursday from now until the week prior to the First-Year Player Draft.
Whether it's about the best performers, guys rocketing up the charts, amateurs seeing their stars fading, prospects sitting out because of injury or rumors about the names expected to go at or near the top of the first round, you'll be able to find it all right here.
Live coverage of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft begins with a one-hour preview show on Monday, June 6, at 6 p.m. ET on MLB.com and MLB Network, followed by the first round and supplemental compensation round. MLB.com will provide exclusive coverage of Day 2 and 3, featuring a live pick-by-pick stream, expert commentary and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of every Draft-eligible player. You can also keep up to date at Draft Central and by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Last summer, Brandon Nimmo jumped on the scene as one of the more interesting stories in the Class of 2011. Nimmo hails from Wyoming, where his high school doesn't have a baseball team and the weather cooperates for only a very short time of the year for baseball to be played in the first place.
Nimmo, an outfielder, played for an American Legion team without much fanfare until his coach, who was working with USA Baseball, got him an invite to the Tournament of Stars. Although Nimmo didn't make Team USA, he showed enough to earn a trip to the UnderArmour All-American Game at Wrigley Field, where he promptly earned co-MVP honors.
Of course, Nimmo had to go back to Wyoming, where getting to see him was a lot easier said than done. He had some early workouts in Arizona but wasn't at full strength due to what was believed to be tendinitis in his knees.
Scouts were out in full force last week, however, and Nimmo was at full strength, showing off all of his tools, starting with one of the best left-handed swings in the class. Sometimes it's those final impressions that are the most important leading up to the Draft, and with so many on hand to see Nimmo at his best, his name was rising up the charts and came in at No. 30 on the Top 50 Draft Prospects list. Teams in the middle of the first round are now being mentioned as potential suitors to sign him away from his University of Arkansas commitment.
Lead balloon update
Georgia Tech lefty Jed Bradley is not the Yellow Jackets' Friday starter. That responsibility has gone to Mark Pope. But Bradley is the better of the two in terms of Draft prospect status, as evidenced by his No. 8 standing on the Top 50 list.
There's still much to like about the second-highest ranked southpaw in the class, with a four-pitch mix, all of which he's typically been able to throw for strikes. His name was being mentioned prominently in top-10 pick discussions, perhaps as high as No. 4 to the Orioles.
But the junior's performances have been a little more uneven as the stretch run approaches. Yes, he pitched well against Boston College and had a complete-game victory at Clemson to close out April, then opened May with a victory against Illinois-Chicago. But earlier in April, he had a two-start stretch that saw him get beat up by Virginia and Wake Forest to the tune of 10 earned runs and 12 hits over just 9 2/3 innings. Then, in his most recent start against North Carolina last weekend, Bradley gave up six runs in six innings on five hits and four walks.
There's time yet for Bradley to turn it back around and perform like he did earlier in the year, with one regular-season start, the ACC Tournament and a likely regional bid to come. But remember that lesson about last impressions being the most important in the Draft game? It could really play a role here and force Bradley to slip down and out of the top 10.
Something to prove
Texas Christian lefty Matt Purke last pitched on April 16 at San Diego State. He left that start after four innings, following a big dip in velocity. As chronicled in last week's Draft Notebook, it turned out he had bursitis in his left shoulder, putting the Draft-eligible sophomore on the shelf.
The 2009 first-rounder was thought to be perhaps the top left-hander in this class, but the questions about his shoulder have led to his stock plummeting (he came in at No. 27 in the Top 50). He's got a little time to reclaim his standing, starting with a Thursday-Saturday series at New Mexico. All signs were pointing to Purke starting against UNM on Thursday, and there's sure to be plenty of eyes on how he throws. If all goes well there health-wise, he'll get another shot to show decision-makers his shoulder is fine in the Mountain West Conference Tournament, held in San Diego, May 24-28. The Horned Frogs are ranked No. 10 by Baseball America, so a regional start could be the final opportunity for Purke to move back up Draft boards.
On the Shelf
University of South Carolina outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. clearly is an optimistic sort. The No. 29 prospect on the Draft Top 50, Bradley hurt his left wrist on April 23 against Mississippi State. It required surgery, which he had on April 29, anchored a ligament and tendon together so the tendon wouldn't pop out.
He's expected to make a full recovery and most don't feel it will ultimately ruin his chances of being drafted fairly early. It has cost him the chance to turn around what had been a fairly lackluster offensive performance this season.
But while most assume his career as a Gamecock is over, Bradley isn't ready to give up on a return. Known for his ability to shake off injuries and heal quickly in previous seasons, the outfielder was holding out hope he could be back for some postseason play. Doctors had said he'd likely need six to eight weeks to be able to hit again. That would take him to June 10, Super Regionals time. Even if he can't swing the bat in time, there has been talk about him returning to help his team make a run as a defensive replacement and pinch-runner.
It's not the kind of return that's likely to boost or hurt his stock much, but his desire to come back at less than full strength does speak to the outstanding makeup he gets credit for.
Where to be: Austin, Texas
A case could be made to head out West to the Cal-UCLA series. Any time a potential No. 1 pick is throwing, it's worth checking out. And Gerrit Cole will be facing California ace, and a Draft prospect in his own right, Erik Johnson.
As tempting as that might be, however, it does not trump the Thursday matchup in Austin, home of the Texas Longhorns. Texas ace Taylor Jungmann (No. 7) has yet to lose in 2011, going 11-0 with a 0.86 ERA and holding hitters to a .162 average. There may not be a more consistent performer this year in the college game.
His mound opponent on Thursday is no slouch, either. No. 28 prospect John Stilson has really stepped up as A&M's Friday ace. Many thought he was a very good bullpen arm when the season began, but he's likely convinced some that he at least should begin his pro career as a starter. Stilson has a 1.59 ERA on the season, striking out a batter per inning. Jungmann's name has been mentioned in the upper tiers of the college pitching crop, a guy who could go in the Top 10. Stilson is a step behind, but still very much figures into the first-round picture.