2011 MLB Mock Draft: The Star Each Projected First Round Pick Most Resembles
In the United States of America, and especially in the world of sports, there's nothing we love more than to compare.
You see it all through the NFL draft process. Cam Newton reminds so-and-so of Vince Young, while Tim Tebow compares nicely to Mike Alsott.
The MLB draft is no different.
And while it's a lot tougher to project what any of the 1,500-plus picks are going to develop into long-term, that doesn't mean that there aren't decent comparisons to any current big-leaguers.
Last year's draft class was a great example.
No. 3 overall pick Manny Machado was touted as being the next Alex Rodriguez, while Jameson Taillon was widely compared to Josh Beckett, in both his upbringing (Texas) and his stuff (fire-baller).
This year's class is no exception.
It has comps to Tim Lincecum, Evan Longoria and even the most hyped draft prospect in Major League history...Stephen Strasburg.
So, let's get cracking...with another mock draft, complete with comparisons of each pick to a big-league star.
1) Pittsburgh Pirates- Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
Why Cole is the Pick
The fact that Cole finally appears to have taken over Anthony Rendon as the number one overall talent in the draft says more about Cole than it says less about Rendon.
Yes, Rendon has had a rough year, adjusting to the new bats and dealing with multiple injuries, but most everyone is still a believer in his bat, his power and his stellar defensive ability.
Cole is just that good.
It's not often you can find a pitcher who can deal at 100 mph, maintain his velocity deep into games and compliment that kind of heat with numerous secondary pitches. That's Cole. That was also the description that everyone labeled Strasburg with, and look what happened to him. Before his injury, I mean.
The Pirates, like the Nationals before them, are going to reap the incredible benefits of picking near the top of the draft two years in a row. For Washington, it allowed them to pick up Strasburg and Bryce Harper. If the Pirates could swing Jameson Taillon and Gerrit Cole in back-to-back drafts, that would do wonders for their long-term future.
And building a rotation around those two would just be unfair.
Considering the fact that they both throw in the upper 90s, and they both have some pretty good secondary pitches, it's no wonder Cole most frequently gets comped to 2009 No. 1 overall pick Stephen Strasburg.
The one difference is that Cole lacks the elite command that Strasburg had over all of his pitches, including his fastball. That one setback has caused some major issues for Cole this year.
Still, getting compared to Strasburg is quite an impressive feat in itself.
2) Seattle Mariners- Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice
Why Rendon is the Pick
In the same way that the Pirates and Orioles reaped the benefits of taking whoever the teams before them didn't last year, the Mariners are going to end up with an elite talent in 2011.
For the longest time, it looked like it would be Gerrit Cole who fell to them with the second-overall pick, but now, it's starting to look like it will be Rendon instead, which is possibly the greatest consolation prize ever!
Rendon would also fill a giant hole for the Mariners at third base, and although the MLB's draft is the least concerned about need of all the major sports, it's still something teams consider, especially when the player on the board also happens to be the best available.
As mentioned before, Rendon hasn't had the best year, but he's put together a pretty gutsy performance. He's dealt with ankle and shoulder injuries, which have limited his time in the field, and he's also dealt with the fact that very few pitchers actually want to pitch to him. He's been walked a ridiculous 64 times in 44 games.
Through it all, he's maintained a .350 average, and he still leads the team in multiple offensive categories, including runs scored (43), doubles (12), triples (two), home runs (four), and steals (10).
In fact, Rendon could possibly be the best number two pick in the history of the draft if he falls to the M's. Baseball America's Jim Callis has been quoted as saying he thinks Rendon is a better prospect than Bryce Harper, who many considered the top hitting prospect of all-time.
Scouts have been saying it for a couple of seasons now. Rendon most closely resembles Evan Longoria, not only for his great hitting ability, but also for his defensive prowess.
And while Rendon might have more juice in his bat, he likely won't be as seasoned or as quick to the Majors as Longoria was, especially considering the drop in production in the power department during the 2011 season.
3) Arizona Diamondbacks- Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
Why Hultzen is the Pick
Despite all the other big names still left on the board if Cole and Rendon go one and two, it looks like things are shaping up for Danny Hultzen to be the number three overall pick to the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Hultzen has dramatically improved his stock this season, proving to be one of the toughest pitchers to hit in all of college baseball while showing an up-tick in his velocity and a sharpening of his other pitches.
