The first 14 picks have been revealed for MinorLeagueMadhouse’s 2015 MLB Mock Draft; what happens with the next seven?
15. Atlanta Braves
The Braves dismantled their outfield, with the exception of BJ Upton, this winter, sending Justin Upton to the Padres and Jason Heyward to the Cardinals. When a team decides to take apart an area that could be considered well-established, it’s clear that something has gone wrong. Even the current Braves outfield leaves a lot to be desired, which brings me to whom they should draft.
DJ Stewart is Florida State’s top outfielder, a tank of a man, who, although he saw his stock drop somewhat due to a poor summer, scouts feel that it’s nothing to worry about.
Though he looks the part of a slugger, Stewart needs some fine tuning to actually be a true power hitter, as his stance and swing prevents him from making powerful contact.Although it looks like a reach now, Stewart’s potential, plus the opportunity in his junior year, will definitely springboard him into the top 15, especially in a weak collegiate hitter’s market.
Not only that, but Chipper Jones would potentially endorse the move, especially given the fact that Stewart went to Jones’ prep alma mater.
16. Milwaukee Brewers
The Brewers are probably the last place you’d look these days for a homegrown pitcher, but the emergence of Tyler Thornburg and Jimmy Nelson as potential All-Star starters has allowed the team to stop being averse to drafting high pitching. Heck, they took a chance on Devin Williams and Kodi Medeiros the past two years, maybe it’s time to go for a bigger fish after having slow success with the once thought to be deadly combination of Taylor Jungmann and Jed Bradley. In this year’s strong collegiate pitching class, the Brewers have plenty of options, even if they’re mainly right-handed starters.
Take Vanderbilt starter Carson Fulmer for instance. The latest in a long line of intriguing Vanderbilt prospects, Fulmer can throw mid 90’s heat with regularity, and has solid secondary and tertiary offerings to give him dimension. What Fulmer needs work on is his control, and his delivery needs to be less… severe.
Although scouts will constantly knock pitchers who lack height, Fulmer’s experience with the Commodores and Team USA, both premier levels of competition, have shown that it is just a number, and given Marcus Stroman’s successful debut this season, Fulmer can only help that opinion change further.
17. New York Yankees
When it comes to the Yankees, especially in the draft, they usually go for players that either have major name recognition or are just plain good. Need proof? In 2008, the team drafted Gerrit Cole, who three years later would become the top pick in the 2011 draft, and another two years later, the ace of the Pittsburgh Pirates staff. In 2011, they drafted Dante Bichette Jr, the former little league star and son of Rockies legend Dante Bichette. In 2012, they drafted Rob Refsnyder, that year’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player, and in 2013, they took Ian Clarkin, who has emerged as one of the best young starters of the 2013 class.
2015 might as well be known as the year of the famous retreads, as both Brady Aiken and Phil Bickford, a former CSU Fullerton Titan, now a member of the College of Southern Nevada, highlight this year’s class. Bickford’s got the fame, as the only member of the 2013 first round draft class not to sign, he’s since dominated the summer league circuit after a meh freshman year at Fullerton. After being voted the Cape’s best prospect, Bickford left Fullerton, deciding that 2016 was too long of a wait for him.
Bickford’s fastball is the main reason why he’s such an appealing project, a mid 90’s offering with plenty of life, he can play the strike zone to his advantage. His slider has also become a solid pitch, and while he does need development on his third, a change, he could become a solid 3 pitch starter. Bickford is definitely more than a name though, and he’ll be worth watching when he plays his final season in college, or to be more precise, junior college.
18. Cleveland Indians
I find it incredibly hard to believe that the Cleveland Indians are that bad at developing starting pitchers, especially out of college. What are they, anti-moneyball? While they have had success with developing pitchers that they have gotten elsewhere, see Corey Kluber as the major example, the fact that the Indians have failed to make a homegrown pitcher blossom since CC Sabathia is baffling. Maybe there is hope that Kyle Crockett will buck the trend, but that’s another story.
