There will be a lot of change between now and the draft (June 4-6) but it is less than 5 months away now. I thought I’d crib a baker’s dozen of likely suspects and muse a bit on how that pertains to the Giants. As the season plays out names will be added and dropped, this is extremely preliminary. My ranking order should be taken with a barrel of salt.
(Mistakes are all mine; corrections, omissions and arguments are encouraged.)
So I have muddled through SS and Catchers, I decided to change up and look at Left Handed prep pitchers. I’m going to follow that up with college lefties. Breaking them up makes sense because they are different beasts. I need to acknowledge my sources, two in particular, that have helped me understand the Giants org structure and led me down the rabbit hole of prospecting. First off, Fla-Giant as you all know does a tremendous job on MCC with a metric ton of information on prospects, potential prospects and everything in between with regard to the Giants. I also crib a lot of information from DrB’s excellent site http://whenthegiantscometotown.blogspot.com/ and put up a lot of commentary there. Both of these gentlemen are excellent resources and great Giants fans.
High School lefties who can pitch are a different beast than position players. It is all about scarcity, 10% of the population give or take, is left-handed. Lefties are prized from an early age (Madison Bumgarner), are given a lot more rope (Alex Hinshaw), and can ultimately carve out quite nice compensation for their services (Jeremy Affeldt).
178 Lefties pitched in the Majors last year. If you cut the requirement to 30 innings you have 104 pitchers. 30 starters pitched more than 150 innings. 14 hit the 200 inning mark, if you give Derek Holland a nudge. If you sort by K/BB ratio you find the top lefties in the game very quickly: Cliff Lee, Clayton Kershaw, Cole Hamels, our own Madison Bumgarner, CC Sabathia and David Price. That is a pretty good consensus of the top lefties in the game today. If you sort the different stats, the Texas lefties, Ricky Romero and Jaime Garcia get in the way of the big six in certain categories. Without the innings requirement, you can find Johnny Sanchez and Barry Zito much further down. Having a stud lefty is a huge advantage in baseball. Texas currently has two very good ones, and that might be why they didn’t exactly go all out to retain CJ Wilson.
I did a quick snapshot analysis of recent success in drafting HS Lefties in the first round. Leaving out the past five years as way too early (Madison Bumgarner in 2007 got to the majors quickly), we have the draft years 1996-2006. In that period 23 HS pitchers have been selected in the top 25 picks of the 1st round. The successes to date are as follows using Baseball Reference: CC Sabathia in 1998 (49.8 WAR), Scott Kazmir (16.7 WAR) and Cole Hamels (22.5 WAR) in 2002, John Danks in 2003 (18.9 WAR) and Clayton Kershaw in 2006 (16.7 WAR). If you expand the parameter to the entire first round with supplemental picks you get 35 HS pitchers and the only additional lefty who has turned out so far is Gio Gonzalez (7.4 WAR). It is a high risk high reward game.
Giants currently toiling away all left-handed:
Big Giant Starters: Madison Bumgarner, Barry Zito
Big Giant Pen: Jeremy Affeldt, Javier Lopez, possibly Dreamy Dan Runzler
Little Giant Starters: Eric Surkamp (Fresno), Mike Kickham (San Jose), Josh Osich (TBD – and eagerly anticipated), Adalberto Mejia (Scottsdale/Salem with a shot at Augusta), Emmanuel De Jesus (Scottsdale/Salem)
That is a likely consensus top 5 in the system right now. Reading Goldstein’s top 11 with Surkamp/Kickham/Osich ranked back to back I stumbled onto the useless trivia that our top 3 guys have all been drafted in the Sixth round in the past 4 drafts.
Little Giant Pen: Recent draft pick and fireballer Bryce Bandilla, David Quinwoski (Richmond/Fresno), Jack Snodgrass (Augusta/San Jose), and it gets even more straw grabby after that.
Quick note: The Giants need to build depth and have a hit on LH Reliever prospects. Alex Hinshaw was drafted three different times and held on the 40-man forever. Joe Paterson was famously lost to the Rule 5 to the rival Diamondbacks. Ryan Verdugo was thrown into the Melky-Sanchez trade.
Surkamp is currently the first option if/when Zito falters. Runzler may be given one more chance at starting, or be the last arm in the pen. There is a general perception you can just grab any lefty off the scrap heap and plug them in to the pen. Having looked at the scarcity across MLB, I am not sure I agree with that idea. Lefties are always going to be in demand, and given the extra rope, and allowed the extra frustration that comes with them, the biggest issue usually being control.