For the year, the lefty is ranked second in the nation with 104 strikeouts. He's posted an 8-1 record and currently has a 1.31 ERA pitching for the number one team in the country. Hultzen has been the epitome of the staff ace, setting the tone for Virginia and taking on the challenge of facing each opponents number one starter each Friday. He's risen to the challenge, beaten down his opponents and come out as a top-five pick.
The biggest question on Hultzen, and one that's been swirling ever since he signed with the Cavaliers, is how signable he's going to be. There were rumors that his parents really wanted him to graduate, which in Hultzen's case, would take another year, although his father recently made public his intentions that his son finish college, but with no specific time-table.
Even if he is willing to forgo his senior season, it's still going to take a pretty big chunk of change for Hultzen to sign a deal, meaning Arizona better be sure that they're going to get a talent that's equal to the coin they're going to have to shell out.
Hultzen profiles as a Mike Minor-type pitcher, a finesse lefty who experienced a slight improvement in his velocity during his final season, as well as a guy who has excellent command of multiple off-speed pitches.
And while it will be hard to Hultzen to beat Minor's rapid ascent to the Majors, it's likely that he could be one of the first players from the first-round to reach the big-leagues.
4) Baltimore Orioles- Dylan Bundy, RHP, Owasso HS (OK)
Why Bundy is the Pick
The motto for the Orioles since Andy MacPhail took over has been "buy the bats, grow the arms."
And for the first two drafts, MacPhail was a part of that belief held true. The team picked up Brian Matusz and Matt Hobgood with the first two first-round picks of the MacPhail era.
They went off the chart last season to pick up an elite talent, franchise cornerstone Manny Machado, but my guess is that, despite their lack of offensive talent in the pipeline, they head back to the heart of their motto.
And the arm they'll tab with the fourth-overall pick will be one that's very familiar to them, Oklahoma prep star Dylan Bundy.
The Orioles already have Bundy's older brother, Robert, in their employ, so it only makes sense to snag the younger, bigger fish. Bundy has been lights out so far this season, guiding his Owasso HS squad to the number one ranking in the country, according to Baseball America.
Bundy has been the team's ace, going 9-0 and allowing only 15 base hits in 48 innings of work. He's racked up 111 strikeouts, and get this: In eight starts, he has six one-hitters and one no-hitter.
Toss in the fact that he hit 100 mph on one scout's radar gun during his last start, and Bundy's helium is soaring as we near closer to draft day.
The Orioles tried to go the high-school route in 2009, when they tabbed California right-hander Matt Hobgood. That experiment hasn't worked out so well, as Hobgood has struggled with conditioning issues and now arm troubles. He isn't expected to get back on the mound until the summer, at the earliest, and even when he's been on the mound, his velocity has been down from the 94-97 mph the team saw from him prior to the draft. He also hasn't been very effective, showing poor command and a lazy breaking ball.
If MacPhail's smart, he'll turn to the top high-school pitcher rather than try to go off the deep end again.
It's always tough trying to find a comparison for high-schoolers, since they're still so raw in terms of development. We've also yet to see them compete at the college level, which sorts out a lot of wannabes.
I'll go ahead and label him with a Jeremy Bonderman comp. I know Bonderman isn't necessarily active, but everyone knows who he is, so let's move past that.
Like Bundy, Bonderman was considered one of the top high school pitchers in his draft class (2001). He lasted till the 26th pick due to his less than athletic frame, but turned out as one of the best pitchers from that year's draft.
Bundy throws a bit harder than Bonderman, who hung around the low 90s, which should aid his cause, and in terms of control, they're very similar.
If you'd like a current pro player comp, look to Chad Billingsley.
5) Kansas City Royals- Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner-Edgerton HS (KS)
Why Starling is the Pick
No team has benefited more from the structure of the MLB draft than the Kansas City Royals.
They have turned other team's unwillingness to disappoint the commissioner, as well as fiscal constraints, into a major strength for them, and the result has been a slew of high-ceiling players such as Mike Montgomery, Chris Dwyer, Tim Melville and Eric Hosmer signing for well-above slot recommendations.
