We continue this series with picks 11-20. Here the draft strategies vary depending on each franchise’s current roster and patience tolerance. You’ll see some teams use this part of the draft to pick up players who are closer to being major league ready but without the ceiling of some of the top ten guys, while others will choose a high-ceiling player with a less certain floor. Interestingly, we see the Brewers employ both strategies in this round with the more projectable Taylor Jungmann going 12th overall and Milwaukee taking the safer Jed Bradley at #15. It seemed like the Brewers really wanted to make sure they got some value out of one of this draft. A premature congratulations to the Marlins for #14 pick Jose Fernandez, and a stern “Patience, Grasshopper” to Dodger fans.
11. Houston Astros: George Springer (OF, Connecticut) B+ — Springer is a college outfielder who, at nearly 23, put up 22 home runs in Hi-A this year and was rewarded with a promotion to AA. In only 10 AA games, however, Springer has struggled. His plate discipline seems good, but the strikeout rates are troubling. Astros fans can take solace in the high Line Drive % and low babip so far in AA as one explanation for his .161/.278/.226 Triple Slash Line. He combines very good raw power with above average foot speed, making him an exciting prospect. His speed and arm should be able to play in CF, but he could be a plus corner OF defender. If he can shorten his swing up a little and make more consistent contact, he could be a steal for the Astros at number 11.
12. Milwaukee Brewers: Taylor Jungmann (RHP, Texas) B — At 6’6″ 205lb, the former Texas ace is an interesting project. His fastball on draft day ranged from 91-98mph, which actually is a fairly big cause for concern. The problem with tall pitchers is the difficulty they have repeating their mechanics. Because of the difficulty keeping the timing of all the moving parts in sync, tall pitchers have what we call “power leaks”. More on that in later articles. For Jungmann, he features the aforementioned power fastball with a plus curveball and changeup. With his height, Jungmann is also able to get nice arm-side action on his fastball. So far in 2012, He’s lived up to his billing as a strike-thrower, walking only 6.3% of hitters faced. The problem is, he’s also lived up to his billing as someone who gets too much of the plate and struggles to strikeout batters as a result. He’ll either learn to pitch to the edges and off the plate better, or he’ll have a nice career as a long reliever and spot starter at the major league level. The Brewers are hoping they have more Randy Johnson and less Jamey Wright.
13. New York Mets: Brandon Nimmo (OF, Cheyenne East HS, WY) B- — Coming out of high school, Nimmo was getting comps to Paul O’Neill. So far, that comparison is not coming true. A future corner outfielder with a good arm and average speed, Nimmo draws a lot of walks but strikes out more than is acceptable. His high school didn’t have a baseball team, so I’m not sure how much baseball he’s played, but for him to go in the top half of the first round I have to assume the Mets liked his tools. When he makes contact, he hits the ball hard, but he simply hasn’t made contact often enough in his young career. After a poor showing in rookie ball last year, the Mets moved Nimmo to Lo-A Brooklyn anyway, and so far he’s been a mixed bag. I’m giving the Mets a B- with this pick.
14. Miami Marlins: Jose Fernandez (RHP, Braulio Alonso HS, FL) A — Fernandez has been incredible so far. Only recently turning 20 years old, he had nearly a 6:1 K:BB ratio in Lo-A before getting called up to the more challenging Florida State League. Since moving up, he still has nearly a 4:1 K:BB ratio while averaging 5.45IP per start. A fastball/slider guy, this 6’3″ righty consistently throws in the mid-to-upper 90s with a very hard slider and a changeup in progress. To me, he sounds a lot like Michael Pineda. He’s going to need a third pitch as he goes up the chain, but his two best pitches might be good enough that he won’t get to use a third pitch until he’s facing major league hitters. A year later, this is a very exciting pick for the Marlins, especially coming from the middle of the draft.
15. Milwaukee Brewers3: Jed Bradley (LHP, Georgia Tech) C+ — The Brewers played it safe with this pick. A high-floor, low-ceiling type pitcher, Bradley has the standard four pitch mix (fastball, curveball, slider, changeup), but none of them are plus pitches. Going into the draft, he seemed like he’d eventually settle into a nice 4th or 5th starter role, and his 6’4 225lb frame suggests an innings eater of sorts. It is a little surprising to see someone of his build throwing 92-93 rather than in the mid-to-upper 90s. Life in the minor leagues hasn’t been so simple for Jed, however, as he’s struggled in Hi-A to start his professional career. He plays in one of the more pitcher friendly ballparks in the Florida State League, but his ERA, FIP and SIERA are all very high, and he’s been prone to giving up the long ball. Further, he hasn’t yet been able to showcase the strikeout totals that suggest a long-term major league pitcher. Worse, those stats are inflated by his first three career starts, which were very good. Of those first three starts, he struck out seven batters twice, but has yet to strike out more than five batters in a game since. The brewers get a C+ because I think any of the next five picks would have suited them better.
