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Do You Feel A Draft?
2008-06-05 17:04
by Cliff Corcoran
Note: The Bronx Banter blog has moved to bronxbanterblog.com.

In addition to this afternoon's thrilling comeback victory, the Yankees have been doing more good work in the draft, particularly with their first pick. There's a ton of coverage and analysis being posted all over the net, so I'll make some attempt to gather things in this post as I find them. Check back for updates. Also, follow this link for three-minute MLB scouting videos on the players below.

First Round (28th pick):

RHP Gerrit Cole, Orange Lutheran High School, California

Kevin Goldstein, Baseball Prospectus: This is a great pick on a talent/slot level. Most talented high school pitcher in the draft, and the Yankees can pay him. As bad as the Brackman pick was last year . . . that's how good this one is. I'm not a big fan of low arm slot guys, but at 28, this is a fantastic pick for the Bombers.

Keith Law, ESPN: This is a great pick; he fell to the Yankees for financial reasons. Cole has the best arm among the prep pitchers in the draft. He has a loose, quick arm. He has the best fastball of the high school pitchers; it tops out 97 mph. He needs more consistency on the breaking ball. And he needs to just throw his changeup instead of guiding it. He's a high-ceiling arm that could be a No. 1 starter. If that doesn't work, he could be a dominant reliever.

Baseball America: Cole is the best righthander out of Southern California since Phil Hughes starred at Santa Ana's Foothills High in 2004. Cole's four-seam fastball ranges from 93-96 mph, occasionally peaking at 97-98. He adds a hard, late-breaking curve which shows bite, tilt and depth. Cole used his changeup sparingly early in the season, though he used it more later. Adding to Cole's considerable appeal to scouts is his tall, lanky and projectable frame, which is nearly ideal for a prep righthander. Scouts are split over whether Cole profiles as a starter or closer. He maintains velocity and pitch movement deep into games, but his inconsistent command and tendency to run up high pitch counts may move him to the bullpen. Some scouts have compared him to Mariners closer J.J. Putz. Cole does bring mechanical concerns. He lands on a stiff front leg, and he recoils his arm during his follow-through. Both hurt control and raise injury concerns. Complicating the situation, Cole's adviser is the Scott Boras Corp., which may eliminate many clubs from consideration. Cole also hasn't endeared himself to scouts or teammates with what one scout described as his immature mound demeanor.

(and)

At 28, the Yankees took Gerrit Cole, no surprise. A Scott Boras Corporation client who fell for signability reasons, Cole also fell for his immaturity and mound demeanor, which didn't endear him to many scouts and teams. That said, Cole has the biggest arm in the prep class, and he fell to the Yankees, and that's probably win-win for the Yanks, SBC and Cole.

Rich Lederer, Baseball Analysts: Cole may have the best teenage arm in this draft. He throws a four seamer that peaks at 97-98 and a heavy two seamer that runs in the low-90s. Baseball America has ranked his fastball at the top of the high school class. There are two questions that have dogged Cole this spring: (1) his makeup and (2) his signability, as he is represented by the Scott Boras Corporation and has committed to UCLA. Slot money probably won't do the trick here. The tall righthander could slide like Rick Porcello last year, but it is unlikely that he will receive a signing bonus approaching Detroit's first pick in the 2007 draft.

Yankees: The 6-foot-3, 190-pound Cole went 8-2 with a 0.47 ERA as a senior at Orange Lutheran High School in Orange, Calif., in 2008, striking out 121 batters in 75.0 innings pitched with 13 runs allowed (five earned) and 18 walks. He was named the Trinity League's Pitcher of the Year as well the 2008 Co-Orange Lutheran Male Athlete of the Year. The right-hander was named a 2008 Rawlings Preseason All-American and was selected to the AFLAC All-American team as a senior.

Cole was ranked by Baseball America as the ninth-best pitcher in the First-Year Player Draft and 17th-best prospect overall. He was tabbed by the publication as the fourth-best high school pitching prospect in the draft and rated as the having the best fastball among high school hurlers.