This may be the last year that the Royals will be able to exploit that part of the MLB draft, so don't look for them to shy away from high price tag players such as Bubba Starling, whose three-sport status will likely incur a massive signing bonus to sway him away from a commitment to play QB at Nebraska.
The Royals have so much depth at almost every position in their system, but one glaring weakness is centerfield, where their top prospect is a player who they acquired during the offseason for Zack Grienke.
Making a huge splash with Starling would give them possibly the highest ceiling player in the draft.
Not only does Starling has arguably the best speed in the entire draft, but he almost certainly has the best power stroke. There is no ballpark that can contain his monstrous home runs, and he's also an exceptional fielder to boot.
Starling, simply put, is a five-tool freak-show who could put Mike Trout to shame.
He'll likely command a huge bonus, in the $5-7 million range, and the Royals are the one team who has consistently shown the commitment to do whatever it takes to sign the best player.
It's tough to find a player with Starling's combination of speed and power, but the player he most closely resembles is Houston outfielder Hunter Pence.
Like Pence, Starling is a lanky outfielder with great speed and power. Pence filled out once he joined the pro ranks, much like Starling will. And as he fills out, he'll likely lose some speed, just like Pence did, but he should maintain just enough to be a productive base-stealer.
Pence has been an underrated power hitter for the duration of his career in Houston. He's hit exactly 25 homers in each of the past three seasons. Starling should offer more power than that, but if he decides to make himself into a more rounded player, the Pence comp could be dead on.
6) Washington Nationals- Jed Bradley, LHP, Georgia Tech
Why Bradley is the Pick
Bradley has been another break-out star of the 2011 college season.
He was already a known name in college baseball circles, but the steps he's taken this year have not only catapulted his name into the top-ten, but also made many question whether he just might be the top overall pitcher from the college ranks.
It's easy to think that, with his polished approach and his repertoire that includes a low 90s fastball that can touch 95 mph he has an above-average changeup and a potential above-average slider. In addition, Bradley's fastball has some natural sink on it, making him a better bet to succeed since he won't be chasing the strikeouts like some of the other top pitchers with better velocity.
So far this season, Bradley has posted a very deceiving 4-2 record, the worst of any of Tech's starting pitchers.
He's been roughed up a few times, and as a result has only averaged about six-innings per start, which isn't that much in a year where pitchers have been racking up complete-games by the boat-load. On the plus side, batters are only hitting .215 off of him, and he has still yet to serve up a home run.
He's also struck out 78 batters in just 60.1 innings.
Still, Bradley, with a great pitching frame of six-foot-four and 225 pounds, profiles to be an inning-eater kind of pitcher who has enough velocity to challenge hitters and enough polish to make them pound the ball into the dirt for seven or eight innings.
Adding Bradley to a rotation that will one day include Stephen Strasburg, Jordan Zimmerman and 2010 pick A.J. Cole could give the Nationals one of the best home-grown rotations in baseball.
In addition, selecting Bradley over any of the draft's top high-school prospects would allow the Nats to get their player to the big-leagues faster, as the lefty profiles as one of the arms that could make the move the quickest.
The best comparison to Bradley, in both size and stuff, is Chicago's John Danks.
Like Danks, Bradley is primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher, with the latter being his best pitch. His change is one of the best in the 2011 draft class and should be a true weapon for him as a pro.
He also features low 90s velocity like Danks, who also has a decent slider, which is Bradley's No. 3 pitch.
Bradley has the frame and the mentality to be every bit as much of an innings-eater as Danks, who has averaged more than 200 innings the past three seasons.
7) Arizona Diamondbacks- Sonny Gray, RHP, Vanderbilt
Why Gray is the Pick
The D-Backs face quite the double-edged sword in this year's first round.
Not only do they have the third-overall pick, but they also picked up a compensation pick for the loss of last year's first-rounder Barrett Loux, who the team broke off talks with after a physical revealed some damage in Loux's arm.
That's great news for the team, which has two of the first seven picks in the deepest draft in recent memory, but also terrible in that they'll likely have to shell out at least $7-8 million for the two selections.
