The consensus view on the draft and the Nationals Mike Rizzo‘s draft proclivities seems to fall along two lines of thought:
- The 2011 draft is heavy on good college arms. And…
- Rizzo likes college arms.
So, the odds are he’s taking a college arm at #6. Lets look at the top college arms available. These are in rough order of their probable draft position. All these pitchers are either college juniors or draft-eligible sophomores.
1. Gerrit Cole, Ucla. Some concerns about his performance this year are knocking him from a consensus 1-1 position to possibly sliding to 5th (if you believe Keith Law‘s mock draft; see below). If he got to the Nats, it’d be a steal. But it comes with some concerns. As in, how does a guy hitting 100mph only have a 9 k/9 rate? Strasburg had comparable stuff and was striking guys out at nearly twice that rate.
2. Danny Hultzen, Uva. Most have him going #3 overall to Arizona, some think Pittsburgh is getting scared off both Cole and Anthony Renden and will take him as a value pick, fast to the majors. Despite his being a local guy, I’m not sure I want him if I’m the Nats. Lefty, solid pitcher, fast to the majors sure. But there’s some stories about his training methods and inflexibility to take coaching that are red flags in my opinion (see Trevor Bauer). There’s also stories about a meddlesome father out and about, though I’d have a hard time that would translate to the pro game.
3. Trevor Bauer, Ucla. Ucla’s “other” starter is actually going before Cole on some draft boards. This, I don’t get. He’s good, and he has a strong arm, but his ridiculous preparation methods and mid-inning throwing is so unorthodox that it may spell doom to whatever organization has to deal with him. If he’s already telling people “don’t draft me if you want to change my preparation” then how will he ever take constructive criticism or coaching? To say nothing of the 150-160pitch outings he’s frequently had this season. He does have a ridiculous 189 Ks in 127 innings this year. Here’s one scouting report on Bauer for your perusal.
4. Alex Meyer, Kentucky. Fangraphs.com scouted and did an extensive report on Meyer, his stuff, and his outlook just this week, reviewing his Florida start. Rizzo likes big body, power arms out of college and Meyer absolutely fits that bill. Here’s a profile at mlbdraftinsider.com. Here’s another at mlb.com by Jonathan Mayo. The major thing that scares me about Meyer is his sudden reversal of fortunes over his first two college seasons. How does a guy have a 7+ era as a sophomore then suddenly start throwing lights out (2.94 era, 110ks in 101 innings) as a junior? Who is the real Meyer?
5. Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt. Good stuff, good results, bad body. Just as with pro quarterbacks, no GM likes to take a sub-6-foot right hander. Most think he’s headed for the bullpen … if so how could you possibly draft him this high? A top5 overall pitcher better have future Ace starter potential.
Anyone below this point isn’t going to get past the Nats, since Anthony Rendon probably goes 1st or 2nd and one of the big-time high school prospects (among them possibly Bundy, Starling or Archie Bradley) may go top 5 as well. Of the arms below; if any of them fall to #23 we may snap them up despite really needing bats in the farm system.
- Jed Bradley, Georgia Tech. Good lefty, good league. Some think he’s top3, others think he’s lasting til the teens.
- Matt Barnes, UConn. I’m sure he’s a great pitcher but playing in the Big East isn’t exactly like playing in the SEC.
- Taylor Jungmann, UTexas. Stock is falling.
- John Stilson, Tamu. lots of K/9 in a good league. Unfortunately he just destroyed his shoulder and probably won’t even be drafted. He’ll be lucky to recover from a SLAP tear.
- Matthew Purke, TCU. Has had injury concerns all year but has a top-5 talent arm. I’d wonder if the Nats would roll the dice at #23 or possibly in the supplemental round on him. Keith Law posted today (insider only) that his price tag won’t be worth what he has shown this year, and I’m guessing he returns to school for his junior year. More likely he’ll play in the Cape, try to re-gain his mojo and earn his (likely) $6M demand.
Lots of draft pundits are putting the Nats onto Kentucky right-hander Alex Meyer at the #6 spot. According to some reports, the Nationals were initially targeting him at #23, but a strong 2011 season has him shooting up the draft boards. If not Meyer, a lot of other mock drafts have us on Trevor Bauer, which scares me for reasons mentioned above.
Here’s some good mock drafts to refer to:
- Keith Law’s 5/17/11 mock draft: Hultzen-Rendon-Bauer, Nats get Meyer. Unorthodox compared to other mocks and conventional wisdom.
- Baseball America/Jim Callis 5/13/11 mock draft: Cole-Rendon-Hulzen and Nats on Meyer. More typically what people predict.
- Baseball America/Jim Callis 5/27 version: some changes. Rendon-Starling-Hultzen, Nats on Bauer. First time we’ve seen Starling this high.
- ProspectJunkies.com Mock Draft v3.0 5/6/11: Rendon-Cole-Gray with Nats getting Hultzen. I just can’t see Gray going this high.
- Minorleaguebaseball.com/John Sickels 5/9/11 mock: Rendon-Cole-Hultzen, Nats get Bauer and Meyer falls to 22? Seems like an outlier mock draft.
- John Sickels’s 2nd mock 5/30/11: Rendon-Cole-Hultzen again, Nats on Bauer again.
- Scout.com’s initial mock draft 5/19/11: Cole, Bundy, Hulzen, with Rendon falling past the Nats (can’t see that) to #8 and the Nats taking Bauer.
- mymlbdraft.com 5/24/11 updated mock 1st round: Cole, Rendon, Hultzen with Nats getting Meyer. Seems pretty conventional.
- mlbdraftinsider.com 5/25/11 Mock v4: Cole, Rendon, Hultzen with Nats getting Meyer again.
- Yahoo sports’s 5/18/11 mock draft: Rendon, Cole, Hultzen with Nats getting Bauer.
- Not a mock draft, but here’s Baseball America’s final ranking of its top 200 prospects. Rather disturbingly, they have Meyer ranked #19, lower than nearly every pitcher mentioned above.
- Not a mock draft, but Yahoo’s Jeff Passan is an excellent writer and has a really nice article about the draft’s biggest names.
I think Meyer may end up being an overdraft, but its hard not to fall in love with a big body and a big arm. You can’t teach MPH. Bauer (as Passan says) may be Lincecum 2.0 and certainly has amazing k/9 rates this year, but i’d be afraid of his unconventionalism. Videos of his mechanics aren’t that crazy, and he definitely has a great arm. We’ll see if the Nats go this way or surprise everyone.