With the anticipation growing for Tuesday's MLB 2009 Draft (not really), it will be interesting to see which way the Cleveland Indians go.
The consensus can't-miss, once-in-a-lifetime stud $50 million Scott Boras client, San Diego State pitcher Stephen Strasburg, will be going No. 1 to the Washington Nationals.
After that (as always) the draft is a crapshoot, basically revolving on projections, signability concerns, and internal organizational strengths.
I have narrowed the Indians choices down to five possible picks at their slot at No. 15, and am almost positive I will be wrong.
Four college pitchers and one high school hurler round out the list, mainly because the Indians are in desperate need for polished young arms that can move through the system quickly (hence the college choices).
Most of them have mid-90s fastballs which is also important because the bulk of their current farm talent are location guys. Finally, some of these guys project to be relievers, a position that is definitely a gaping hole of a problem in the Cleveland system.
After pouring over hours of college and high school film, ripping up seven mock drafts, and downing a case of Red Bull, I have slimmed the Tribe's choices down to this collection of arms. Here goes, the Fab Five for 2009 of players most people have never heard of.
Drew Storen: (pictured above) High character citizen, current Stanford Cardinal closer. Indians have a tendency to draft guys from his school (Francisco, Garko, Guthrie). Could move through the system quickly. Scouts and Coaches alike have raved about him...
"That kid is everything that is right about college baseball," Georgia coach David Perno said shortly after his Bulldogs faced Storen in last year's College World Series. "He handles himself the right way, he's a great student and he throws bullets. Those are the guys you build programs around."
Because of Storen's advanced age (he turned 21 in September), the Indiana native is a rare draft-eligible sophomore. So when scouts got a gander of his early-season numbers, he rocketed to the top of most midseason draft-projection lists as the best reliever available, outdistancing Arizona's much-hyped Jason Stoffel.
"Storen could be in the big leagues by the end of the season," one MLB scout said. "His fastball was always good, but now it's popping. His curve may even be better than his fastball, but more importantly, he's learned how to use the two together. He's a pitcher now."
An informal poll of big league talent personnel produces as much praise for how well Storen carries himself off the mound as how he hurls pitches from it, a longtime trademark of Marquess-coached players.
But with Storen, the mixture of brain and brawn is particularly attractive. There are plenty of smart players and there are plenty of guys with a closer's death-to-the-hitter mentality. Rarely do the two come in the same package.
Storen has the stuff to be a starter, and it's not unheard of for a team to take a college closer and let him start as a pro.
That being said, there's a reason Stanford has him in the bullpen...his command hasn't always been sharp.
Even as a short reliever, though, his fastball-curve mix is more than enough to get hitters out, especially from the right side. Good college closers usually get drafted well and Storen should be no exception.
Eric Arnett(pictured below): Indiana University right hander has been scouted heavily by the Tribe and tops his fastball in the mid 90's. At 6'5", 230, he is an imposing prospect.
One of the biggest late risers in the Draft class, Arnett is a big right-hander who put himself into first-round consideration with a breakout junior season. He's got an above-average fastball and a slider that, while inconsistent, could be an out pitch as well.
He struggles at times with his release point and arm angle, which hurts the effectiveness of the slider. He's come a long way in a short time, and the lack of track record may make some pause, as will the high pitch counts he had late in the year.
But if he can develop an effective off-speed pitch, he's the kind of workhorse who could be a future No. 2 or 3 starter in the big leagues.
Rex Brothers: Lefty with a plus fastball from a small college (Lipscomb) but tops out at 97 mph. Here is what the MLB.com scouts say...
Brothers' fastball has been as high as 96, maybe even touching 97 mph. He gets swings-and-misses with it.
Brothers (happily pictured above) was gaining as much "helium" as any pitcher in the draft class as the spring wore on. He'd always been intriguing because of his arm strength that delivers a fastball that can touch 96-97 mph and a pretty good slider.
He took a leap up this season, thanks to a better understanding of how to pitch and the ability to find the strike zone more consistently. If that continues throughout the remainder of his season, he'll go off the board in a hurry.
Alex White (pictured below): Solid right-handed college starter with multiple pitches and good size (6'3", 220). Strange throwing motion may give him arm issues. MLB.com analysis below...
White has an above-average fastball and he threw it 89-95 mph. It sat comfortably at around 91 mph. He's got good life, with some tail and hard sink.
White was a top high school prospect in 2006, but went to UNC instead. He's still one of the better arms now, though his performance in the spring has been a little uneven. He does have plus stuff with a fastball-slider combination along with the makings of two other pitches.
He doesn't always command his fastball that well, but that could be correctable with some mechanical tweaks. With his stuff and his track record, he's likely to go pretty early on Draft Day.
Matt Purke (pictured below): One of the top high school lefties who has three solid pitches. 6'3", 180 and has room to grow. May be a tough sign and a project, but has huge potential upside. Seems to be rising across draft boards.
Purke showed velocity a tick above average, sitting at 92-93 mph. He topped out at 95 mph. It has tailing life to the arm side.
When conversations arise about the top prep lefties in the class, Purke is on the short list. With three excellent offerings and command of them, to go along with a projectable frame, Purke's name comes up early and often.
There might be a small concern about his durabilty because he's a little too slender, but that won't be enough to keep him from being taken high up on Draft day.
Who knows if any of these guys will be good or not, but my pick is Drew Storen due to the Stanford connection and his attitude and demeanor. MLB Network's coverage starts at six, so be sure to tune in.
Ellis Burks and Jason Bere will be there for the Tribe to apparently walk the picks up to some sort of designated podium or write the choices down on little pieces of paper.
They also will probably be shown on a telephone shaped like an Indians batting helmet as well. I personally can't wait for all of the excitement
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