The professional debut of any baseball player is one to remember. It doesn't matter if the player was an MVP or got a rude awakening that they're playing against the best of the best. As with the hitters, all pitchers outside the first round were looked at. The reason being, most first rounders have already been analyzed up and down, and the majority of us already have a pretty solid base of knowledge on them. The rest of the draft, not so much.
So without further adieu, here are some of your top statistical performers from the 2013 draft. The order does not reflect any sort of ranking, and as always, enjoy the scouting reports.
1. Pete Kelich
|Padres||38||22||R||RHP||R/R||6'2 185 LB||Bryant College (RI)|
Before I start with Kelich, I have one question to ask. Why is nobody talking about a 69 K/BB ratio?!? I mean, the man walked one batter all year. Age-relative-to-league be damned, that's insane. The second best rate in all of the minor leagues was 33 K/BB by Tampa right hander Wilmer Hernandez in the DSL. Kelich's senior year at Bryant he threw 92.2 innings with a 2.53 ERA, 83 strike outs (8.06 K/9), 18 walks (1.75 BB/9), and 77 hits allowed (7.48 H/9), and a 1.03 WHIP. With the Arizona League Padres he also induced ground balls at a 44.3% rate with 1.19 ground outs per fly out and limited right handed hitters to a .172 average.
The folks at Club Diamond Nation, a New Jersey based company, sat down with Kelich who is a Jersey native. They clocked his fastball in the 88-91 range while topping out at 93 mph. Kelich described his off speed pitches in his own words, calling his 84-87 mph cutter "his out pitch" and a 78-80 mph slider a "get-me-over pitch". He also has a change up he has "complete confidence" in with pinpoint control and a fearless approach, going straight after hitters.
As long as he maintains his pinpoint control he will see success. I think cold weather pitchers from small schools are a profile to keep an eye on. Kelich fits the bill and threw a combined 150 innings between pro and college ball last year. He's ready for full season ball, the only question being how aggressive does San Diego want to be with him? I'm thinking a short stint in Ft. Wayne to start the year.
2. Will Kendall
|Pirates||30||21||R/A-||LHP||S/L||6'3 180 LB||Auburn|
The Pirates took Kendall after his Junior year at Auburn where he struggled after returning from Tommy John surgery. Prior to the surgery as a sophomore he had a 1.88 ERA in 38.1 innings with just eight walks and 19 strike outs. After the surgery he threw 22.2 innings but with a 7.54 ERA, 12 walks, 17 strike outs and 28 hits allowed. In his time spent between the Gulf Coast League and short season Jamestown (mostly Jamestown), he performed markedly better with much improved control. He did show a sharp reverse platoon split (short sample size caveats apply) with right handers only managing a .639 OPS while same sided lefties tagged him to a 1.125 OPS.
The only scouting information I can find on Kendall was from back in 2008 when he threw 87 mph at a Perfect Game event as a junior in high school. It looks to me like the Pirates took a gamble on Kendall returning to 2012 form when he dominated for Auburn. He's two years removed from Tommy John and his stuff should be back and sharper. Although he allowed more than a hit per inning, he struck batters out and limited free passes which allowed his WHIP to still be relatively low.
Kendall only threw 73 innings in college so he's a bit behind the development curve which would lead me to believe a stay in extended spring training and a return to Jamestown is probably in his future. If he does well this spring and shows his recovery has gone well, he could jump up to West Virginia.
3. Josh Easley
|Marlins||23||22||R/A-/A+||RHP||R/R||6'3 190 LB||North Carolina State|
Easley hit the ground running after signing out of North Carolina State. He missed 2012, his junior season, with Tommy John surgery and came back in 2013 as a dominant reliever for the Wolfpack. Over 45.2 innings he had a sparkling 1.38 ERA with a 1.09 WHIP and just 7.3 H/9. He struck out 42 (8.3 K/9) and walked 13 (2.6 BB/9) while scavenging seven wins and a save. While splitting time between three levels, he was equally as lethal to lefties (.302 OPS) as righties (392 OPS). Yes, OPS; not batting average or on base percentage. To twist his number another way, he struck out 2.26 times as many batters as total bases allowed.
He was dominant using a low 90's fastball and a slider that bought real estate, living low and away to righties and down and in on left handers. He also did a great job of getting hitters to expand the zone while not letting them get away with a free base. He's also aggressive, attacking hitters with his slider then using well placed fastballs as his put away pitch.
