More than a dozen pitchers are expected to get taken in the first round of Thursday’s 2013 MLB draft and most of them are taking final exams, thinking about graduating high school.
While college pitchers may have more experience, high school arms are arguably more fun to discuss—mainly because of the uncertainty of their futures. B/R MLB lead writer Zach Rymer recently debated whether a high school or college pitcher was the safer bet and here’s what he concluded:
College pitchers are still the safer bet, as they have better odds of making it to the majors and pretty good odds of becoming productive players. High school pitchers are still a risky bet due to the trouble they have making it to the majors, but the odds of stumbling upon a star have gone way, way up.
That being said, despite college arms being the safer bet, there are bound to be teams taking chances of high school pitchers that have performed very well throughout the season.
Let’s take a look at some of the top high school pitchers available, what they’ve done this year, what the chatter around them is like and where they might end up going on Thursday night.
Phil Bickford, RHP, Oaks Christian HS (Calif.)
Phil Bickford made a statement in his final game as a high school pitcher, proving to scouts and front offices that they’ll be making a smart decision by taking him early in the first round. Heading into last weekend, Bickford was 11-1 with a 0.90 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 77.2 innings, according to Eric Sondheimer of the Los Angeles Times. But he had some unfinished business to take care of.
Ron Guild of the Los Angeles Wave reports that Bickford struck out 18 batters while allowing just one hit in his team’s 4-0 Southern Section Division 4 championship game victory. Here’s what the opposing coach, Frank Llanes of El Rancho High School, told Guild after the game:
“We tried to prepare all week but you just can’t simulate what that kid brought,” Llanes said. “He was on fire today. He was in a zone. We tried to disrupt his timing by stepping out and doing all the other little tricks, but he was having none of it.
That’s a quality pitcher. It’s no wonder why he will be a top 10 pick.”
Bickford is a hard-throwing righty that could go anywhere within the first two rounds of the draft. He could end up getting selected somewhere near the top 10 or even in the middle of the second round. I would like to take the former.
Projected Pick: No. 16, Philadelphia Phillies
Kohl Stewart, RHP, St. Pius X (Houston)
Kohl Stewart is one of the tougher prospects in this draft class to predict because it’s very unknown as to what he plans to do in the future. Teams may feel that he isn’t worth the risk, considering that he has a scholarship from Texas A&M to play quarterback—and that’s a pretty good gig these days.
Keith Calkins of the Houston Chronicle seems to believe that Stewart will end up taking the money offered by a major league team and decide to play professional baseball next year instead of backing Johnny Manziel up. Whether that becomes true, though, remains to be seen, as Calkins doesn’t cite a source in his piece.
Stewart seems very indecisive about his plans too, according to what he told Sara Eckert of CSN Houston. Stewart told Eckert that he doesn’t want to make a decision based off of money, but it’s his dream to pitch in the big leagues. Eckert says he continually voices that he’ll attend Texas A&M, though.
Stewart dropped from the fourth overall pick (Minnesota Twins) to No. 16 (Philadelphia Phillies) between ESPN’s Keith Law’s second and third mock drafts (Insider subscription required). I think that No. 16 is about as far as he drops, but his talent should make him a top five pick. There’s also the football curveball, though.
Projected Pick: No. 4, Minnesota Twins
Trey Ball, LHP, New Castle HS (Ind.)
Ball is arguably the top left-handed pitcher available in this year’s draft class and for good reason. He was nearly impossible to hit throughout the year with his high school team in Indiana. He was recently named the Gatorade Indiana Baseball Player of the Year, according to Sam Wilson of the Muncle Star-Press (h/t Indy Star).
Wilson reports that Ball finished the year with a 0.76 ERA and 93 strikeouts while averaging 14.2 strikeouts per seven innings pitched. That’s more than two-thirds of the possible outs, which is remarkable to say the least.
Ball told Wilson that he was honored to win the award and didn’t expect it at the beginning of the year. What Ball should expect on Thursday is to hear his named called very early in the draft—potentially in the top 10, but more likely within the top 15.
While Ball is certainly worth a top draft pick, there’s also the chance that he decides to go to the University of Texas, where he committed, according to Wilson. It’s unclear whether Ball wants to pitch in college or in the minor leagues next season.
But Ball might not end up doing either. While he’ll either be a minor leaguer or a Longhorn, he could turn out to be an outfielder instead of a pitcher. As Wilson points out, Ball was not only just a great pitcher this past year in Indiana, but a great hitter as well.
Projected Pick: No. 12, Seattle Mariners