Michael Roth (Angels): Exceptional college pitcher; potentially mediocre professional.
Labeling a 2012 draft pick as a "bust" in the wake of their professional debut is unfair. Keep in mind that most players, especially those drafted out of high school, are suddenly facing the most advanced competition that they’ve ever seen.
As sort of a rule-of-thumb in the prospect realm, it takes several professional seasons—at least one of which at a full-season level—to accurately predict a young player’s ceiling.
Having said that, I’m hesitant to name a recent draft pick as a bust. However, that doesn’t mean that I can’t express disappointment based upon a player’s professional debut.
Here’s a look at five disappointing prospects from the 2012 draft class.
Gavin Cecchini, ss, New York Mets
Selected by the Mets with the 12th-overall pick, Cecchini had a shaky professional debut, as a broken finger on his throwing hand (via hit-by-pitch) in early August limited him to only 25 games over the final two months. Overall, he batted .246/.311/.330 with 12 extra-base hits and 43/18 K/BB in 53 games.
Cecchini’s above-average range, solid glove and average arm strength should give him the opportunity to remain at shortstop, though his bat raises concern. A right-handed hitter, the 19-year-old’s swing involves too much movement, especially during his pre-pitch load.
Furthermore, because he employs an armsy, upper-body swing, Cecchini has a tendency to cast his hands and drag the bat head through the zone.
After showcasing some of the best pure arm strength in the 2012 draft class as a high-school senior, Gonzales, a right-hander, was ultimately selected in the supplemental first round (60th overall) by the Toronto Blue Jays.
After signing for $750K, the 6’2”, 180-pounder struggled in his professional debut in the rookie-level Gulf Coast League, registering an 8.40 ERA with 7/4 K/BB in 15 innings.
Although his plus fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s and scrapes 96-97 mph in shorter stints, he struggled to command the pitch and frequently missed over the heart of the plate during his professional debut. As a result, Gonzales’ sharp-breaking, plus slider—arguably his best pitch—was less effective.
There’s no denying that the right-hander has excellent stuff, but his inability to induce swing-and-misses last season was disappointing.
Zach Eflin, rhp, San Diego Padres
Despite missing a majority of the season as a high-school senior, Eflin still carried tons of helium into the draft and was ultimately selected in the supplemental-first round (33rd overall) by the Padres. The 6’4” right-hander was understandably rusty in his professional debut after singing a well-above-slot deal, as he registered a 7.71 ERA with 4/3 K/BB over seven innings.
His debut would be short-lived, however, as Eflin came down with a case of mono and was subsequently shut down for the remainder of the season.
It may not be fair to label the right-hander’s brief exposure a disappointment; after all, he did endure a minor arm injury in the spring. However, with a three-pitch mix that includes a plus fastball and above-average changeup, I guess that I just expected him to be more successful against complex-league hitters.
Tanner Rahier, ss/3b, Cincinnati Reds
A second-round draft pick of the Reds, I considered Rahier to be one of the better sleeper prospects headed into the draft due to his athleticism, above-average raw power and knack for making loud contact to all fields.
Of course the 19-year-old proved me wrong during his professional debut in the rookie-level Arizona League, as he batted .192/.266/.311 with 14 extra-base hits and 43 strikeouts in 51 games. The offensive potential is clearly still there, but he’ll need to improve his plate discipline and pitch recognition in order to utilize it.
Michael Roth, lhp, Los Angeles Angels
After a storied career at South Carolina that included two national championships, the Angels took Roth, a command-oriented left-hander, in the ninth round. Despite his success in college, the 22-year-old’s lack of a plus offering hurts his projection as a big leaguer.
A smart pitcher, Roth creates deception by throwing from multiple arm slots and is knowledgeable of when to add/subtract velocity on his fastball. However, his approach didn’t yield the results that it did at South Carolina, as he registered a 4.91 ERA with 21/11 K/BB in 22 innings in the rookie-level Pioneer League.