In Part I of the six part series on covering the 2009 Draft, I gave brief scouting reports over the well-known names in amateur baseball. Strasburg remains at the top and is having an unbelievable Junior year (.172 BAA, 74 K/7 BB in 34.1 IP). Part II features the top athlete in the draft followed by two very projectable arms and two pitchers that have experienced quite a bit of controversy within the past year.
6. Donovan Tate, OF, GA (HS)
Son of former NFL running back, Lars Tate, Donovan has is a genetic freak and arguably the best athlete in the draft. As a football player, he is a 4-star prospect according to Rivals.com and rated the 5th best athlete in the country. As a baseball player, he is the type of specimen which comes around once every five or ten years. He has plus bat-speed and is an absolute ballhawk in the outfield. While his swing isn’t flawless right now, scouts see enough in his the overall package to project him as an early pick in the 2009 draft. He has the physical ability to become a transcendent player. He ran a 6.34 60-yard dash, and can throw 95 mph from the outfield and 91 mph from the mound. He also possesses plus bat-speed and a well-leveraged swing. He has a D-1 scholarship to the University of North Carolina and is a Scott Boras advisee.
7. Tyler Matzek, LHP, CA (HS)
In a dead heat for top left handed prep arm with Matthew Purke, Matzek seems to be the more polished prospect. He draws high interest both with the stick and on the mound as he is very talented. His arsenal includes a low-90’s fastball that he can locate extremely well, albeit with little movement. He also has two above average off speed offerings, a low 80’s sharp slider and a mid-70’s hard spike curveball. His change-up is a work in progress but rates as at least average in the future as he’s shown a good feel for it. Throws at a 3/4 arm angle and has very good arm action and a smooth and clean delivery. He’s an aggressive pitcher who isn’t afraid to come inside. Matzek is an Oregon Ducks commit.
8. Kyle Gibson, RHP, Missouri
An ultra-projectable, tall-framed college pitcher who’s built like a coat hangar, Gibson has pitched on the same staff as previous top picks Aaron Crow and Max Scherzer. This year, it’s his turn to anchor the Missouri rotation, which is once again set to sparkle. Because of his 6’6″ frame, the downward plane of his pitches, and the ease at which he throws in the 90’s, it’s easy for scouts to project him as a future front of the line starter. Last year at Missouri, he usually worked in the high 80’s and low 90’s, with good sink. Projection-lovers can see him throwing in the mid-90’s in the future. In terms of secondary pitches, he throws a slider which can be plus or even plus-plus at times. This is a legitimate out pitch. He also flashes a changeup, but rarely use it. Right now, he can be described as more of a raw project than a polished college pitcher. As he advances in competition, he will have to learn to keep the fastball down in the zone and exhibit more consistent command. While he has a very tall frame, he is still under 200 pounds and will need to add weight to his frame to keep up with the pounding of a 32-start schedule which the majors requires.
9. Tanner Scheppers, RHP, St. Paul Saints (AAIL)
You probably heard his name in last years draft, where he was a top 15 pick before he went down with a partially torn labrum in his right shoulder, consequently jeopardizing my first round status and dropping him to the second round where he was taken by the Pirates as a gamble, and in result, receiving a low-ball offer because of the uncertainty of his shoulder. He decided not to go back for my senior year at Fresno State to improve his draft status.
Coming into college, he was a 6 foot tall shortstop with a lightning quick arm and no pitching experience. Three years later, he was the Bulldogs ace and a legit first rounder. With a fastball that has been clocked at 99 mph, he may have the best raw arm strength of anyone not named Stephen Strasburg.
It sits in the 92-96 range and has good command of it for such a high velocity pitcher. It has good downhill plane and heavy sink. He also made significant strides last year on an 86-87 mph slider with cutter action and a hard-spinning, downer 82-84 mph curveball with bite that is an average pitch when he gets out front with it. His changeup, clocked at 81-83 mph, is still in the development stage, but shows promise as a different look to hitters. He has a very projectable frame and being relatively new to pitching, he doesn’t have a lot of miles on his arm.
Despite suffering that partially torn labrum, which he was poorly used by his coach (throwing 136 pitches two days after closing out a game), he actually does have pretty clean arm action and timing. A lot is riding on his right shoulder, and if it’s truly healthy. His command was about average before the injury, so it may be a little shaky coming back. Some scouts would have liked to seen him come back to Fresno State for his senior year instead of facing inferior independent hitters, as he’s really only had one big year.
10. Andrew Oliver, LHP, Oklahoma State
You’ve probably heard his name in the recent lawsuit with the NCAA involving switching of advisors, but let his talent to speak for itself. He pitched for Team USA last summer, making four starts and went 2-0 with a 0.93 ERA while racking up 24 strikeouts in 19.1 innings. He was a 17th round draft pick coming out of Vermillion, Ohio by the Twins in 2006, and turned down $400K to instead play for Oklahoma State.
After his freshman season, he’s made incredible strides efficiency-wise, and really put himself on scouts radar after posting a 1.41 ERA and striking out 54 hitters in 45 IP in the Cape Cod League. He followed that with an All-American season his sophomore year, cutting down the walk totals and putting up a .211 BAA in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the nation (138 PF in Allie P. Reynolds Stadium).
He’s a very good athlete, complete with the perfect pitchers frame and work ethic to add some weight. He attacks hitters with a fastball that sits in the low-90’s, and can reach the mid-90’s if need be. He has great stamina, as he has been clocked consistently sitting the low-90’s in the 6th and 7th inning. He has the pitchability that’s expected for a college arm, and has used his velocity efficiently as he’ll set up hitters by pounding the low and inside corner and letting lose with mid-90’s heat when the counts in his favor. A big difference between his freshman and sophomore year was learning when to throw strikes and when to throw hittable balls.
He’s also posted solid ground ball ratios both years at OSU. He’s mainly been a fastball/change-up kind of guy so far, fooling hitters with good deceptio
n on the change-up. The critics have all claimed he’s primarily a two-pitch pitcher, and will need more than a get-me-over curveball to succeed at the professional level.
There would also be games last year where he had the yips, totally losing focus on the mound and the ability to hit his spots. He got away with a lot of high fastballs that more advanced hitters would take advantage of. His off-speed stuff has been effective thus far mainly because of it being a different look to hitters, rather than it being an effective pitch.