16. Los Angeles Dodgers: Chris Reed (LHP, Stanford) B — I actually liked this pick more than most Dodger fans. A closer in college, Reed is being converted to starting pitcher in his first full professional season. Reed came into the draft with a wipeout slider, a good changeup and a fastball that touched 96 with good arm-side sink. He could stand to throw more strikes, but the stuff is definitely there. Critics will point to the fact that all of his starts since mid-May have been 4 innings or less, but it seems like the Dodgers are simply letting him get accustomed to the routine and workload of the rotation. He missed four weeks from late-April to late-May with a tender elbow, and it appears that’s what triggered the Dodgers scaling back his workload for this year. I applaud the approach the Dodgers are taking with this young pitcher, and can’t wait to see him next year when the handcuffs are taken off. Reed has a very high floor and at the very least could be a solid left-handed late inning reliever. But, I expect him to increase his workload from the 80 or so innings he’ll likely get this year to around 110-120 next year and be ready to compete for a spot in the Dodgers rotation (or someone else’s rotation if they trade him) in 2014. B is for Believer.
17. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: C.J. Cron (1B, Utah) B+ — Cron has had an interesting year. The power is real (32 doubles and 26 HR in 125 Hi-A games), and he makes good contact (only 12.7 K%), but he doesn’t walk and his LD% is remarkably low for someone with that much power and a near-.300 batting average. A fly ball hitter with very limited defensive value, Cron is fortunate to have gone to an American League team. With the Dodgers’ first base and left field situation in June 2011, it was surprising to see them take local product Reed over the powerful Cron, but it seems both franchises are happy with their decision. With Albert Pujols and Mark Trumbo seemingly entrenched at Designated Hitter/first base in Anaheim after this season, Cron will either need to find a new position on the field or find a new home. My money is on the latter. Hopefully for the Angels’ sake, Cron keeps showing the bat and pedigree he was drafted for and they can either use him in case on an injury or flip him to fill a hole elsewhere. For now, the only way I see him playing in an Angels uniform is if Trumbo keeps progressing as a left fielder.
18. Oakland Athletics: Sonny Gray (RHP, Vanderbilt) A- — I was a little surprised to see Sonny Gray fall this far. The A’s put Gray directly in AA last year and he had some immediate success. This season has been more of the same, with one stark contrast: his strikeouts have all but disappeared, while he’s started walking more hitters. On the smaller side, the 5’11” Gray throws 94mph with a sharp curveball and a workable changeup. Going into the draft, I felt Gray had the ability to be a top-of-the-rotation starter for the A’s. He’s generating an incredible amount of ground balls (55.8% over 154 AA innings in his career), he doesn’t get hit hard very often, and the concerns about his control have been largely squashed. He’s one pitcher who I think was a steal at #18, but who I’m going to look more in depth at to figure out why his strikeouts went from 8.10% last year to 5.51% this year.
19. Boston Red Sox4: Matt Barnes (RHP, Connecticut) A- — Barnes has been nothing short of a front line starter so far for the Red Sox. As a 22 year old in Hi-A it’s expected of him, but he’s still been getting it done where others on this list have not. Barnes throws 96 with a good curveball, and that has led him to a 29.0 K% and only 5.8 BB% and 10.2 LD% across two levels in 2012. I love strike throwers, and Barnes certainly qualifies. He’s going to need a third pitch as he moves up, and with his 6’4″ frame I might suggest a splitter, but his arm slot might be a bit low for that.
20. Colorado Rockies: Tyler Anderson (LHP, Oregon) C+ — The Rockies get a C+ for this pick, but not because I don’t like Anderson. He’s a softish throwing lefty with good action on his fastball to go with a plus changeup and solid slider. The reason the Rockies get a B- is because I feel a team that plays in Coors Field can’t rely on pitchers who don’t throw hard. In Coors, his changeup and slider will flatten out a bit and his fastball will lose the sink, and all you’re left with is a lefty who throws 90mph. I would’ve loved to see Oakland take Anderson at 18 where he could use his pitches in the spacious Coliseum with the Rockies taking Gray or Barnes here. That said, Anderson has been solid, posting a 2.45 ERA and 3.14 FIP in Lo-A Asheville this year, but he’s about to turn 23 years old so I’m not all that impressed.
3: Compensation for unsigned 2010 draft pick Dylan Covey
4: Compensation from Detroit Tigers for loss of Victor Martinez