"Gerrit has a big, strong, projectable body with a high ceiling," said Damon Oppenheimer, Yankees Vice President of Amateur Scouting. "He throws a power fastball with sink in the 94-98 range and has also developed a good changeup. He's a competitor every time he takes the mound, and he pitches with a lot of confidence. We were really pleased with both of our first two selections."

MLB.com: A projectable high school right-hander with the capability already to throw a fastball up into the upper 90s is bound to garner interest. Throw in a future plus slider and a changeup, all for which he can throw for strikes, and it's no wonder Cole is considered one of the top prep pitchers in the class. He's going to have to work out some kinks in his delivery and he's got Scott Boras as an advisor, but neither of those issues should keep him from being drafted early. [follow the link for video and a detailed scouting report]

First compensation Round (44th pick, for Luis Vizcaino):

LHP Jeremy Bleich, Stanford

Lederer: Bleich (pronounced Blishe) began the year as Stanford's No. 1 starter before suffering an elbow injury that sidelined him for almost the entire Pac-10 schedule. The tendinitis went away and he returned in the last half of May. Has a fastball in the upper 80s to low 90s with good movement and deception. Also throws a curveball and changeup. Known for his competitiveness on the mound. Had a 4-2 record with a 2.44 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 44.1 innings in the Cape Cod League last summer. Bleich has never been drafted before.

Bryan Smith, Baseball Prospectus: I can almost guarantee that Jeremy Bleich made himself quite a bit of money by proving his health in the Stanford regional last weekend. He was very good in the Cape last summer and to start this year, but the Yankees needed to see his health. He showed it with 4 great innings.

Goldstein: This pick makes me think the Yanks wanted [Wade] Miley [another college lefty who was taken by Arizona with the 43rd pick] here. Unlike Cole, this is a surprise that he went this high, not this low.

Wyndam Makowsky, Stanford Daily via Pete Abe: This was a bit of a reach, but the Yankees are desperate for lefty talent. It is certainly a need pick. Now, why Bleich instead of someone else? He has a nice, three pitch arsenal: his curveball and change up both have good movement. Additionally, his velocity has gotten better over the course of his career. He consistently throws his fastball in the low 90s whereas previously, he would stay in the high 80s and only scrape 90. Lefties with good fastballs and two put-out pitches aren't easy to come by, and so while the Yankees may have extended themselves a bit here, it isn't as much of an odd selection as it initially appears.

Bleich is very smart and knows how to alternate well between his pitches. He is fairly calm on the mound, and has shown an ability to get out of bad situations. His biggest weakness was always maintaining control, but that has become less of an issue over the past year. Since returning from injury late last month, he has been lights-out.

[Abraham: Can you compare him to anybody in the majors now?] A nice comparison is Cole Hamels of the Philadelphia Phillies. They have a similar repertoire, although Hamels has a better change up. Both have battled through injuries. Hamels, though, is supposed to be the Phillies' fixture at the top of the rotation. I doubt that's where Bleich projects. I see him as either a fourth or fifth starter, or as a top left-handed reliever. He dabbled in relief pitching when he came back from injury, and did very well out of the bullpen.

Yankees: Bleich, 20, was limited to five games in 2008 at Stanford, battling tendinitis from March through mid-May. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound junior went 2-2 with a 1.09 ERA (33.0IP, 4ER), 26 strikeouts and a .189 opponent's batting average, closing out the season with a 14.2 scoreless-innings stretch. He played with the USA Junior National team in 2005 and earned Cape Cod League All-Star Honors while playing for the Wareham Gatemen in 2006.