One more quick note about the Legend of Dick Tidrow before the list: Tidrow famously went on a crash course and fixed Madison Bumgarner’s mechanics. As frustratingly old school and scout oriented as the Giants are for sabermetric oriented fans, I’d just point out that as an example of the nuts and bolts of what goes on in a baseball organization that is simply not affected by statistical analysis. Having good pitching coaches who can recognize and develop talent is a big organizational advantage. And for historical leaning fans (such as myself), my man LG recently pointed out to me from Baggs “Band of Misfits” book that Tidrow wanted to draft CC Sabathia in 1998 and was rebuffed by a cheap Rainy Day Fund. Tony Torcato says hello.
Onto the list for Drafting a HS Lefty:
Top 3 LH HS Pitching prospects:
Matt Smoral, Max Fried and Hunter Virant
And 10 more for a Baker’s Dozen:
Kyle Twomey, Cole Irvin, Troy Conyers, Max Foody, Nathan Kirby, Jack Wynkoop, James Crownover, Rock Rucker, Austin Fairchild and Carson McPherson.
Damn, one more quick note. It’s hard to find info on HS players without a subscription to PerfectGame or BA’s Premium Prospect and I’m not crazy enough yet to go there. One of the best resources is actually the WWL, ESPN’s Jason Churchill does a very good job, if you’re interested in preps but don’t want to pay for anything, check out ESPNHS baseball for sure.
Two links, first, Dr James Andrews thinks scouts should ban the radar gun, he is getting more and more HS kids for Tommy John surgeries and it drives him nuts:
And if you want a more concise better written top ten HS lefty list:
I knew of its existence but did not consult it. I combed all over, looking especially at the hotbeds: California, Florida, Georgia, Texas, New York, Mid-Ohio and lastly because of recent hype Oklahoma. I was all proud of my list. Then I compared it to Churchill’s. Doh! The hyped guys are well known.
1. Matt Smoral, HS from Solon HS (OH), UNC commit
6’8 225 L/L 03/18/1994
The Goods: Smoral and his right handed buddy Taylore Cherry are the giants from Ohio this year. They are both UNC commits, they both will get looked at intensely and will pitch against each other April 21st in Amelia, Ohio. Smoral has easy arm action, and can hit the low 90s right now. He also throws a slider and a sinking change up. He is the classic high ceiling high risk pitcher.
The Bad: Low arm slot, growing into his frame, insanely tall with the possible coordination problems that go along with it.
The Stats: 4-1 with a 1.82 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 34.2 innings for 2011 HS.
The Ranking: BA #13, Mayo #31
The Giants: Know pitching best. All I ask is if they are going to take a chance on Smoral they send their two best cross-checkers and then send them again. The only freakishly tall successful lefties I can think of are Randy Johnson and Sabathia. Between the two Ohio guys I would much rather the Giants go all in with this guy over Cherry. I would go the conservative route on this and skip to the next two guys, mainly because of the height. I like the high risk high reward, but this is too rich for my blood.
2. Max Fried HS from Harvard-Westlake HS (CA), UCLA commit
6’4 170 L/L 01/18/1994
The Goods: Fastball sits around 90 right now but he can dial it up to 94. James Andrews says “No!”. He has a very good curve already modeled on some guy named Sandy Koufax as well as a cutter. He has very good control. He is a skinny guy, who had to transfer to H/W because of budget cuts, and famously pitches alongside Lucas Giolito, who has a shot at being the first HS pitcher ever drafted #1 overall. I live very close to this school, and am going to get there to see these cats pitch at some point. I missed a golden opportunity yesterday to see a bunch of guys at the SoCal invitational at Compton Urban Youth Academy, less than ten miles away from the Shankbone adobe. Doh! Damn rugrats. Anyways, this guy is going to get a lot of looks, due to his big frame, 3 developed pitches and good fastball.
The Bad: Long to the plate, needs to fill out his frame, control. Nitpicking.
The Stats: Area Code, Team USA, 2011 HS: 69 IP, 1.31 ERA, 100 Ks 38 BBs
The Ranking: BA #15, Mayo #11
The Giants: If this guy drops to the 20 spot and they aren’t pulling up couch cushions, faxing accountants and figuring out the next stupid animal hat nickname contest… Seriously, if you are going to re-stock pitching, come correct and go big. This is my choice, and I doubt he’ll be there for them to screw it up with RDF considerations and the new CBA ceilings. Top of the rotation potential.
3. Hunter Virant HS from Camarillo HS (CA), UCLA commit
6’3 175 R/L 05/22/1994
The Goods: UCLA’s incoming class is insane, and likely to be decimated by the draft. This guy is the wild card, and possible consolation prize for either UCLA or a late drafting team. He’s only been pitching seriously for one year, delivery modeled after Cliff Lee, has a nice projectable frame and throws strikes.
The Bad: Its projection at this point. Cliff Lee is great because of his mentality, scouts apparently want to see more toughness out of young Hunter. Virant pitches in the 87-89 range, touching 90, qualifying him for cynics as a soft-tossing lefty.