Picking a easy-to-sign college arm with the seventh pick seems to be the direction that the team is currently leaning, especially since this pick isn't protected like it was last year. If Arizona, for example, tabbed high-schooler Taylor Guerrieri at number seven and failed to agree to terms, Guerrieri would head off to college and the D-Backs would lose out on the pick altogether and receive no comp pick in next year's draft.
Hence the selection of Sonny Gray. Gray has flown under the radar in a banner year for collegiate pitchers. The spotlight has been hogged by Cole, Hultzen, Trevor Bauer and Taylor Jungmann, but quietly, Gray has put together a very fine season for one of the top teams in the country.
Pitching on Friday nights for Vandy, Gray has posted an 8-1 record with a 2.00 ERA. He's thrown the team's only two complete-games and leads the team with 67.1 innings, 80 strikeouts and only one homer allowed in 10 starts.
And Gray has been just as steady in his mechanics and with his stuff. His fastball has consistently sat in the 94-97 mph range, and his curveball has been as tough to hit as any pitch in college. Both pitches grade out as above-average and should give the diminutive right-hander an immediate advantage once he begins pro play.
In terms of signability, Gray should be relatively easy to agree with. He's a college junior whose helium is about as high as it can get, so there's no way he's going to risk heading back to college for next year's draft.
He'll likely sign for just above slot, and quickly, allowing the D-Backs to get him some valuable innings late in the year.
Picking up Hultzen AND Gray will make anything else the Diamondbacks do in the 2011 draft very forgettable.
Only one pitcher can get the Tim Lincecum comp, and with all due respect to Gray, he doesn't come close compared to another pitcher on this list.
That leaves Gray the awesome Gio Gonzalez comp. Both pitchers throw in the 93-97 mph range, and both feature sensational curveballs. While Gonzalez's might be one of the most underrated curves in baseball, Gray's is one of the tops in his draft class.
They compare well physically too, as both are under 6-feet, and weigh close to 200 pounds,
8) Cleveland Indians- Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Spring Valley HS (SC)
Why Guerrieri is the Pick
The Indians haven't made a huge splash with a draft pick since...well, I couldn't really tell you.
As an organization, they've made a habit of playing it safe and taking a college player. They've done it going on 10 years now. So conventional wisdom says they'll end up with another collegiate, likely George Springer or Matt Barnes.
Still, I think this is the year that the Tribe goes all in, bets the farm and tabs flame-throwing right-hander Taylor Guerrieri from South Carolina. Guerrieri has been lighting up radar guns all spring, touching 98 on more than one occasion, and vaulting from a mid-round talent to a potential top-ten pick.
A recent game report from Baseball America (which can be found here), was very favorable informing that Guerrieri's fastball sat in the low-to-mid 90s for most of the game. He also showed an incredible curveball that had tons of movement. The lanky righty also throws a changeup and a cutter, but he didn't need either in this particular outing.
While Guerrieri has jumped to the top of the depth-charts of several teams with picks inside the top 10, there's still a lot of unknowns about him. He just exploded onto the scene, so there's that. He's also a talented hitter who took part in several Perfect Game showcases as a third baseman, so there's that as well. Last but not least, his up-tick in velocity seemingly came from nowhere, and using my home-team's own selection of Matt Hobgood in 2009, that can sometimes be the worst indication of long-term talent.
Still, if Guerrieri can remain healthy and continue to develop his changeup, he could be a top-of-the-rotation starter, the kind of pitcher who could lead a rotation that includes Alex White and Drew Pomeranz.
Keep in mind that before Gerrit Cole was a potential top-overall pick he was a high-schooler who threw hard and had a great curveball. Sound familiar? Like Cole, Guerrieri also has a strong commitment to a prestigious baseball school, South Carolina. You think the Yankees aren't kicking themselves for not forcing Cole by gunpoint to sign a deal?
Few pitchers over the past few seasons have featured more impressive velocity than Ubaldo Jimenez, and while it's a far cry to suggest that Guerrieri has that kind of future to look forward to, he does have similar stuff and build.
At 6'3" and 180 pounds, Guerrieri is just a couple Big-Macs away from Ubaldo's 6'4", 210 pound frame. Both feature insane velocity that they have shown capable of maintaining deep into games, and both throw sweet sliders.
Both have also been utilizing their changeups more recently, with Guerrieri using his to catapult himself into top 10 consideration.