[The day after the draft, ESPN2 televised the first game of the NCAA Super Regional between Stanford and Cal State Fullteron. Bleich, who was still working his way back from his elbow injury, started for Stanford on a 65-to-70-pitch limit but managed to make those pitches stretch through sixth full innings of one-run ball. Physically, he looks like a left-handed Ian Kennedy, and I think that's a solid comp for him. In contrast to Makowsky's report above, he was throwing his fastball around 88 miles per hour and occasionally getting it up to 90. His out-pitch is a sweeping curve, not a big nose-to-toes yakker in the low '70s, but a sweeping pitch that breaks 11-to-5 or even 10-to-4 and clocks in at 78 miles per hour. Bleich is from the New Orleans suburbs and patterns himself after Andy Pettitte. Like Pettitte, he can throw that curve inside to righties and drop it in for strikes on the other side of the plate as well. Cal State was making a lot of ugly check swings on that pitch. His mound demeanor is intense and strictly business, and he sprints back to the dugout after the third out of each inning. His ceiling is probably similar to Kennedy's (solid mid-rotation starter), but he won't move as quickly, as the Yanks will have to build his innings back up given the time he missed this year to that elbow injury.]

Second Round (75th pick):

RHP Joseph Bittle, Ole Miss

Baseball America: Taken by the Yankees in the 48th round of last year's draft, Bittle elected not to sign and transferred to Ole Miss this season from Northwest Texas CC. He was thrown into the closer's role for the Rebels and has dominated SEC hitters all season, putting up Nintendo type numbers. He has tallied an almost 5 to 1 K/BB ratio, striking out close to two batters per inning pitched.

Uncharacteristic for a closer, Bittle's fastball is just an average pitch, with velocity between the 88-91 mph range. However, Bittle pitches mainly off his cut fastball — a devastating late breaking pitch in the mid-80s that has two-plane movement similar to a slider. Bittle is able to command this pitch down in the zone and creates a ton of swings and misses by starting it just above the knees and having it drop just below the strike-zone. He also effectively mixes in a changeup, freezing unsuspecting hitters.

At 6-foot-1, 212 pounds, and without an above-average fastball, Bittle does not fit the typical closer's profile in the major leagues. He will most likely be a long relief or setup man in the pros. Once signed, he should move quickly as his command and stuff are close to major league ready.

Goldstein: Bittle has ridiculous numbers at Ole Miss, but he's kind of a trick pitcher. It's a mid-80s cutter, and it's an effective, but weird pitch -- and not the thing that's going to get him selected in the first round. More like 4th-6th. [Later:] Interesting that a guy who totally lives off one pitch (and it's a cutter), goes to the Yankees. If anyone can teach him how to do that at the next level, it's Mariano.

Peter Abraham: Bittle has a slider/cutter pitch he calls "The Thing" and nobody can hit it. The Yankees took him last year out of junior college and didn't sign him. Clearly they really like him.

River Ave. Blues: After a rather unspectacular career as a starter at Northeast Texas CC, Biddle transferred to Ole Miss his junior year and served a long reliever/swingman/part-time closer for the Rebels in 2007. The Yanks selected him late after posting a 2.79 ERA with a 59-17 K/BB ratio in 42 IP, but he chose not to sign and headed back to school for his senior year. Biddle has emerged as one of the most dominant relievers in the country this year, going 66.1 IP, 32 H, 13 R, 12 ER, 27 BB, 118 K, and leading the SEC (aka the toughest conference in the college baseball) in strikeouts as a reliever. He operates primarily off of a bane high-80s cutter that he throws 80-85% of the time, but he also mixes in a decent changeup. The cutter and his bulldog mentality have him close to ML ready, and a team not willing to drop its first rounder on one of the top college closers could snatch Biddle up in the 3rd or 4th round and have him in the bigs just as fast.

Third Round (106th pick):

2B David Adams, Virginia

MLB.com: The University of Virginia has become a good proving ground for legit pro prospects in recent years, and while Adams isn't Ryan Zimmerman, he should do pretty well in this year's Draft. A solid hard-nosed type, he gets the ultimate praise from scouts as being a real "baseball player." He's hit in the past, but didn't fare so well this season, which might affect him somewhat, but likely not too much.

