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Top College Pitchers in the 2008 Draft

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Here's my take on the top college pitchers in the 2008 draft.

This class isn't particularly impressive and doesn't have as much depth as some past groups, but there are some reasonable options here especially for teams in the middle and later part of the first round.

Some tentative rankings:

1) Aaron Crow, RHP, University of Missouri: 10-0, 3.08 ERA with 92/24 K/BB ratio in 76 innings, 66 hits allowed. The talk of college baseball early in the season due to his long scoreless inning streak, but he's been hit around a bit lately. Still a certain lock on the Top Ten and most likely in the Top Five. Throws hard, mid-90s command is usually there, good slider and changeup, has done very well at a high level of competition and in a league (Big 12) that's good for hitting. I like him a hair better than Matusz but that may be Midwest bias talking. Some scouts have concern about Crow's arm action and delivery, but as long as he repeats his delivery consistently, I don't think his injury risk is massively higher than anyone else's.

2) Brian Matusz, LHP, University of San Diego: 9-2, 2.03 ERA with 108/20 K/BB in 79.2 innings, 68 hits allowed. Raw stats are better than Crow's now, but he pitches in a friendlier context for pitchers. Big guy, throws hard for a lefty, great command, nothing not to like here. It's very close between the two.

3) Tanner Scheppers, RHP, Fresno State University: 8-2, 2.93 ERA with 109/34 K/BB in 70.2 innings, 54 hits allowed. He's made huge progress refining his talent this year, and pitching in a context with a composite ERA well over 5.00. He still has some work to do with his command, but I think he has a shot to be an outstanding pitcher, and I've had fleeting thoughts of ranking him first overall ahead of Crow and Matusz. I like the fact that he is a great athlete with a reasonably fresh arm in particular.

4) Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane: 8-1, 2.04 ERA with 96/39 K/BB in 70.2 innings, 33 hits allowed. Very good K/IP and exceptionally good H/IP ratio (he's held hitters to a .138 mark) testify to the quality of his stuff, but his walk rate is too high. Lots of potential here, but a cut beneath the top three. In the mix for the Shadow Twins at 14.

5) Josh Fields, RHP, University of Georgia: 13 saves, 0.37 ERA with 44/14 K/BB in 24.1 innings, just six hits allowed. Has recovered from disappointing 2007 season and will definitely have a spot in the first round as a hard-throwing college closer. Command is still an issue, and given the mixed track record of college closers in the pros, he's not a sure thing. But his upside potential is impressive.

6) Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky University: 5-1, 1.78 ERA with 86/24 K/BB in 65.2 innings, 32 hits allowed. Strong K/IP ratio, not many hits, walk rate is higher than ideal. Three-pitch lefty, not quite in Matusz quality but a legitimate first-round pick.

7) Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian University: Stock is rising rapidly. He throws hard, and has a 2.06 ERA with a 61/24 K/BB in 39.1 innings, allowing 13 hits. Excellent K/IP and H/IP ratios back up scouting reports of plus stuff. Rumors have him possibly going as high as the mid first round.

8) Ryan Perry, RHP, University of Arizona: 3.75 ERA with 57/13 K/BB in 57.2 innings, 52 hits allowed. Still getting late first round consideration due to quality of his stuff, though performance track record has been mixed and he struggled when used as a starter earlier in the season. Can hit 98 MPH when he's going good, and that kind of velocity will get him into the first round, though exactly where is unclear.

9) Zach Putnam, RHP-1B, University of Michigan: 6-0, 2.72 with 60/17 K/BB in 59.2 innings, 47 hits allowed. Also hitting .321/.394/.536 on the season. Being a two-way player is both a good thing and a bad thing. As a pitcher, throws a heavy fastball and has solid control. I could see him as an impressive ground ball-getting reliever or an inning-eating starter. Has a slider, splitter and curve to go with the sinker. Could go in the late first or supplemental round.

10) Tim Murphy, LHP, UCLA: 3.64 ERA with 87/31 K/BB in 76.2 innings, 67 hits allowed. Stock has been up and down this spring, and command is a problem, but you have to like the K/IP ratio and he has good stuff for a lefty. Probably a supplemental pick.

11) Tyson Ross, RHP, University of California: 7-2, 4.47 ERA with 51/24 K/BB in 56.1 innings, 56 hits allowed. He's winning games but command has been an issue for him and his component marks aren't outstanding. Big guy at 6-6, but delivery looks funny (stiff and upright) and that hurts his stock a bit. Can hit 95 MPH.

12) Bryce Stowell, RHP, UC Irvine: 6-2, 2.12 with 73/27 K/BB in 68 innings, 56 hits allowed. 88-92 range with projection to get above that in time, athletic, projectable, some command issues. Sophomore-eligible, status will probably depend on bonus demands.

If I'm looking for a college pitcher at 14 for the Shadow Twins, favorite candidates would be Hunt, Fields or Friedrich. Putnam would be interesting at 27 or 31.