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2004 College Pitcher Update, Part One

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Justin Verlander

2004 First-Round College Pitchers

Here is a look at college pitchers drafted in the first round or supplemental first round last year.
This is part one, I will have part two (taking us through the rest of the first round and into the supplemental round) posted later this afternoon.

Justin Verlander, RHP, Detroit Tigers (2nd overall, Old Dominion)
Three games, 3 starts, 16 innings pitched for Lakeland in the Florida State League. 18/3 K/BB ratio, 12 hits allowed. Pitching very well so far, with strong ratios across the board. Verlander has a great arm, but struggled with his command at times in college, due to mechanical inconsistency. He's throwing strikes effectively right now, and if he continues to do that, he should reach Double-A later this summer.

Phillip Humber, RHP, New York Mets (3rd overall, Rice)
Two games, 2 starts, 10 innings for St. Lucie in the Florida State League. 1 run allowed, with an 8/1 K/BB ratio. Sample size is tiny, but he's been effective. Humber is currently on the shelf with a strained abdominal muscle, annoying but not as bad as a sore elbow or strained shoulder of course. He should be back in another couple of weeks. Continued good pitching at St. Lucie should get him to Double-A by late July.

Jeff Niemann, RHP, Tampa Bay Devil Rays (4th overall, Rice)
Two games, 2 starts, 6.1 innings for Visalia in the California League. 7/4 K/BB ratio, 5 earned runs allowed, 5 hits. Big problem so far has been command and control. He's struck people out at a good clip, but has walked too many and hasn't pitched efficiently with men on base. The sample is too small to worry about right now, but the K/BB will bear watching as the season progresses. In college, his mechanics were very consistent for someone 6-9, so perhaps he's just working the rust off right now.

Jeremy Sowers, LHP, Cleveland Indians (6th overall, Vanderbilt)
Three games, 3 starts, 16.2 innings for Kinston in the Carolina League. 13/1 K/BB ratio, 18 hits allowed so far, 7 runs for a 3.78 ERA. Sowers is doing exactly as expected, showing outstanding command and control as indicated in his K/BB ratio. As a college-trained finesse lefty, he should have little trouble with A-ball. I'd expect a promotion to Double-A will come at midsummer, and we'll get a better handle on his chances to make an impact at that point.

Wade Townsend, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (8th overall, Rice)
In limbo. He lost his NCAA eligibility by publicly signing with an agent, but he went back to class at Rice, thus costing the Orioles his negotiating rights. His position in the upcoming '05 draft is unclear.

Thomas Diamond, RHP, Texas Rangers (10th overall, University of New Orleans)
Four games, 4 starts, 21.1 innings for Bakersfield in the California League. 24/5 K/BB ratio, 13 hits allowed, 5 runs for a 2.11 ERA. He is 3-0. Diamond is pitching brilliantly, showing both power stuff and fine command. Before the draft, there were some teams who doubted his control, and worried that he didn't face exceptional competition pitching college ball at New Orleans. Those doubts have been dispelled; his command has been fine, and his stuff ranks right up there with more-heralded guys like Verlander or the Rice trio.

Jered Weaver, RHP, Anaheim Angels (12th overall, Long Beach State)
Hasn't signed, although he did not return to class and the Angels still holds his negotiation rights until draft day. Like Townsend, it is uncertain where he will slot if he re-enters the pool.

Bill Bray, LHP, Montreal Expos (13th overall, William and Mary)
In extended spring training, rehabbing a sore back.

David Purcey, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays (16th overall, University of Oklahoma)
Four games, 4 starts, 20 innings for the Dunedin Blue Jays in the Florida State League. 19/12 K/BB ratio, 15 hits allowed, 4 runs, 1.80 ERA. Showing good stuff, with impressive K/IP mark. His walk rate is a bit higher than I'd like, but it hasn't hurt him yet. He should not have major problems with the Class A level, and a few tweaks with his control should get him promoted in the second half.