Easley looks like a reliever long term but I'm thinking he will be 2014's version of Nick Wittgren. Look for him to fly through the system if he continues the torrid pace he set his debut season.
4. Mark Leiter
|Phillies||22||22||R/A/A+||RHP||R/R||6'0 195 LB||New Jersey Tech|
Talk about bloodlines; Leiter is the son of the 11 year MLB veteran with the same name, and nephew of Al Leiter, MLB Network analyst and 19 year MLB veteran. The younger Leiter progressed all the way to High A Clearwater while having his innings monitored. While finishing his degree at New Jersey Institute of Technology, he had the night of his life, racking up 20 strike outs in a start against Chicago State on May 3rd. For the season he threw 93.2 innings with a 3.56 ERA, 95 strike outs (9.1 K/9), 43 walks (4.1 BB/9), 95 hits (9.1 H/9) and three complete games. He finished 2013 with 16 scoreless innings over three consecutive starts, allowing just 11 hits, five walks and 20 strike outs in Low A Lakewood.
Leiter's repertoire consists of four pitches - a fastball around 90 mph, change up, curve and cutter. His bread and buitter is the change up though, as his father did not allow him to throw any breaking pitches before he reached college. This extra time honing the change as put it well above the rest of his offspeed pitches. He is also very adept at changing speeds and sequencing, perks of having a family with over three decade of big league experience to get advice and lessons from.
Although Leiter does not have top shelf velocity but he has poise and pitchability in spades along with a great change. He started in college and finished the year in the Lakewood rotation. I think he will move up to Clearwater's rotation for 2014.
5. Brian Gilbert
|Twins||7||20||R+/A||RHP||R/R||6'1 215 LB||Seton Hall|
Another cold weather college pitcher, Gilbert signed with the Twins for a $120K signing bonus after finishing his junior season at Seton Hall. He was the closer for them, missing bats with ease while relishing the role of finishing off the opponent. He threw 48.2 innings his junior year in 27 appearances with six saves, 6.3 H/9, 9.1 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, and a 1.15 WHIP. After turning pro he continued to dominate in the Appalachian and Midwest Leagues, only allowing one extra base hit (a double) in his 23 innings of work and an opponents OPS of .335.
Gilbert uses two pitches out of the bullpen which is really all he needs for that role. His fastball sits 92-94 mph and he can ramp it up to as high as 96 mph when needed. He also has a really good slide piece he will throw in any count and he is working on getting a more consistent, sharp bite on it. Between the ears he not only has the mentality of a closer, but he truly loves the adrenaline rush associated with the high intensity situations he gets thrown into. The word "bulldog" tends to accompany anything written about him.
Relievers are not sexy but drafting and developing good ones can be huge for a cash-strapped squad. Gilbert can and will be one of these guys and he could see Minnesota by next year with eyes on the 9th inning role.
6. Payton Baskette
|Padres||16||19||R||LHP||L/L||6'1 175 LB||Grayson County College (TX)|
Drafted in the 16th round and handed a $100K signing bonus by the Padres, Baskette teamed up with Pete Kelich to anchor the AZL Padres pitching staff. His freshman year at Grayson County College, a junior college in Texas, Baskette threw 56 innings with a 3.37 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 9.3 H/9 and a 1.34 WHIP. With the rookie league affiliate of the Friars he was more effective against righties (.530 OPS) than left handers (.687 OPS but only 37 plate appearances so we are dealing with a small sample size), and was more dominant out of the bullpen (0.86 ERA, 11.6 K/9, 4.5 K/BB, 21 IP).
I have scoured the globe and honestly cannot find a thing about Baskette's repertoire. I'm assuming there's a fastball there, maybe a good breaker to keep right handers honest. I have no clue for sure though.
Baskette exceeded all expectations for a 16th round pick by performing so well in the AZL. He performed well and the stats are sexy in all the right places. It's not hard to see him hanging back in extended spring, with a lock on a rotation spot at short season Eugene.
7. Hobbs Johnson
|Brewers||14||22||R+/A||LHP||R/L||5'11 205 LB||North Carolina|
Calvin and Hobbes was easily one of my favorite cartoons growing up and now every time I see Johnson I can't help but picture a kid and stuffed tiger on the mound, acting like they are pumping 100 mph heaters to the plate. Jeffrey Hobbs Johnson was plucked from UNC in the 14th round and signed for $100K. As a Tar Heel, Johnson had a solid junior year despite not knowing where the ball was going. He threw 34.1 innings with a 2.36 ERA, just 20 hits allowed (5.2 H/9), 26 strike outs (6.8 K/9) and 24 walks (6.3 BB/9). His banner performance came against in-state rivals NC State, opposed by probable #1 overall pick Carlos Rodon, in the College World Series. He threw 8.1 scoreless frames in a 7-0 win, throwing over 130 pitches - almost all fastballs.