There’s a caveat to developing small school pitchers, that the athlete will be on a major learning curve, that they haven’t exactly faced prime competition, but really, if it’s that hard, then why draft small school pitchers in the first place? Of course, pitchers like Division II star and Cal Poly Pomona ace Cody Ponce would really be at a major disadvantage.
Ponce worked his way through two seasons of California Collegiate Athletic Association baseball to make it to the Cape League this past summer, and while there, scouts got a taste of why Ponce is special.
While he is a work in progress, Ponce does offer more pitches than your average hurler, and a strong fastball can be improved even more if Ponce can give it more life. Ponce’s appeal though is his ability to keep the ball in the park, and while Progressive Field is no Yankee Stadium, and the CCAA is no SEC, the ability to keep the ball in the park is going to help Ponce more than hurt him regardless of competition or home stadium.
Ponce will be a work in progress, but if the Indians pitching coaches can somehow turn a Stetson product into a Cy Young winner, it wouldn’t hurt to see what they could do with a Division II star.
19. San Francisco Giants
I am of the belief that a team often needs to stretch out of their comfort zone when it comes to drafting and developing prospects. And while I did catch a little flak for saying the Giants should go for a prep outfielder when there were plenty of pitchers, which is their forté, my belief is that the Giants will need to build in other areas in order to stay competitive.
A third baseman can be replaced by the next man up, in this case, Matt Duffy, but when you lose two big power guys in one offseason, in a weak free agent class, then maybe it’s time to start looking at future homegrowns.
I’ve been pretty high on Miami 1B/3B David Thompson for a while. He’s a prodigy, the first Hurricane hitter to ever make his debut as a cleanup man, and a constant All-America threat. While his sophomore campaign was cut short due to life saving surgery for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, he showed that he hadn’t lost a step when he played in the Cape that summer. Thompson is a student of the game, he was able to reinvent his swing after his injury, and he really adjusted to the learning curve in summer ball.
Health will be an issue, but if Thompson is able to get back to his freshman potential, then he’ll definitely be a late first round pick.
20. Pittsburgh Pirates
Every so often, there’s a team that has such a dearth of talent in their system that you wish they would just not have a first round pick. In this case, it’s the Pirates. The Pirates are strong in this year’s draft’s areas of strength, outfield, and right-handed pitcher, which means that BPA is the best way to go.
The BPA for the Pirates would be Brother Rice High School outfielder Nick Plummer, A lefty, Plummer is valuable because he has advanced power for his age. Plummer also has a good baseball IQ, taking “reach” pitches and aiming for the gaps.
Plummer is no Andrew McCutchen, nor is he Austin Meadows, but he could find value in a lineup as a 6 hitter. It’ll be interesting to see if he can improve his stock in the coming season.
21. Oakland Athletics
I could use the refrain from Kenny Rogers’ The Gambler as my intro for the Oakland A’s, as they pretty much gambled their bright future, that is, Addison Russell, Billy McKinney, etc. for a shot at the World Series which ultimately failed, leading to a Marlins type fire sale for prospects whom I wouldn’t even recognize.
It was clear that when the A’s ditched Moneyball, they really got some major talent, but sometimes, familiarity with an old system may be the best option. In fact, familiarity as a whole is often the best way of going at things during a rebuild.
Meet University of the Pacific outfielder Gio Brusa. In perhaps the weakest hitting class of any draft, Brusa stands out by being a switch hitting slugger. Although he’s only recently reclaimed his hitting ability in summer ball that led to a failed 5 round courtship by Boston in 2012, Brusa’s potential could lead to him hitting 3rd in a major league lineup.
Brusa is a more well-rounded athlete as he has solid running and fielding ability to complement his hitting. He also has the added appeal of being an in state and somewhat local product; University of the Pacific is based in Stockton, home of the Ports, the A’s California League club.
University of Miami senior Javi Salas became only the 23rd pitcher to throw a perfect game in college baseball history. Salas went the full nine innings in a 17-0 drubbing of Villanova. The game had a human interest element as his brother Jorge Salas was in the broadcast booth and had the honor of calling his brother’s perfecto.