The Stats: Area Code, Team USA, 2011 HS: 6-1 1.54 ERA 56 Ks 50 IP
The Ranking: BA #40 Mayo #30
The Giants: I posted that Andrews article because of this guy. Everybody is so obsessed about the radar gun these days maybe its time to back off that a bit. I would use the example of Derek Holland as a guy who fell through the cracks because of radar obsessed scouts. Virant strikes me as the most athletic of the top 3, even though he throws the softest. I like him a lot. If the Giants pick him, at the moment it would be a reach, and might kick up some controversy. As the most likely guy there, he’ll be the hard choice. Between him and Smoral, I definitely like Virant more. Sure, you might might miss out on a beast, but the athleticism and what appears to me to be a very smart kid who can learn how to pitch instead of throw looks good.
4. Kyle Twomey, from El Dorado HS (CA), USC commit
6’3 165 L/L 12/29/1993
The Goods: Fastball with sink, high 80s touching 92. Another guy who can pitch rather than throw, and has a nice curve ball.
The Bad: Skinny, heading to USC if he’s not in the first round, usual lefty control issues
The Stats: UnderArmour, Area Code alum, 2011 HS: 7-3 1.32 ERA, 65Ks 23 BBs in 63 innings.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: So outside the top 3, I am going by state, I thought I’d crib 3 more CA prep guys. This guy is pretty polished for a HS, might get some hype later on, and if not is heading to be a Trojan for a bit.
5. Cole Irvin from Servite HS (CA), Oregon commit
6’4 175 L/L
The Goods: Irvin has an upper 80s fastball that should improve as he fills in to his frame. He also has a very deceptive delivery. I picked him because he’s teammates with Darryl Miller at Servite, and Jon Klima has a nice video of him – very quick release of the ball. Klima noted he improved velocity from “84-87 on the most honest gun in the business” to 87-88.
The Bad: The bad in these are going to be sort of useless. These are all raw skinny guys.
The Stats: Team USA: 2.25 ERA in 16 innings, 11 Ks
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: Certain programs get pretty hyped, I am sure between all the rounds their Southland area scouts will take a look at this guy.
6. Troy Conyers, HS from El Capitan (CA) San Diego commit
6’5 230 L/L 4/11/1994
The Goods: Enough with all these skinny guys, lets get a big boy going. Vet of 2 USA teams with medals to boot, he’s got a high 80s fastball with sink, more in the tank and he pitches with a fair amount of deception. 3/4 Arm delivery.
The Bad: Not getting as much hype as the other USA pitchers. Possibly conditioning related, I don’t know.
The Stats: 2011 HS: 8-2 1.04 ERA with 85 Ks in 67 IP
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: Always seem to nibble around the edge with big name prospects, maybe they should give the big boy a look. Don’t think this guy is going to be first round hype, but he looks interesting. BA's Aaron Fitt tweeted that he is a Stanford commit, but he also had his first name wrong. As I regard BA as the gold standard, I thought I'd mention it. SD U-T had an article a few months back saying Stanford was a verbal and got backed out in favor of USD. Also, Klima mentioned his funkiness and possible pen dominance. This is the type of guy the Giants need to draft to have an alternative to the Affeldt contracts of the world.
7. Max Foody HS from IMG Academy (FL) Florida State Commit
6’4 235 L/L 6/11/1993
The Goods: Lets zoom across the country now and go straight to the wounded bird. Very high ranked prospect who has had several injuries in the past couple of years including a torn labrum. He throws a fastball that reaches up to 93 along with a big curve and a change. He’s well built. And he’ll have to prove out healthy this spring.
The Bad: As stated above, the injuries will be an obvious concern. This guy is pretty hyped up though.
The Stats: N/A
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: Always love the dirty, the hungry and the poor. Well, only if they can afford the 20% ticket price jack. But they do like previously hyped prospects with tarnish on them. They’ll be watching, judging.
8. Nathan Kirby, HS from James River (VA), Virginia commit
6’1 180 L/L
The Goods: Moving up the coast to the Virginia gentlemen, this Kirby guy is a likely #4 right behind the top 3. He is undersized, but dials up a 88-91 fastball to go with a nice curve with hard downward break.
The Bad: Undersized, and generally UVA has a pretty good success rate with their commits unless they are hugely hyped.
The Stats: Couldn’t find them easily
The Ranking: BA #49 Mayo N/R
The Giants: Don’t see them going after a prep arm like this. But he is definitely nationally hyped, so I figured I’d put him on the list.
9. Jack Wynkoop, HS from Cape Henry Collegiate (VA) South Carolina commit
6’6 190 L/L 11/2/1993
The Goods: Fastball that is 86-89 at the moment with a 3/4 release and plus control. Slider and change are plus pitches as well. This guy, with the bigger frame, looked like a more interesting prospect than Kirby, above. He has a rep as a gamer.