On the mound Hobbs sits 90-93 mph with his four seam fastball, and sinks his two seam to the arm side in the high 80's. He has excellent deception from a turn in his motion that hides the ball very effectively. The change up is his top secondary pitch, and he also has fringy curve he will scrap, and an average slider. He is a fierce competitor on the mound with no fear, attacking hitters with the heat.
Johsnon was the Sunday starter for the UNC but was used exclusively out of the pen after going pro. I believe he can stick as a starter and the first name that comes to me with him is Reds pitcher Tony Cingrani. If he continues as a starter he could head back to Wisconsin of the Midwest League or High A Brevard County if he's a reliever. The latter situation would be the accelerated timetable for him.
8. Jimmie Sherfy
|Diamondbacks||10||21||A-/A||RHP||R/R||6'0 175 LB||Oregon|
Sherfy is a guy in the Barry Zito mold - he looks like he would be more comfortbale on a surfboard in Santa Monica than on a mound. Once he's between the lines he's a completely different person. Signed for $100K out of Oregon, Sherfy put up excellent number as the Ducks closer the last two years. He earned the name "Wild Thing" his sophomore year while walking 34 (5.0 BB/9) and hitting 13 batters in 61.1 innings while setting a then-school record 19 saves. The California native struck out 93 (13.7 K/9), allowed 36 hits (5.3 H/9), had a 2.20 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP while being named a second team All American by Baseball America and Perfect Game. His junior year before going pro he threw 40 innings over 38 appearances with 21 saves (an Oregon record), a 2.25 ERA, 55 strike outs (12.4 K/9), 14 walks (3.2 BB/9) and 33 hits (7.4 H/9) with a 1.18 WHIP. With the Diamondbacks organization he not only humiliated batters with the obscene K/9 and K/BB numbers, left handers only managed a .431 OPS and righties only hit him to a .577 OPS.
He is a two pitch righty that uses a 93-96 mph FB that he's still harnessing, and a sharp mid 80's slider that gets creative adjectives when its on. He has a great arm, excels under pressure, and has a closer mentalilty of going all out the entire time he is on the mound. He has a deceptive delivery that make his pitches play up but falls off to first hard at the end of his motion. A minor red flag is he had a stress fracture in his right elbow in 2012, but had surgery and recovered in time for the 2013 season.
Undersized righties with big fastballs, wicked breaking balls, and spotty control aren't as exciting when they're already in a relief role, but they say it takes a certain kind of person to embrace the role of closer. Sherfy certainly has that mindset.He ended the season in South Bend and did very well, albeit in 8.1 innings. He should be on the fast track as a college reliever with a very impressive debut. Trips to Visalia and Mobile are almost a lock with an outside shot of ending up in Reno or Arizona's pen by season's end.
9. Brad Keller
|Diamondbacks||8||17||R/R+||RHP||R/R||6'5 230 LB||Flowery Branch HS (GA)|
Signed two rounds prior to Sherfy, Keller inked his deal for a $125K bonus and spent the majority of the year as a 17 year old in the rookie Arizona League before finishing in the Pioneer League. He was able to rack up an unusually high amount of innings for such a young player because of his stout build and seemingly rubber arm. Though he allowed a hefty number of baserunners (1.42 WHIP), a high .330 BABIP may have been a contributing factor along with the 4.3 BB/9.
Keller's repertoire is simple. A 91-93 mph fastball that can reach up to 95, he flashes a good low 80's change, and an average slider around the same speed. He's efficient and has all the ingredients of an innings eater. He attacks hitters and is learning to gain more control of his long levers and repeat his delivery more consistently. Despite his age he looks physically mature.
Arizona has no need to rush Keller, but I think he will get the bump to Low A South Bend to start the year. He just needs more innings to shave down the rough edges.
