Here's part one of WildcatAuthority.com's two-part look at the 2011 MLB Draft.
Kyle Simon (RHP)
Drafted by the Baltimore Orioles- 4th round, 125th overall pick
Simon is coming off his best year as an Arizona Wildcat, boasting an 11-3 record, 2.72 ERA, and 86 strikeouts in 129 innings pitched in 2011, all of which were career highs. Since his freshman year, he's continued to get better and better, finally peaking last summer when he was named a 2010 Cape Code League All-Star.
This was where he really developed and soon mastered the sinker, slider combination that he now uses to induce easy ground balls for his infielders resulting in easy outs. In fact, he threw six complete games at Arizona, with five of them coming this year, partly thanks to those ground balls that kept his pitch count down.
The Situation: Simon has found himself in an ideal situation in Baltimore. The Orioles are currently ranked 24th in the majors with a team ERA of 4.22 and have given up the fifth most homers in baseball with 72. Zach Britton and former Stanford standout Jeremy Guthrie really seem to be the only two guys in the starting rotation with real promise, meaning the other three spots are open, and could be for quite a while.
The Comparison: Nick Blackburn of the Minnesota Twins. Neither Simon nor Blackburn will blow hitters away with a 100 MPH fastball, but both guys are successful because of their ability to locate and mix up their pitches. Both pitchers stand tall at 6-foot-5 and will max out at about 92 MPH, but they use their off-speed stuff to keep hitters off balance and record outs. Blackburn has recorded 115 ground ball outs this year, good enough for 14th best in the majors.
The Prediction: Simon is as good as gone. He's been at Arizona for three years now and he's coming off by far his best season of his collegiate career. There's no doubt it's time for this guy to cash in and take the next step in his baseball career.
Bryce Bandilla (LHP)
Drafted by the San Francisco Giants-4th round, 147th overall pick
Bandilla finished with a 4.57 ERA and an overall record of 14-10 during his three seasons with the program. He was supposed to be the full time closer for Arizona entering the 2011 season, but his lack of command cost him and Matt Chaffee replaced him. Overall, while it wasn't pretty at times, he's coming off a solid junior season, where he went 5-3 with a 3.66 ERA (lowest of any year at the UA), surrendering 20 runs in 46.2 innings.
While the numbers may not have been over the top, his stuff is. Bandilla pumps his fastball consistently at 95 MPH and when located correctly, can mix in a slow curveball that keeps hitters guessing. His problem is just learning to throw those pitches for strikes, as his 36 walks this season led the team.
The Situation: Anyone that knows anything about baseball realizes the Giants' pitching staff is just about as good and as deep as they come. Their closer Brian Wilson has quickly become a top five closer in baseball, and is surrounded by one of the most dependable bullpens around. Therefore it's extremely unlikely we'll see Bandilla in the big leagues anytime soon, but if he wants to learn how to throw strikes he's come to the right place, as the Giants currently lead all of baseball in strikeouts with 540.
The Comparison: No need to look any further than the Giants starting rotation to find a guy similar to Bandilla. Jonathan Sanchez is still one of San Francisco's young projects and similar to the UA hurler, Sanchez has a full arsenal of pitches, but has a good amount of trouble locating them sometimes. He currently ranks second in the majors in most walked batters with 50.
However, Sanchez is one of the better talents in the National League and when he locates his pitches, he can almost be unhittable. Despite walking the amount of batters that he does, he still ranks 15th in the majors in punch-outs with 83. Most of his success comes when he takes a little off the baseball and throws it in the zone at 91 or 92 MPH instead of being unable to control the pitch at 94 MPH. This is something UA coach Andy Lopez and Bandilla worked on near the end of the season this year, so it wouldn't be too surprising to see him go through a similar regiment as the one Sanchez went through.
The Prediction: There's not much room for Bandilla's stock to rise, more than likely his UA career is over and he will sign with the Giants.
Cole Frenzel (1B)
Drafted by the New York Mets- 7th round, 222nd overall pick
Frenzel led Arizona in on-base percentage (.461) and finished third on the club in batting average (.346) while being selected to the All-Pac-10 team in just his first full season as an Arizona Wildcat. After being injured most of his freshman year, Frenzel stepped up and had the kind of offensive impact everyone expected him to have, banging out 16 doubles and driving in 48 runs on the year.
As good as his year was, he still has tremendous room for improvement power wise, as he only hit three homers during the year. Defensively he was solid, leading the conference in double plays turned and defensive putouts.