9) Chicago Cubs- Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
Why Jungmann is the Pick
Jungmann has been arguably the best pitcher in college baseball this season.
He's a shoe-in for the Big 12 Pitcher of the Year Award. He locked that one up after his back-to-back complete game shutouts to open the 2011 campaign, and now he has his eyes on a top 10 draft slot. He's almost there.
Jungmann is perfect on the season at 9-0 and also has a sterling 1.00 ERA to go along with his sparkling 72-to-13 K-to-BB ratio.
But more than the stats, Jungmann has improved his all-around game this season, sharpening his command, proving his ability to work deep into games and showing a killer instinct that gives him the look of a front-of-the-rotation ace.
Like most of the other college arms, Jungmann has great velocity. He sits comfortably in the low-to-mid 90s, but is capable of reaching back for upper 90s heat. He has two great secondary pitches, in a slider and a changeup, and he's made great strides polishing both pitches this year.
A major key to Jungmann's success has been his improved command. Last year, the right-hander walked 41 batters in 120 innings. The year before, in 2009, he walked 35. This season, he has only 13 and is on pace to keep his total under 30.
The Cubs dealt their best pitching prospect (Chris Archer) during the offseason and the season before went off the deep-end a bit with first-rounder Hayden Simpson, so look for them to go back to a more traditional player.
Can't get more traditional than a star pitcher for one of college baseball's greatest powerhouses.
It isn't necessarily the biggest name, but Jungmann has a lot of Randy Wells in him.
Wells was a bit of a late-bloomer, serving seven years in the minors before coming up for good, and while Jungmann looks like one of the safest bets in the draft, questions about his mechanics could force him to spend a little more time in the minors than he'd like.
Wells is also primarily a three-pitch guy who uses the same fastball-slider-changeup trio that Jungmann has utilized so effectively this season.
The one difference is that Jungmann can reach into the upper 90s with his fastball, while Wells sits more comfortably in the low 90s.
10) San Diego Padres- Trevor Bauer, RHP, UCLA
Why Bauer is the Pick
With the second compensation pick of the 2011 draft, the Padres are sitting pretty.
The draft's two elite players (Cole and Rendon) are gone, but with the depth in this draft, picking 10th is just as good as picking third, even better, in fact, if you take into account that the Padres will be looking for a player who they know will sign for close to slot since this pick is unprotected.
That being said, the Padres could use some serious talent, so they won't completely scrimp in that department for a less talented player.
Trevor Bauer would make a great deal of sense for San Diego.
He's a local guy from Southern California who they've had plenty of opportunities to scout, and it seems like the more you see Bauer, the more you like him.
For all the talk and attention that Cole gets, Bauer has been even better so far in 2011. He's on pace to be the first NCAA pitcher in 31 years to lead the nation in strikeouts in back-to-back seasons, and he's likely going to shatter his school record of 165 set last season. He's already up to 142 and he still has at least four regular season starts left.
His ERA currently sits at a minuscule 1.47, a full two runs better than Cole, and he's been a horse on the mound, finishing off five complete-games, two of which have been shutouts. Bauer has consistently challenged the "pitch count" theory, throwing at least 125 pitches a handful of times, but through it all, his body and arm have withstood the challenge.
The Padres have some pretty good pitching depth, but most of their best arms (Simon Castro, Matt Lollis and Keyvius Sampson) profile more as mid-to-back-of-the-rotation starters, so adding Bauer would give them a nice boost.
Watch a video of Bauer throwing, and I guarantee the first thing that will come to your mind is Lincecum.
And while that's a pretty lofty name to throw around when comparing pitchers, it's pretty dead-on. Both feature wacky deliveries. Both eschew the idea of pitch counts. And both have succeeded long after many thought their bodies would break down and their arms would fall off.
Bauer has excellent velocity like Lincecum, reaching the upper 90s, and has the devastating fastball-changeup combo that the Giants super-star has used to destroy National League hitters.
11) Houston Astros- George Springer, Of, Uconn
Why Springer is the Pick
The Astros have put a premium in the past few drafts on getting high-upside players with extreme athleticism.
In 2009, they picked up Jiovanni Mier and J.D. Martinez, and last year, they went over-slot for Delino DeShields Jr. and also added Austin Wates and Mike Kvasnicka.