10. Ian McKinney
|Cardinals||5||18||R||LHP||L/L||5'11 185 LB||Boone HS (FL)|
Half of the first six picks by the Cardinals in the 2013 draft went to left handed pitchers. McKinney was the last of the three, signing for $227K after going off the board in round five. In his debut he did a great job of limiting baserunners and hits. His innings were limited after signing but ramped up to five innings per start by the end of the year. He only allowed a run in his first pro appearance and the last start of the season, going 26.1 dominant innings in between without allowing a run (with a .482 opponents OPS to boot). Lefties were 1-24 (.043) against him with seven strike outs and just one walk. Also worth noting, he made three consecutive starts against the GCL Nationals (owners of a .850 winning % in 2013) between 7/31 and 8/13. He threw 12.2 innings, allowed only six hits (one extra base hit), four walks and struck out 11.
McKinney has a four pitch mix highlighted by a low 90's fastball he can manipulate horizontally with cut or arm side run, and a plus change up around 80 mph. He has complete confidence in his change that features good fade and velocity separation. His breaking pitches are an average slider and solid spike curve. Almost as important as the stuff is the excellent feel and poise he shows on the mound. He is fearless, athletic, and repeats his deceptive delivery well.
Look for him to start the year in extended spring training with an assignment to Johnson City in the Appalachian League once the short season clubs kick off. Even if he doesn't develop anymore physically, he looks like a mid-to-back of the rotation starter to me.
11. Cody Dickson
|Pirates||4||21||A-||LHP||L/L||6'3 180 LB||Sam Houston State (TX)|
If you ask for much more than what Dickson did in his debut season, you're just plain greedy. The Pirates nabbed him in the fourth round with a signing bonus of $375K, which could could end up being a steal. His junior year at Sam Houston State, he posted a 4.26 ERA over 95 innings with 91 strike outs (8.6 K/9), 61 hits allowed (5.8 H/9) and two shut outs. He was wild as hell too, walking 51 (4.8 BB/9) and throwing 12 wild pitches. A heavy dose of helium came right before the draft as he threw 28 scoreless frames to touch off his college career. Dickson was much improved once turning pro with better control and plenty of swing and miss. He does feature a sharp reverse platoon split with right handers limited to a .174 average and .509 OPS while lefties beat on him with a .286 average and .791 OPS (SSS of 74 plate appearances).
His fastball resides in the low 90's while jumping to 95 on occasion. He also features a really good curve and change up that you could throw a pair of future 6's on. The offspeed stuff isn't quite there yet, but he still has room to grow and add strength, which could put his velocity in the mid 90's. He attacks hitters but sometimes just can't control where the ball is going. It seems like the professional instruction he received in Jamestown had an impact and it will be interesting to see what happens from here on.
Its obvious Dickson will begin 2014 in full season ball, but the question remains which club. A conservative approach would be having him start in Low A West Virginia but I would like to see him challenged with a jump to Bradenton. He will still be challenged with more advanced hittters but the friendly confines of the Florida State league will help his cause.
12. Stephen Gonsalves
|Twins||4||18||R/R+||LHP||L/L||6'5 190 LB||Cathedral Catholic HS (CA)|
Going into the 2013 season, Gonsalves looked like and had the past performance of a first round pick. The problem was twofold; he had issues maintaining velocity, and was hit with an eight game suspension a month and a half before the draft for attempting to cover for a few teammates who got down on some sticky icky in a hotel room, on a road trip. The Twins took him 110th overall in the fourth round and signed him with a $700K bonus. He was able to limit rookie ball hitters to a .182 average and .466 OPS with over twice as many strike outs (39) as hits (18). Right handers were especially useless, going 10-74 for a .135/.229/.149 line and .378 OPS. He was also fantastic with runners on, limiting them to a .119 average (5-42) and a .388 OPS.
Any teenager with a frame like his oozes potential and get scouts all hot and bothered pretty easily. His fastball currently sits 87-92 mph and explodes out of his hand. He spots it well to all quadrants of the zone. He utilizes an over-the-top delivery which adds to the deception on his change up despite lacking elite velocity. The change up is his best offspeed offering coming from the same arm slot and looks like a second above average weapon. The curve is definitely behind the change up, looking more like a loose slurve than a hard breaker and probably wont be more than an average pitch. Repetition and innings should improve his control of the hook and change up while growing into his body and adding good weight will tick his velocity comfortably into the 90's.
Despite Gonsalves' domination of rookie hitters, his lack of innings will most likely lead to either a trip to extended spring training or an innings limit in Low A Cedar Rapids. He doesn't have any past major health issues or injures so he should be good to go. My guess is extended spring training with a trip to Cedar Rapids when the first wave of promotions hit.