Salas joins a rare company of Division One pitchers who have thrown a perfect game in college; only 22 others have done so, the exact same amount of perfect games thrown in Major League baseball. Salas’ perfect game was the first one since UVA’s Will Roberts tossed one against George Washington almost two years prior. Part of the difficulty in throwing a perfect game in college (prior to Roberts’ perfect game, the last one was thrown in 2003 by Ohio State alum Greg Prenger. against Oakland (Michigan)), may be attributed to the increased offense that came with the introduction of supercharged metal bats. While the metal bat was introduced in 1974 to NCAA baseball, the estimation was 1988 when the supercharged metal bat era began. Incidentally it was the year prior that two perfect games, thrown by Memphis’ Mark Bowlan and Miami’s Kevin Sheary were thrown. Post Bowlan, a total of 8 perfect games were thrown, with the closest time between games being 381 days.
The focus however of this article is what happens to the pitchers who throw these perfect games. Did any go on to become all-stars? Major Leaguers? Drafted?
Here is the list of Division One Collegians that have thrown a perfect game as well as the year they did it. Note that all pictures are of players in college uniforms:
* indicates a 7 inning perfect game, ** indicates a 5 inning perfect game
2014: Javi Salas (University of Miami)
2011: Will Roberts (University of Virginia)
2003: Greg Prenger (Ohio State University)*
2002: Eric Brandon (Auburn University)
2000: Chad Blackwell (University of Iowa) *
1997: John Stewart (Western Michigan University) *
1996: Chris McConnell (St. Francis University)
1991: Jason Johnson (Auburn University) *
1987: Mark Bowlan (University of Memphis)
1987: Kevin Sheary (University of Miami)
1980: Cliff Faust (University of Nebraska) *
1980: Joe Housey (University of New Orleans) *
1973: Joe McIntosh (Washington State University) *
1972: Jim Jacobsen (Oklahoma State University) **
1971: Bill Balfoort (SUNY Buffalo) *
1971: Larry Angell (Washington State University) *
1968: Rick Austin (Washington State University) *
1967: Bruce Baudier (Louisiana State University) *
1967: Larry Gonsalves (Fresno State University)
1965: Bob Schauenberg (University of Iowa)
1965: George Dugan (Murray State University)
1963: Don Woeltjen (University of Georgia)
1959: Dick Reitz (University of Maryland)
If you had no idea who any of these pitchers were, don’t be disappointed. Out of the 23, only one went on to pitch in the Majors: Washington State’s Rick Austin. And if you think Austin had a long and prosperous career as a major leaguer, think again. Austin spent parts of four seasons pitching for the Cleveland Indians and the Milwaukee Brewers. His best season was his rookie season in 1971 when he went 2-5 with a 4.79 ERA, three saves and 53 strikeouts.
It’s not to say that none of the following didn’t go on to play baseball, in fact all but 6 were drafted to play. However, only one is currently playing professionally, Roberts, who’s in the Indians’ system and finished the previous season in Double-A. Roberts in all likelihood will be pitching for the Indians Triple-A team after spring training, and with his 24th birthday not until August, He does have a chance to pitch for the big league club at the rate he’s going, but in no way is Roberts an elite prospect, and in all likelihood, he’ll be a solid long reliever/spot starter.
Going back to the most recent perfect game pitcher, Salas, it’s likely he will be drafted, but not in a high round. Perhaps he’ll labor through the minor leagues, but unless he absolutely dominates, I see no reason that he makes a major league roster. College seniors come with an accelerated clock, meaning their window of opportunity closes a lot faster than a college junior. Unless the collegian is a reliever or a really bona fide early round draft pick, like Mark Appel, there is almost no reason to put stock in them.
So to answer the question, what becomes of NCAA perfect game pitchers, it’s quite simple: almost nothing. Sure, they get a weekly award from their conference, are enshrined in their school’s athletic hall of fame, maybe if they’re lucky, also the College Baseball Hall of Fame, and they most likely get drafted, but unless they’re really good, that college no-hitter is probably going to be the high point in their athletic career.