Everybody knows Anthony Rendon is more than likely going to be the first overall pick in the 2011 draft. What isn’t as common knowledge is where the top collegiate arms stack up behind him. My guess is as good as yours. There are several things to like about each of them. The obvious strength in next year’s crop is collegiate arms, and that’s what is going to be discussed a bit today.
Follow the jump to read more in depth about the top three arms I feel are trailing right behind Rendon.
Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA
2010 Season Stats: 11-4, 3.37 ERA, 153 K/52 BB, 123 IP, .205 BAA
Specs: 6’4’’, 220 lbs
Ranked number two in my very early top 50, the Yankees 2008 unsigned first-round pick should be a lock to go in the top five. Cole has some electric stuff, most notably the fastball. He consistently sits 93-95 and frequently touches the 96-99 with good arm-side run and sink, making it an easy plus-plus pitch. He commands it equally well to all zones and can take some off the pitch to generate weak ground balls. Cole also features a potential plus slider that is thrown in the mid-to-upper 80’s. Potential is the operative key word here. At its’ finest, there’s sharp two-plane break that carves up left-handers. Right now, the pitch is too often flat because he tends to overthrow it, resulting in more of a high-80’s cutter than anything else. Cole’s command of the pitch is sub-par, as it’s serving as a pitch that is chased out of the zone. More advanced and patient hitters will be able to watch it go by. What I think separates Cole from Purke, Jungmann, etc., right now is the off-speed in his change-up. He has a tremendous feel for it and is very confident in throwing it in all counts, something that is rare with a power pitcher. It sits at 81-83 mph with sink and fade, and Cole’s deception of the pitch makes it play up to an above-average offering. His command of the pitch is only average, but he typically misses low in the zone with it. Mechanically, I don’t think he’s as bad as some say. I do see their concerns with throwing across his body and some effort in his delivery. However, the small bit of hyperabduction shown is mostly negated, in my opinion, by his arm being in good shape upon foot-strike, which is even with the shoulders. A drop-and-drive kind of guy, Cole has decent hip/shoulder separation, although it could be better as he rushes a little bit. Overall, no red flags with his delivery – just in need for some fine-tuning. As far as poise is concerned, I think Cole has matured tremendously at UCLA. Even during his last start against South Carolina where he was tagged for six runs on 11 hits in the CWS, Cole did not show any emotions on the mound – something that he did do in high school when things didn’t go his way. He’s a potential front-line starter with the chance at adding a plus pitch in his slider to go along with his plus-plus fastball and an above-average change-up – all with average to above average command.
Matt Purke, LHP, TCU
2010 Season Stats: 16-0, 3.02 ERA, 142 K/34 BB, 116.1 IP, .212 BAA
Specs: 6’4’’, 180 lbs.
Ranked number three in my top 50, Purke is another unsigned first-round pick, being drafted 14th overall in the 2009 draft by the Rangers. Similar to Cole, Purke should also go in the first five selections next year. He’s the kind of guy that has hitters shortening up their swings and focusing on putting the ball in play – something that speaks to the kind of stuff a pitcher like him has. Purke is another power arm and has been highly-regarded since stepping on campus last year. His fastball sits comfortably between 91 and 93 (and a handful of 94’s) with natural left-handed tail away from right-handed hitters. Purke commands the pitch very well, rarely missing the target in the outings I’ve seen. He likes to work down in the zone, generating a good amount of ground balls. When he gets into the later parts of the game, Purke’s velocity and command tends to deteriorate – sitting around 88-90, which makes him rely more on his slider -- which is clearly his best secondary pitch. It has tremendous two-plane break, sits between 79 and 81, and commands it equally well as his fastball when he doesn’t overthrow it. ESPN’s Keith Law noted before the 2009 Draft that he had issues with Purke’s low-three-quarter arm slot being a concern when it comes to developing a change-up. I couldn’t agree more. It’s rare to see someone with that arm slot throw a quality and consistent change-up. He hasn’t thrown it a lot during his first two years at TCU in the same sense that he didn’t throw it a lot in high school – because he didn’t need it. While true, I do think that sets the development of the pitch back a ways compared to someone like Cole. Combining that with what has been said about his arm-slot, and I see Purke as a two-pitch guy right now and likely in the future. Those two pitches can be lethal, however. But, he needs to add more strength to his arm and shoulders to maintain velocity throughout the game to get by with two offerings. Mechanically, they aren’t as bad when I was able to slow them down and really take a look at them. On first glance, I thought I noticed some distinct hyperabduction and habitual rushing. I do notice an inverted L that he makes when he picks his arm up with his elbows. However, the real moment of truth is at foot-strike, in which I compare Purke’s arm action at that particular point to that of Jon Lester’s. Both load the scapula behind the shoulder and there’s a tiny bit of hyperabduction remaining upon foot-strike, but it’s nothing that raises eyebrows like that of say, Chris Sale. I do think Purke could benefit by adding some hip/shoulder separation, as both are rotating simultaneously right now, causing some rushing and timing issues, all while not maximizing the pop he could be getting out of his fastball. But, you have to like how well he repeats his mechanics and throws from the same arm slot. Like Cole, Purke just needs some fine-tuning as well as some strength training and he’ll be fine. He gets high marks for poise and confidence, something that was well-documented during the Horned Frog's postseason run. Left-handed pitchers with two plus pitches don’t grow on trees, especially with that kind of command and ability to generate ground balls.
Taylor Jungmann, RHP, Texas
2010 Season Stats: 8-3, 2.03 ERA, 129 K/41 BB, 120 IP, .209 BAA
Specs: 6’6’’, 195 lbs.
Ranked number four in my top 50, Jungmann was drafted in the 24th round in 2008 by the Angels. He was, however, far from an unknown when stepping onto campus. Seen as a tall and eminently projectable right-hander out of high school, Jungmann (pronounced like young men) has blossomed into one of the top collegiate pitchers in the 2011 crop loaded with talent. Jungmann’s fastball sits comfortably in the low-90s, touching 94-95 occasionally. This pitch tended to be pretty straight, and he utilizes an 88-91 two-seam fastball that has good life to give hitters a different look. His command of the pitch was solid-average, nibbling around the black more often than hitting it. Jungmann also throws a spike curveball in the 81-83 range that has tremendous late bite, dropping straight down out of the zone at the last second, fooling hitters on a regular basis. The pitch is commanded very well, and grades as a plus pitch in the outings I’ve seen. Jungmann also mixes in an above-average change-up that he pronates to get some unusual fade and depth. It starts as a straight change-up but tumbles down and in towards right-handed hitters. Currently, the command of the pitch is below-average, but it also misses low in the zone, serving as a solid chase pitch when ahead in the count. Mechanically, I’ve read several complaints about them being unorthodox but I don’t see them as red flags. There are a lot of flying parts, but given his lanky stature, this is almost a guarantee. An overhaul isn’t necessary and would be taking away a strength that Jungmann has – deception. The flying parts aren’t a bad thing. They will detract from future command, but at the same time he’ll lose a lot of momentum and tempo, both of which are two things he has going for him. His arm is a little late upon foot-strike, but I don’t see any hyperabduction going on and he loads his scapula correctly. As with 95% of pitchers, when he overthrows and tries to do too much, he’s going to struggle with command. But, that can be easily taught and shouldn’t be a concern. Overall, Jungmann has three above-average pitches with solid command. Last time I checked, that’s a front-line ceiling.