And considering their lack of elite talent, it would be wise of them to dip back into that same well and scoop up Connecticut outfielder George Springer, a talented athlete who was rumored as potential number-one overall pick a few months ago. And while Springer has shown some holes in his swing since then, he's still a good bet to go in the top 10 and a steal at number-11.
Many expected Springer to put together the kind of season that would be worthy of a top-five pick, and while he struggled out of the gate, he has since put together a nice stretch of about 25 games that have put him right back where everyone expected him to be. He's currently hitting .371, best on the team, with a team-leading 20 doubles, nine home runs, 62 RBI and 22 steals.
Springer's best tool is his potential above-average power. He set a school-record last season with 18 homers, and he profiles as a 25-35 HR hitter as a pro. He's also blessed with incredible speed, which was on display last season as well when he stole 33 bases, getting caught only twice.
Springer could very well be a 30-30 guy in the Majors while offering decent defense in one of the outfield corners. He's been playing a good bit of centerfield in college, but as he fills out and focuses more on his power stroke, he's likely be forced to slide over.
There aren't a lot of players with 30 HR-30 SB capability coming out of college (most of them get snatched up out of high school), so Springer is that much more intriguing.
Still, there are a lot of people who are concerned about his slow start and feel he might be susceptible to pro pitching. That, in turn, could cause him to fall to the Astros here at 11.
Not many members of this year's draft class have the combination of speed and power that oozes out of Springer.
Likewise, not many big-leaguers have the same combination that Matt Kemp has made his name on.
Similar in build and in the way they play the game, Kemp is probably the best comparison for Springer, who should have much better plate discipline than the free-swinging Dodgers outfielder.
In the field, their skills are similar as well, although as he fills out, Springer will likely have to move to an outfield corner, while Kemp has maintained his ability to stick in center six seasons into his career.
12) Milwaukee Brewers- Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy (FL)
Why Lindor is the Pick
The Zack Greinke deal forced the Brewers to ransom a good part of their future.
Not only did they surrender top pitching prospect Jake Odorizzi, who has flashed No. 1 stuff since the swap, and fire-baller Jeremy Jeffress, who has emerged as a reliable bullpen arm, but they also had to part with Alcides Escobar, who the organization groomed as the shortstop, cornerstone of the franchise.
Not only did Escobar show one of the flashiest gloves in baseball during his time with the Brewers, but he also showed a fantastic ability to hit for average, mostly while in the minors. And while that same ability didn't manifest in his short time in the National League, the team still believed in his ability to figure things out in the Majors.
Since the Brewers were betting the farm on Escobar, they failed to cover their bases by bringing into the fold more shortstop talent.
So it only makes sense that they take the most athletic, highest-ceiling shortstop available, Montverde Academy's Francisco Lindor.
Lindor isn't the most complete package player at his position, but he is the most eye-popping. His defensive range is fantastic, and his arm is definitely an asset. He can make all the throws and will make his share of web-gems.
At the plate, he should be a solid hitter for average, and while he doesn't offer much pop, he makes up for it by being a switch-hitter. He did fare pretty well in a home-run derby last summer, but his swing doesn't project for that much power.
On the basepaths, he's a pretty good runner. He's not going to be a 30 or 40-steal guy, but he could get good enough in that area to swipe maybe 20 bags per season.
Essentially, Lindor is another Alcides Escobar.
Sounds like a great drafting plan to me.
As you can see above, Lindor is basically a clone of Alcides Escobar.
Both feature little power but are plenty talented at the plate. I'd say Escobar is a bit better as a pure hitter, but Lindor is still so raw, there's no telling how good he could be. He also switch-hits, which Escobar doesn't.
In the field, both are flashy players who can make all the throws.
13) New York Mets- Matt Purke, LHP, TCU
Why Purke is the Pick
New Mets GM Sandy Alderson is about as smart as they come.
And what could be better for his debut draft that snagging a player who was in the running for the number one slot a few months ago at pick No. 13. Not only would he be getting one of the better steals in the draft, assuming Purke's arm troubles aren't a sign of a long-term problem, but he'd also likely get the left-hander at a great discount.
