Note: The first (way too early) edition of The Board will be up on
Wednesday morning next week, sorry. Scouting reports will be added to player profiles sometime in mid February. First mock in April. I realize I’ve said these things numerous times, they just serve as friendly reminders.
Without a doubt, this is the strength of this year’s draft class. There’s plenty of depth, and while it doesn’t quite match-up with last year’s class (very few classes ever will), there are several arms that project as top of the rotation starters at the next level. It’s right-handed heavy, but the left-handed quality is better than the previous season. California dominates the list with four players on the list, but Georgia, Florida and (somewhat surprisingly) Ohio are also well represented with multiple arms.
Enough introduction, here’s the top twelve high-school pitchers to watch for in 2012.
1. Lucas Giolito / RHP / Harvard Westlake HS (CA) — There isn’t much to dislike about Giolito at this point. The fastball sits 92-94 with late movement, the curve is hard with plenty of bite, and the change-up with the movement of a splitter. He repeats his delivery well, and the command is well above-average for his age. Giolito is a lock for the top ten — barring outrageous bonus demands — and if Appel doesn’t miss bats this year, this could be your No.1 draft selection.
2. Max Fried / LHP / Harvard Westlake HS (CA) — No, it’s not a typo, the two best prep pitchers to start the year will be in the same rotation (Fried transferred from Montclair Prep after they cancelled all of their sports programs last summer). The left-hander’s fastball goes anywhere from 89-95, sitting in the 91-93 range, and has heavy sink, along with a solid curveball and a change-up that is developing into above-average. What separates Fried though, is his outstanding command and off the charts poise.
3. Walker Weickel / RHP / Olympia HS (FL) — This is a fairly ambitious ranking for Weickel, but the two times I saw him over the summer, I came away impressed. He isn’t the hardest thrower in the class — sitting 89-91 with the ability to get up to 94 — but he commands it well and has good arm-side run. The breaking-ball is too slow, but he throws it for strike and there’s deception. Add that to his size and athleticism, and I see a first-round talent.
4. Lance McCullers / RHP / Jesuis HS (FL) — McCullers has outstanding stuff; A high 90′s fastball with arm side run complemented with a tight — albeit inconsistent — slider and a developing changeup. Only Giolito rivals the Florida commit in terms of repertoire. The issue with McCullers comes in command, it’s well below average at this point and he has issues repeating his delivery. An arm that must be watched, but don’t be surprised to see the “future closer” tag on him, soon.
5. Matthew Smoral / LHP / Solon HS (OH) — Smoral’s fastball sits in the 90-92 range, but with his size (6-8, 220) and arm strength, there’s reason to believe that the velocity could move up a tick or two. The breaking-ball needs work, but he does have a good change-up that he can throw for strikes. If the slider improves, he could move up team boards, rapidly.
6. Taylore Cherry / RHP / Butler HS (OH) — What are they putting in the water in Ohio? Cherry is gigantic (6-9, 260) and has three pitches that profile as above-average offerings in the future. There isn’t the upside of the previous arms mentioned, but he’s got No.2 type stuff with the size to be an innings eater, assuming he works hard to keep his frame in check.
7. Lucas Sims / RHP / Brookwood HS (GA) — Georgia is absolutely loaded with talent (again) this year, and Sims is the best of the hurlers in the Peach State. A 93 mph fastball with life and an above average curveball, the Clemson commit will have to add a third pitch to his arsenal in the future, but the arm-strength and athleticism are both outstanding.
8. Ty Hensley / RHP / Santa Fé HS (OK) — Oklahoma doesn’t have the depth of talent it did last year, but it’s well represented in Hensley, who features a fastball that gets up to 94 with a hard curve-ball with downward plane. He doesn’t throw his change-up much, but it’s an average offering that he can throw for strikes.
9. Clate Schmidt / RHP / Allatoona HS (GA) — Schmidt might have the most arm-strength of any pitcher in the class, but the delivery is very high effort and the secondary offerings aren’t quite up to par. He gets rave reviews about his poise and aptitude, though, and throws strikes.
10. Carson Kelly / RHP / Westview HS (OR) — A true two-way talent, Kelly is an above-average third-base prospect, but with a 90-92 mile per hour two-seam fastball and an above-average breaking ball, most believe the Oregon commit’s future is on the mound. He needs to be more consistent in throwing strikes, but there’s lots of upside and athleticism to like here.
11. Hunter Virant / LHP / Camarillo HS (CA) — It’s almost all projection with Virant, but he’s got a smooth delivery and a fastball that sits in the high 80′s, along with a cutter and a change-up that profile as average. His breaking-ball is below average at this point, but he hasn’t been pitching for very long and he’s got the type of frame scouts drool over.
12. Cody Poteet / RHP / Christian HS (CA) — Some scouts are concerned about the size (6-1, 185), but he’s got three above-average pitches and commands all of them well. Delivery is only so-so, but nothing that can’t be fixed with work. Poteet’s ceiling is more No.3 than No.1, but he’s more likely to hit his peak than other similar arms.
Mitchell Traver / RHP / Houston Christian HS (TX)
Ryan Burr / RHP / Highlands Ranch HS (CO)
Duane Underwood / RHP / Pope HS (GA)