River Ave. Blues: He's a grinder, gritty, hard-nosed, all that stuff. Decent pop (10-15 homers a year), but he excels at making contact. Not fast for a middle infielder but he can still steal some bags. Great makeup, kind of guy who just gets the job done.

Fourth Round (140th pick):

SS Corban Joseph, Franklin High School, TN

River Ave. Blues: Hits for power and average to all fields, but he's an offense first shortstop and will likely have to change positions. He's got a big wiry frame, so there's plenty of room to add strength. Fast, but not a burner. . . . I'm intrigued. If the kid can hit then the kid can hit. Like I said for the Adams' pick, the Yanks need middle infielders.

No Maas: A NoMaas source who has spoken with Joseph since his selection by the Yankees indicates that he will likely sign despite being committed to Kentucky.

Some other points from our source on Joseph:

* He has played shortstop the last three years, but likely will be groomed to play second, where he played his freshman year. The biggest area he needs to work on is his fielding.

* He throws righty and bats lefty. He had tried early on to be a switch hitter but couldn't generate enough power from the right side.

* "He's a good kid."

* His high school team went to the state tournament in every year he was there but this year, and he started all four of those years.

* He's a guy who is a perfectionist when it comes to studying and managing his swing. "Think Tony Gwynn and breaking down film on video."

Sounds a lot like last year's Golden Boy, Carmen Angelini.

Fifth Round (170th pick):

OF/1B Christopher Smith, Centennial High School, Compton, CA

Baseball America: a lefthanded hitter who batted better than .700 this spring. He's a lefthanded hitter with good "now" hitting tools whose best tool is his bat.

No Maas: Smith is 6′2″, 200 lbs, and committed to USC. He's a lefty with a nice power stroke, but the impressive thing here is that he hit .708 for Centennial High School in Compton, CA this past season. That's not a typo. I'll spell it out just to make certain. He hit Seven-Oh-Eight. Smith looks like he could be a diamond in the rough, and his coach certainly thinks so.

Sixth Round (200th pick):

RHP Brett Marshall, Sterling High School, Baytown, TX

MLB.com: Marshall has leapt on the map showing a huge jump in velocity, from 87-88 mph a year ago all the way up to 96 this year. He's got a plus slider to go along with it. The changeup lags behind, but that can come in time. He's relatively new to pitching and it shows in his delivery and his inability to repeat his mechanics. But with two plus pitches right now, Marshall's name is certainly on the rise.

Pete Abe: Marshall is a smallish high school righty who throws 94-95 and reportedly is committed to Rice. The Owls must hate the Yankees, who signed Carmen Angelini away from them last season.

River Ave. Blues: The first "signability" guy the Yanks grabbed, Marshall works at 91-94 with his fastball and has a knockout slider when right. Struggles to the throw trikes because he's inconsistent with his delivery. Only 6′0″, 185 lbs, but Baseball America rated him the 87th best prospect in the entire draft class.

[Check out No Maas's blog for more on Marshall including this article on Marshall from The Baytown Sun.]

Comments
2008-06-05 19:07:07
1.   tommyl
So in the 5th round the Yankees took this kid Chris Smith out of Compton HS (he's an OF). I don't know anything about his level of competition, but his numbers:

In 20 games he batted:

.708 with 12 HRS and a 1.361 slugging to a tune of an OPS of 2.105, he struck out 3 whole times and stole 24 of 27 bases.

Apparently this is the HS that Coco Crisp went to and his coach thinks this kid is better.

Dear lord, 2.105 OPS?! Who is this kid?

2008-06-05 19:17:24
2.   Alex Belth
Anyone catch the Sox highlights? Not only did they get in a brawl with the Rays but Manny and Youk had to be separated in the Sox dughout later in the game.

The big fight wasn't that bad. Shields missed Coco with a roundhouse and Coco connected, albeit weakly with a jab in return. Then Coco was tackled and Gomes looked to get in some punches--nothing brutal though, and even Carl Crawford got in a couple of shots on Crisp.

