College pitchers dominate top of Draft boards
Talent will prevail early in first round but there isn't much depth
If there's anything that's bankable in the First-Year Player Draft, it's that college pitching will rule the first round.
Last year, one-third of the 33 first-round selections were college pitchers. Even in years in which there weren't as many taken, the good advanced pitchers tended to rise toward the top. Case in point: 2010, when seven of the 32 first-rounders were college pitchers, but six of them were taken with the top 16 picks.
This year's Draft should result in more of the same, with as many as seven college pitchers in serious consideration to be taken in the top part of the first round. It's a good list, but there isn't as much depth in terms of true quality as there has been in recent years.
"It's pretty much what we thought it would be coming out of [last] summer," one scout said. "Many teams don't have a Friday-night guy we're looking at. Most don't have a Saturday guy we're on way up there. That crop of pitching, the real good ones, we know. Some have burst on the scene a little bit. But another scout told me it's the least amount of right-handed pitching he's had on his board, in terms of the [number] of people to consider."
To see when the college pitchers come off that board, follow the wall-to-wall coverage of the Draft on June 4-6. It starts with the first round and Compensation Round A on Monday, June 4, at 7 p.m. ET. The first night of the event will be broadcast live on MLB Network and streamed live on MLB.com. Rounds 2-40 will also be streamed live on MLB.com on June 5-6.
MLB.com's coverage, sponsored by CenturyLink, will include Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's a more detailed look at the college pitchers who have the best chances to go in the early stages of the Draft, with where they rank in the Draft Top 100 in parentheses. There may not be right-handed depth, but the top of board is dominated by righties.
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford (2)
Will he or won't he? Appel entered the spring as the front-runner to be the No. 1 overall pick. It's not a slam dunk by any means as Appel's performance, as well as his stuff earlier in the year, has been a bit inconsistent. Still, he has size and the potential for plus pitches pretty much across the board. And maybe Appel is saving his best for last. Over his past four starts, Appel has pitched 31 innings and has allowed just five earned runs (1.45 ERA) on 27 hits, with two walks and 37 strikeouts.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, Louisiana State (4)
When Gausman was coming out of high school two years ago, he was a thrower first, an all-arm-strength type from the untested waters of Colorado. Now as a Draft-eligible sophomore, spending two years at LSU has clearly been a good move. Gausman is a much more complete pitcher now, still with a plus fastball to go along with a much better changeup and breaking ball. The breaking ball, along with his overall command, needs to improve for him to be a No. 1 type, but there's enough there for him to be considered for the top part of the Draft.
Kyle Zimmer, RHP, San Francisco (6)
As a convert to the mound, Zimmer has only spent about two years pitching. There's a positive and a negative to this. On the plus side, his arm is fresher than most at this stage. On the minus side, there isn't much track record and history for scouts to draw from. After Zimmer missed a start because of a hamstring issue and returned with a drop in velocity, it caused some concern and talk of him sliding a bit. Still, he has a four-pitch mix that he can command well, so don't expect him to drop too far, if at all.
Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M (9)
If there's a "safe pick" among the pitchers, it might be Wacha. He hasn't necessarily dominated like he did during his first two college seasons, but he's been plenty good enough for consideration in the top half of the first round. Wacha's fastball and changeup can be plus pitches, though his heater can flatten out at times. Like Gausman, Wacha's breaking ball isn't as good as his other two offerings and he doesn't have the highest ceiling in the world. Still, most envision him to be a fairly quick-to-the-big-leagues type who will spend a long time in a Major League rotation.
Marcus Stroman, RHP, Duke (11)
If Stroman was 6-foot-3, there would be talk about him as a potential No. 1 pick. But the Duke ace is 5-foot-9, though his stuff is plenty big enough. He has an electric plus fastball and a nasty power breaking ball. That's more than enough for Stroman to be a lights-out closer type, a role he filled for Team USA last summer. If he goes to the bullpen, he could get to the Majors in a hurry. As Duke's Friday starter, though, Stroman showed the ability to maintain his stuff -- including a decent changeup -- deep into starts, as well as decent overall command. A team not afraid of the "undersized right-hander" label may take Stroman early, give him the chance to start, knowing the Tom Gordon-like pitcher could always move to the bullpen.
Martin Agosta, RHP, St. Mary's; R.J. Alvarez, RHP, Florida Atlantic; Dylan Baker, RHP, Western Nevada CC; Jake Barrett, RHP, Arizona State; D.J. Baxendale, RHP, Arkansas; Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern; Kevin Brady, RHP, Clemson; J.T. Chargois, RHP, Rice; Buck Farmer, RHP, Georgia Tech; Kyle Hansen, RHP, St. John's; Andrew Heaney, LHP, Oklahoma State; Brian Johnson, LHP, Florida; Pierce Johnson, RHP, Missouri State; Branden Kline, RHP, Virginia; Matt Koch, RHP, Louisville; Pat Light, RHP, Monmouth; Austin Maddox, RHP, Florida; Mason Melotakis, LHP, Northwestern State; Brett Mooneyham, LHP, Stanford; Hudson Randall, RHP, Florida; Lex Rutledge, LHP, Samford; Nolan Sanburn, RHP, Arkansas; Chris Stratton, RHP, Mississippi State; Alex Wood, LHP, Georgia.