Purke's struggles this season have been widely reported. First, it was a pitch count installed in order to keep his innings down after a freshman season that saw him throw 116.1 innings. Then, it was a blister that forced the staff to shut him down for a while. When he finally returned, he looked not like the same pitcher who went 16-0 in 2010. He lost the first game of his career to a team that was 1-14 no less.
The lanky lefty has only made eight starts, and none since being diagnosed with bursitis in his shoulder. Even with less than stellar velocity (84-90 mph), Purke was still pretty tough to handle, allowing only 29 hits in 40.2 innings, while striking out 47 batters. His ERA stands at 1.55.
The bursitis is likely to keep Purke off the mound for at least a few more weeks. The team is progressing with his rehab, and there's a slight chance that he could be back for the conference tournament, making him eligible for NCAA tournament play.
When Purke is healthy, it's hard to find a more productive pitcher. He racks up strikeouts by the truck-load, shows good velocity (92-96 mph) and holds it deep into games. His secondary stuff is solid, including an above-average slider that has become his go-to strikeout pitch.
The thing that has hurt Purke the most isn't necessarily his injury, but rather the incredible depth of this draft class. Whereas he once seemed a lock to go much higher than his 2009 draft slot (14th overall), his bursitis has cast a cloud on him that could cause many teams in the top 20 to eschew him in favor of any number of college or high-school arms with no injury history.
Long ago, Purke received the Clayton Kershaw comp, and assuming he can straighten out his mechanics and overcome his injury concerns that's a very optimistic view of the TCU lefty.
Both feature great velocity, although Kershaw's command is understandably better. Both have plenty of pitches in their arsenal, with each throwing fastballs, sliders, curves and changeups. Both have also received criticism for not using their changeups enough.
It's a long-shot to tab a guy like Purke, with so many concerns and question marks, to turn into the next Kershaw, but not many people thought he could go 16-0 during his freshman season either.
14) Florida Marlins- Henry Owens, LHP, Edison HS (CA)
Why Owens is the Pick
For the longest time, I've been projecting that it would be Henry Owens, another immensely talented high-school pitcher, that will end up in South Beach as the Marlins first-round pick.
He fits the Marlins stereotypical first-round mold.
First off, he comes from the prep ranks.
It's been four consecutive seasons, and 10 out of the last 12, that the Marlins have made their first-round pick a high schooler. Their last first pick who hailed from the college ranks was Brett Sinkbeil, who has been a terrible disappointment for the Fish.
Second, he's a pitcher.
Since 2003, the Marlins have tabbed a pitcher with one or multiple first-round picks nine times out of 14. They've reversed the trend recently, picking position players with four of their last six selections, but the team's focus in the draft as a whole has usual been pitching.
Third, he's from California.
The Marlins, like every other pro team, scouts California very aggressively. They found their future third baseman there in Matt Dominguez, hopefully their future catcher in Kyle Skipworth and a potential everyday player in Christian Yelich.
Over the years, they've also scooped up Adrian Gonzalez and Mark Kotsay from Cali.
So, Henry Owens is their man. He's a huge (6'7", 190) lefty who has solid velocity that should improve to above-average with time as he fills out his frame more evenly. He already throws in the low 90s and compliments his heater with a very good curveball that rates as one of the best from the high-school crop. He also benefits from solid control that outpaces that of his fellow high-school lefty Daniel Norris.
Anytime a high-schooler comes along that throws left-handed and has the size (6'7") and the potential for above-average velocity, he inevitably gets the Randy Johnson comp.
And while Owens doesn't have anywhere near the clout to warrant such a simile, he would do just fine with a Jered Weaver comp.
I know Weaver was a seasoned product coming out of college, but in terms of size, stuff and makeup, they're very similar guys despite the fact that Weaver is right-handed.
Both have impressive velocity and great breaking pitches. Both are also incredibly smart. Weaver is one of the best in-game thinkers in baseball, and Owens has shown some of that same ability, correcting his mistakes in-game.
And to clinch the comparison, they both have floppy hair.
15) Milwaukee Brewers- Tyler Anderson, LHP, Oregon
Why Anderson is the pick
With the Brewers second pick, and mind you, it's their compensation pick for failing to sign Dylan Covey, the team is likely to go the safe route, which more often than not means college player.