The Situation: The Mets' pick of Frenzel is definitely an interesting one to say the least, as one of the most talented up and coming stars in the game currently plays first base for them, in former Arizona State standout Ike Davis. First base is one of the few positions the Mets are pretty much set with long term, making Frenzel's chances of becoming a star first basemen with New York pretty unlikely. He also has played some third base, but with David Wright holding that spot down, that's not going to help much either.
If Frenzel wants to make it in the big leagues with the Mets, he better start learning how to play the outfield, because guess what? There's no such thing as a designated hitter in the National League either.
The Comparison: Casey Kotchman of the Tampa Bay Rays. He's one of the younger first basemen in the big leagues, really earning his first starting gig this year with the Rays after being a solid bench player for the last six or seven years. He bats from the left side, focuses on hitting the ball to the power allies, and possesses gold glove potential in the field, as he's still yet to commit an error in 2011.
Both guys don't hit a lot of homeruns, but they hit the ball hard to all fields, with their main focus set on hitting the ball for contact. Both their names also start with a "C". What more do you want?
The Prediction: To me this one is 50/50. He's the only draft eligible sophomore the Wildcats have, meaning if he came back next year he would undoubtedly be protected by most of the same hitters he was this year, giving him the optimal situation to improve his draft stock even more. This one may just be a gut feeling more than anything else, but I think you'll see Cole Frenzel back in an Arizona Wildcat uniform next season. He easily can be a third to second round pick by this time next year with a breakout year in 2012.
Andy Burns (SS)
Drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays-11th round, 349th overall pick
Some Arizona fans may not recognize this name, and there's a reason for that. Burns transferred to Arizona last August after playing two seasons at Kentucky. He wasn't able to play this year because of NCAA transfer rules. But while at Kentucky, Burns played in 100 games and hit .279 with 18 homers, which is more than any UA Wildcat has hit the last two seasons combined.
The Situation: Yunel Escobar is the current starting shortstop for the Blue Jays. He's a solid option, but nothing special. In fact, Toronto hasn't really had a great infield option since Roberto Alomar left the club in 1995. Mike McCoy is supposed to be one of the Jays' better prospects at shortstop, but hasn't really produced yet either, so if Burns does sign, there's an opening ready for him. All he has to do is perform.
The Comparison: Johnny Peralta of the Cleveland Indians. From what he's shown so far, Burns is a guy that will make all the plays defensively with above average range. He can hit the long ball, but offensively doesn't take enough walks and doesn't get on base as often as he should. Right now he's more of a ‘swing for the fences' kind of a guy.
The Prediction: He's already said he wants fifth to fourth round money, and since he was drafted in the 11th round, something tells me he's not going to get that. I'd be pretty surprised to see him anywhere other than in coach Lopez's dugout next year.
Matt Chaffee (LHP)
Drafted by the Atlanta Braves- 12th round, 386th overall pick
After all the injuries and adversity this guy has gone through, Matt Chaffee has to be the feel good story of the draft for Arizona. He went from a guy that was barely supposed to be used in 2011, to the Wildcats' full time closer a fourth of the way through the season. Chaffee notched seven saves and held a 6-3 record in 36 appearances this year for Arizona.
And while his 4.85 ERA is far from fantastic, his curveball and knack for finding the zone is. If he can stay injury free, he'll have a real chance to make a major league team eventually because quality left handed pitchers don't just grow on trees.
The Situation: Chances are if Chaffee eventually makes the Braves' squad, it won't be as a closer. Atlanta has a young guy named Craig Kimbrel who they're very high on. More than likely he'll be closing games for the Braves for a very long time. Polished veterans, Scott Proctor, George Sherill and Scott Linebrink also hold down what is one of the better pens in the National League, with all three owning ERAs in the low twos. The good news is, Chaffee will have to make it through the minor leagues before getting a taste of the bigs anyway.
The Comparison: Darren Oliver of the Texas Rangers. The big left-hander commands the strike zone with his off-speed stuff to go along with an 89-91 MPH fastball. He doesn't have overpowering stuff, but he locates the baseball well enough to get easy ground balls for his defense to gobble up and take care of. He also has a very simple and fluid wind up that makes it easy to him to duplicate his mechanics time and time again. The same can be said for Chaffee.
The Prediction: Chaffee says he's still undecided but has mentioned that this is a "dream come true" for him. You have to think he's gone after going through everything he's gone through health wise.