MLB Draft Watch: Shake up at No. 1? | The Golden Sombrero Baseball Blog | MLB, Fantasy, College & High School Baseball News

MLB Draft Watch: Shake up at No. 1?

As the collegiate baseball season continues to pick up steam, we at the Sombrero think it’s time to examine some recent events that will inevitably shake up the 2011 draft landscape.  Prior to the start of the 2011 NCAA season, Anthony Rendon of Rice was widely regarded as the top talent in the 2011 Draft.  With a double-plus hit tool grading and power to spare, Rendon profiles as a middle-of-the order hitter on any team in Major League Baseball.  Because of his eye, which grades at least a 60, and ability to barrel up the baseball, Rendon will have a very short stint in the Minors before debuting with whatever club drafts him in June.  His glove grades at plus, and there has never been any reason for concern regarding his ability to stay at third, his position at Rice.

What does cause reason for concern, however, is Rendon’s ankle, which he severely injured last summer with Team USA.  This most recent injury is not the first injury to Rendon’s ankle, and he has spent some time at DH this season as a precautionary measure.  Rendon must demonstrate that he can play third on a daily basis this season to justify the top overall ranking headed into the draft.  Everything about his stats at Rice this season suggest that he is the same old Anthony at the dish, but this is not the year to select a player with injury concerns with the first overall selection.  The talent is simply too deep for that.

However, there really is only one collegiate position player who will even draw the slightest interest from the Pirates at the #1 spot, and he is University of Connecticut outfielder George Springer.  Springer has insane tools, but is not nearly as polished as Rendon at the plate, and will take considerably longer to reach his full potential despite possessing a potentially higher ceiling.

Many scouts now view UCLA ace Gerrit Cole as the top talent available.  Cole has outstanding numbers through the first month of the season, and many scouts think he could be successful in the Big Leagues today.  Reports of triple-digit fastballs and double-plus secondary pitches are beginning to warrant the Stephen Strasburg comparisons.  Signability issues exist with Cole, however, and his refusal to sign with the Yankees out of high school was highly publicized.

A draft-eligible sophomore who many after the 2010 season thought could challenge for the top overall selection is TCU’s Matt Purke.  Purke has had a somewhat pedestrian spring so far relative to the borderline unprecedented success he experienced in his freshman season, however.  The lefty has missed time due to a blister and experienced a dip in velocity.  Saturday night saw Purke work in the 88-92 mph range, and despite striking out 11 UNLV hitters, that velocity simply is not enough to justify the top selection at this point.  When at his best, though, Matt Purke is perhaps the finest amateur pitcher in the United States.

Another pitcher, who many still view as a longshot to move into the #1 overall discussion, is Vanderbilt ace Sonny Gray.  Gray has the best pitch in the draft in his triple-plus breaking ball and a fastball that has reached 97 mph.  His delivery is repeatable and fluid despite being a tad on the aggressive side, and he is considered an easier sign than Cole and Purke, who both have turned down multi-million dollar bonuses in the past.

While no high school player has drawn serious consideration with regards to the top pick, the premier position player and pitcher deserve mention.  Bubba Starling of Gardner High in Kansas has tools to drool over and profiles well at both CF and RF.  His bat speed is otherworldly, and his arm is double-plus.  Unfortunately, he also is an exceptional football talent – why anyone even cares is beyond me – but it will likely take a great deal of dollars to keep him from fulfilling his commitment to play both sports for Nebraska.

Archie Bradley of Broken Arrow High in Oklahoma is beginning to distance himself from a strong crop of prep arms in Dylan Bundy, Daniel Norris, and Dillon Howard.  Bradley works in the mid-90s with a plus to double-plus breaking ball, and possesses tremendous athleticism and size.  He, like Starling, is also an excellent football player and is committed to play both football and baseball in college (Oklahoma), and, like Starling, a massive bonus is the only way to keep him from wasting his arm playing something other than baseball.

If the draft was tomorrow, I predict the Pirates will select Cole first, and the subsequent selections will be Rendon, Gray, Springer, Purke, Starling, and Bradley.  The collegiate pitching crop is especially talented, however, and there is plenty of reason to believe that someone like UConn’s Matt Barnes or Virginia’s Danny Hultzen could break into the #1 discussion as well.

3 Comments

  1. Rick B. says:

    Good stuff Dee. Keep it coming.

  2. Rick B. says:

    Oh, also is Rendon > or < Longoria at same stage in collegiate career in your opinion?

  3. Estefan says:

    longo all the way at this moment in time. rendon is not on the same level defensively. the only thing that kept longo from playing short at long beach state was tulo. otherwise he would have been playing short there and probably in the cape too. rendon is a slightly better hitter in terms of hit tool, but the difference is probably like the difference between a 65 hitter and a 70 hitter. i think longo was more projectable and athletic than rendon is currently. he also hit for more power, but i really think the new bat restrictions are obscuring people’s judgment of collegiate hitters this season. these bats really suck. i would grade rendon now as a 70 hitter with 65 power, a 60 glove, 60 arm, 70 strike-zone discipline, and maybe a 40 or 45 in terms of speed. longo was a 70 arm and 70 power guy with a 60-65 hit tool, 50-55 speed, and a 65-70 glove…maybe more. his eye was not quite as good and still isn’t. rendon’s eye is truly outstanding. longo was a better player in college. cape mvp means more to me than hitting in the middle of the order for team usa.

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