And since the Brewers have arguably the worst pitching depth in the minor leagues, it would only make sense for them to use at least one of their picks to upgrade that area of their system. And since the team also seems to be in win-now mode, they're likely to take a pitcher who could make an impact pretty quickly.
Enter Tyler Anderson, the southpaw from Oregon, who has had a fantastic 2011 season, vaulting his name into the rare first-round air.
A solidly built lefty (6'4", 215 pounds), Anderson has put together a fine campaign, winning six of his 11 starts while racking up 92 strikeouts in 83.1 innings. He's thrown one complete-game shutout and has held batters to a .185 average. He's been incredibly stingy with the long-ball, surrendering only two all season, and has only issued 22 walks.
In terms of stuff, Anderson ranks near the middle of the top college pitchers available. He doesn't have over-powering velocity (88-92 mph), but he has one of the draft's best changeups and is a very polished thrower. He throws strikes, which is something that is key in making the adjustment to pro ball, and has no qualms about throwing any of his pitches, including a developing slider, in any count.
If the Brewers do try to make a big splash with their first pick (No. 12) like I think they will (see Francisco Lindor), it would make sense to take a guy like Anderson, who will likely sign for slot, or close to it, with their second.
Anderson is a very polished college pitcher who closely resembles Orioles lefty Brian Matusz in several ways.
Both are pretty big guys whose two best pitches are a low 90s fastball and a plus changeup. Both throws sliders as their third pitches, and both were wildly successful during their final season in college.
Anderson lacks the curveball that Matusz adds into his repertoire, and his slider isn't as polished, but all the tools are there for him to develop into a "lite" version of Matusz.
16) Los Angeles Dodgers- C.J. Cron, C/1B, Utah
Why Cron is the Pick
With maybe one or two exceptions (Mikie Mahtook and Jake Lowery), there has been no better hitter with the new bats than Utah's C.J. Cron.
Cron currently leads the country in hitting with a .448 average, and ranks 19th with 11 home runs. He's driven in a team-high 49 runs, scored a second-best 41 runs and has rapped a ridiculous 22 doubles, tied for the team-lead and second-best in the country.
Cron has always been a strong hitter. See his .431 average and 20 home runs in 2010 and his .337 average and 11 homers as a freshman. Those numbers he accomplished with the old college bats. The damage he's doing this year has come with the new equipment, which was supposed to keep offense down and limit the number of home runs from hitters.
All except for Cron that is, who appears to have actually improved his hitting stroke over the course of this season's 37 games.
Cron began his career as a catcher and has gone back and forth from there to first base, where he filled in last year after an injury to the Utes primary first baseman and where he's played mostly this season, expanding his defensive chops.
If he can make the move back to catcher as a pro, Cron is easily the top catching prospect in this draft and he'll end up challenging Oregon State's Andrew Susac and New Mexico's Blake Swihart for the honor of being the first back-stop drafted.
If not, he's just one of the draft's best pure hitters and a pretty solid defender at first.
Either way, the Dodgers could benefit from his seasoned bat. He could make a killing for the team behind the plate, where they have no long-term plan in place, but he could also take over everyday first base duties from James Loney if and when he moves on from L.A.
Thanks to his size and his sizzling bat, I'd give C.J. Cron a fairly positive comparison to Lance Berkman, another oversized, less-than-athletic fielder who looks lost at any position other than first base.
Berkman was a highly regarded hitter coming out of college, some say the best they've ever seen, and while Cron is very good, he's not at the level of Berkman.
Still, he offers great power and the potential to hit for a decent average.
17) Los Angeles Angels- Daniel Norris, LHP, Science Hill HS (TN)
Why Norris is the Pick
As early as the end of the 2009 high school season, Daniel Norris has been touted as one of the top high school pitchers available in the 2011 draft.
And while a bunch of new names, like Taylor Guerrieri and Dylan Bundy, have leap-frogged Norris, he's still, without a doubt, the top lefty available.
Like many of his other high school rivals, he throws in the low-to-mid 90s, showing pretty good movement on his fastball. He has one of the best curveballs in this class, a pitch he has used to devastating effect against the helpless hoards of Tennessee prep hitters. It's a pitch that should grade out as above-average at the next lev