13. Chris Kohler
|Athletics||3-S||18||R||LHP||L/L||6'3 190 LB||Los Osos HS (CA)|
Chris Kohler was the fifth selection of the A's, taken in the supplemental third round. The first prep arm off the board for the Oakland A's, he spent the year in the rookie Arizona League getting his feet wet after signing for $486K. Kohler did not pitch until he reached high school, intentionally saving his bullets for when it mattered. In the AZL he limited right handers to a .269 average (buoyed by a .429 BABIP), and a .629 OPS. Left handed hitters were only 1-16 (.063 avg) with a .273 OPS.
Like Gonsalves, Kohler is a highly projectable high school left hander who works in the same high 80's to low 90's velocity range, hitting 93 mph by the end of the year. He also shows the ability to spin a low 70's curve that projects to be an average MLB pitch or better with tight rotation and an 11-5 break. The California native features a developing change up as well which has the beginnings of a solid pitch. He's very stoic on the mound with great poise and some serious competitiveness. The arm work smooth and looks like he's playing catch with great balance. Mechanically he's smoother than a baby's butt and still has plenty of room to grow, both physically and developmentally.
There's no rush with Kohler so he should get plenty of time to work on developing his offspeed, consistency and control. Wait until June then keep an eye out for him in Vermont's rotation in the New York-Penn League.
14. Stephen Tarpley
|Orioles||3||20||R||LHP||R/L||6'2 200 LB||Scottsdale CC (AZ)|
Two years ago the Cleveland Indians had the same idea to draft Tarpley, picking him in the 8th round of the 2011 draft. He turned down the offer and went to Southern California instead. He transferred to Scottsdale Community College to be eligible for the 2013 draft where he pulled in a $525K bonus as the third round selection of the Orioles. The former Fighting Artichoke (seriously?) threw 92 innings with a 2.35 ERA to go with 62 hits allowed (6.1 H/9), 40 walks (3.9 BB/9), 108 strike outs (10.6 K/9), a .137 opponents batting average and limited the opposition to just 5 extra base hits all year. He went to the Gulf Coast League after signing and was extra stingy with the free pass, allowing only three. Opponents hit .253 against him with a .605 OPS, but he also dealt with a .370 BABIP
When he toes the rubber he works with a standard four pitch mix of fastball, curve, slider, and change up. His heat sits in the low 90's, touching 95 mph, with little movement on it. The curve is the most advanced of the offspeed pitches and could be a potentially plus pitch for him. It shows good depth in the high 70's though he sometimes fails to stay on top of it. The slider is just behind the curve as a future slightly above average offering. it has sharp, late break in the low 80's and he's used it almost exclusively on left handed hitters. His change up comes in around 80-82 mph with late fade on it and has improved since scouts said he was tipping the pitch in college. His delivery is clean with a quick arm and excellent poise. His athleticism shows with excellent body control as well.
Tarpley showed his four pitch mix can be potent and with a little better luck (and BABIP regression) he can be lights out. I would like to see him go to full season ball with Low A Delmarva and really show what he can do against similar aged players.
15. Tyler Danish
|White Sox||2||18||R+/A||RHP||R/R||6'2 190 LB||Durant HS (FL)|
Seen as one of the top prep arms out of Florida before the draft, Danish obliterated high school competition and went 55th overall to the White Sox. He did not allow an earned run all spring, spanning 94 innings. he began his pro career in Bristol of the Appalachian League, and was moved up to Low A Kannapolis by the end of the year. He posted a fantastic 3.36 GO/FO ratio, and was especially lethal to right handers. They only managed a .185/.194/.277 line with 21 strike outs to just one walk.
As everyone familiar with him will say, the first thing that pops out at you is the delivery. It's a low 3/4 arm slot, practically sidearm (think Jake Peavy or Pat Neshek), with little stride and a whole lot of arm from the stretch. It's amazing that he can generate mid 90's velocity with practically no lower half involved. His fastball is also incredibly heavy and sits low 90's with a lot of late sink once the batter has already committed to the pitch. He also features a vicious slider in the high 70's, again with sharp, late break, that will be a two strike weapon. He's still in the development stages with his change up, as he rarely needed it in high school with his fastball-slider combo.
Danish only started one game as a pro and there have been no indications what role the Sox will want to use him. He has shown improvement with the change up enough to flash average potential which could put him in Kannapolis' rotation to start the year. Put him in a relief role and his power sinker/slider combo could get him to AAA Charlotte by the end of the year.