The Bad: Needs more velocity, we’re pushing the height limit there that Shankbone gets all wacked out about.
The Stats: 2011 HS 10-0 1.43 ERA 0.82 WHIP 63 innings 36 Hs 16 BBs 115 Ks. The 115 Ks stand out for sure.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: While hanging out in the lower mid-Atlantic, do check out Cape Henry please. Wear a spiffy suit, and ace em at the grand jury son.
10. James Crownover HS from Ringold HS (GA) Clemson commit
6’0 195 R/L
The Goods: Crownover has great command of his upper 80’s fastball, big breaking curve, and changeup, but his velocity on his fastball would ideally be greater.
The Bad: Undersized, needs more velocity.
The Stats: PerfectGame alum
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: This guy has very good control. I would hesitate before calling him a soft-tosser, need to know more. Any Georgia prep hounds out there?
11. Rock Rucker OF/LHP Redan HS (GA) Auburn commit
6’5 215 L/L 3/24/1993
The Goods: OK, here’s my favorite name so far. This guy is a legit 2-way prospect and I really hope somebody is paying attention. He has 6.85/60 times with a smooth swing and plus bat speed. Defensively, he takes good routes to the ball and has a strong arm. He can reach 91 on the fastball and has a curve. Interesting.
The Bad: Raw, big, not committed to pitching.
The Stats: PerfectGame showcase alum
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: Not as hyped as other Georgia prepsters, I’m looking at all the RH pitchers for GA HS as some likely suspects, came across this guy.
12. Austin Fairchild St. Thomas HS (TX) TCU commit
6’1 175 R/L 3/25/1994
The Goods: Fairchild is an aggressive pitcher with a low 90s fastball, a good slider and a good curveball.
The Bad: As with most lefties, control. But he takes it a step beyond that. Look below.
The Stats: Ready for these? 1-3 9.27 ERA 23 Hs 43 BBs 37 Ks in 25.2 count it 25.2 innings.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: He’ll most likely head off to TCU. As the Giants love projects, I thought that was a fun one. Texas doesn’t have as many notable arms as I thought they would. Any suggestions would be welcome of course.
13. Carson McPherson, HS from Ardmore (OK) Oklahoma commit
Couldn’t find stats, I’d say 6’1 200 from the youtube.
The Goods: OK, sleeper time, and I decided on OK. Why? Well, we’re all tickled about Clayton Blackburn being a possible steal. McPherson is a two-way player. You can find a youtube video of him hitting a walkoff HR in regionals, and the subsequent dogpile, its always fun to watch. Even if its HS ball, anybody who strikes out 127 batter in 62 innings NEEDS A LOOK!
Edit: Here is the walk off: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NYV2XhGeDwo
The Bad: Not nationally hyped, but was recruited by more than half a dozen schools including LSU and OSU.
The Stats: He batted .543 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs, and struck out 127 batters in 62 innings, leading the Tigers to their first Class 5A state tournament appearance since 2002. His walk-off home run against McAlester at the regional tournament in Durant capped an unexpected run for the Tigers, who entered the regional 7-22 for the season.
The Ranking: Unranked
The Giants: The Giants scout who found Blackburn is named Daniel Murray. On the RH HS side, I think the Giants will take a long look at Ty Hensley, who currently attends Sante Fe HS, the same as Blackburn. There is a lot of talent in Oklahoma, very hyped last year obviously with Brady and Bradley. And walk offs are always fun.
Others I looked at: Brett Lilek from Marian Catholic (IL) (AZ State Commit); Alexander Robinson from Holy Trinity Diocesan (NY) (MD Commit); Cory Geisler, from Klein Collins (TX) (Texas State Commit), Keymon Thomas from Compton (CA) (UC Riverside commit); Parker Danclu from West Boca (FL) (FL Commit); Garrett Williams, from Calvary Baptist (LA) (LLWS Hero – don’t know where or if he committed yet)
Well that was fun. Obviously most of the attention will be on the top 3, they will get serious consideration for the first round, and maybe a couple more guys will be considered in the supplemental. Most the other guys will honor their commitments, and we'll see them in a couple years.
How comfortable are you with the Giants going after LH Preps?
After MadBum success should we double down or not get cocky, go conservative? This is the Smoral question.
Thoughts on the top 3? Is Virant a viable candidate or does he need more seasoning?
Is my Max Fried review out to lunch, and if he dropped would that be far beyond the financial constraints of the CBA? Rainy Day Fund?
On the organizational side, how comfortable should the Giants be with their LH depth? Is it time to stock that up some more?
Thanks for reading. This one was both time consuming and really fun.