Ugliness all around.

2008-06-05 19:20:53
3.   tommyl
2 No, what happened between Manny and Youk?
2008-06-05 19:32:03
4.   OldYanksFan
Considering most brawls are huffing, puffing, and pushing, this one had some good action. ESPN has a good shot of Shields taking a roundhouse slug at Crisp, who deftly dodged it and got in a jab of his own.
Looks like someone else one the ground took a bit of a pounding. TB and Boston are beginning to develope quite the rivalry.

Not much news on the Manny/Youk thing. My guess is the Sox want to keep quiet on that one.

2008-06-05 19:32:56
5.   OldYanksFan
http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/gallery/enlargePhoto?id=3428110&story=3428091
Great shot or what!
2008-06-05 19:41:34
6.   Just fair
That Haymaker Shields threw was a dandy. He's lucky it didn't connect, he would have broken his hand. The Rays were definitely ready to pour on Crisp like milk. : )
Manny was probaably singing the praises of Franco Giusepp while Youk is still pissed he made all his hair fall out. And on the one of news scrollers it reads the Yanks' are read to deal with the Cashman. Haters beware.
2008-06-05 19:55:15
7.   Knuckles
Wonder which Beantown media will cover the Manny-Youk issue: the "Tear Down All Things Boston" crowd or the "Manny Being Manny" apologists?

When did it start being called the Scott Boras Corporation? That sounds like two brothers from Perth Amboy rehabbing 2 houses and calling themselves the Bonello Group, like it's a hedge fund or something.

2008-06-05 20:21:16
8.   Chyll Will
2 Yeah, that was some craziness up there. Do you think that Big Papi's absence has a little something to do with this sudden burst of bad vibes... in fact, a lot of teams and their managers are getting kinda tense it seems... hmm.

7 When has it not been the Scott Boras Corporation... or are you talking about the Red Sox? (Knuckles!!)

2008-06-05 20:23:13
9.   Cliff Corcoran
Hey, how about that draft . . .
2008-06-05 20:36:36
10.   tommyl
9 Hey, don't look at me, I was trying to get discussion going on Chris Smith. Its all this Alex Belth's guy's fault for changing the subject.

Bittle is also a nice pickup. Kid supposedly has the nastiest cutter people have seen in a long time. Hmmm...can we think of another relief pitcher with a pretty good cutter?

2008-06-05 20:58:42
11.   Chyll Will
my apologies. Chris Smith, those numbers look like he escaped from an XBox or something. Hope if he makes the majors anytime soon, he's more like an Upton than a Thames...
2008-06-05 21:22:18
12.   tommyl
11 Anyone know how his numbers match up based on where he's coming out of. I mean you think a kid that hits .700 with power would go earlier, so there must be something to it, no?
2008-06-06 04:32:22
13.   williamnyy23
It seems as if the Yankees took some fliers in this draft wrapped around two very high potential high school arms. It doesn't appear as if they got anything close to a blue chip position player though, mostly because that commodity still always goes in the top half of the first round.
2008-06-06 05:14:50
14.   rbj
Re: Brett Marshall "Struggles to the throw trikes"

Well I struggle throwing trikes as well. Not to mention strikes.

And a word of advice to Cole: If your brother gets involved in a fight and later wants to go to the guy's house, you stay home. Hire some muscle, but just stay home and work on your pitches. M'kay?

2008-06-06 05:29:30
15.   Cliff Corcoran
14 That typo was copied directly from River Ave. Blues and I liked it too much to correct it.
2008-06-06 06:06:33
16.   RIYank
Position players:
What about Corban Joseph?

I'm kind of excited about Brett Marshall and Scott Bittle, myself. If one of them pans out, it's a late-round steal.

2008-06-06 06:27:55
17.   rbj
15 I think throwing trikes should be a new theme here.
2008-06-06 07:02:52
18.   horace-clarke-era
The perfect header:

Brawls and Trikes!

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