2010 MLB Draft Preview: Top-Five Pitchers

It is never too soon to start thinking about the upcoming MLB Draft. Throughout the season, our new MLB Draft Analyst John Anderson will preview and later analyze the draft. In his first piece, he introduces the preseason top-five high school and college pitchers eligible for the draft.

Talk to any major league baseball scout and he will tell you that as his scouting season begins for an upcoming draft, he likes to be able to associate one player with the draft.

The 2007 Draft was the David Price draft, 2008 was the Beckham draft, be it Tim or Gordon, and, of course, last year was the Stephen Strasburg draft. If you asked 10 scouts immediately after the 2009 draft for that one player to associate with the 2010 draft you would have received 10 different names. They would tell you the draft was loaded with right-handed power pitchers in both the college and high school ranks but that no one player stood out.

That all changed in December 2009 when Bryce Harper, the Sports Illustrated cover boy, received his GED and enrolled in The College of Southern Nevada Junior College making himself eligible for the 2010 draft and officially making the 2010 MLB Draft the "Bryce Harper Draft."

Over the course of the next few months we will do a series of articles on the draft looking at the top prospects, under the radar athletes, a mid-season review and more. Based on conversations with coaches and scouts, we have put together pre-season top-five rankings for high school and college pitchers and position players eligible for the 2010 draft. This week we preview the top-five pitching prospects in both college and high school going into the 2010 season. Next week we will take a look at the pre-season top-five position prospects in both college and high school.

Top-Five College Pitchers

Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU
The Tigers' No. 1 starter throughout the 2009 season, he recorded a 12-3 mark and a 3.04 ERA in 19 starts (124.1 innings) with 50 walks and 159 strikeouts. Ranaudo finished No. 3 in the nation in strikeouts and No. 5 in wins, becoming the first LSU pitcher to lead the SEC in strikeouts since Kurt Ainsworth (157 Ks) in 1999. He was ranked No. 2 in the SEC in opponent batting average (.209) and No. 3 in the league in ERA (3.04). Ranaudo saved some of his best starts last season for the post-season as he beat Baylor in the Baton Rouge Regional with a complete game, 14 strikeout performance and then beat Rice in Game 1 of the Super Regional. He had three uneven College World Series performances and then rested his arm for the summer. Coach Paul Mainieri says that Ranaudo is "one of the hardest working, dedicated and focused players he has ever coached" and his "preparation for success is unmatched in college baseball."

Scouts are intrigued by his power arm, size, his feel for pitching, great command and the fact that he is a New Jersey kid with a fresh arm. At 6'7'', he repeats his delivery well and shows a great deal of athleticism. His fastball sits at 88-92 and he has a curveball which some scouts believe will be his best pitch in the big leagues. There are some who feel he may end up in the bullpen and they say his bulldog mentality would make him a great closer. His mound presence has been likened to Joba Chamberlin.

Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech
After a solid freshman season, McGuire continued his strong start to his collegiate career as a sophomore going 11-2 with a 3.50 ERA while striking out 118 in 100.1 innings of work for the 2009 season. He also held opponents to a .232 batting average. McGuire finished the year tied for ninth in Tech history in season win percentage (.917), tied for 10th in wins (11) and 14th in strikeouts (118). His 11wins ranked 10th and his 118 strikeouts ranked 15th in the country, respectively. He picked up several awards including being a 2009 First Team All-America (Collegiate Baseball), 2009 Second Team All-America (Baseball America), 2009 ACC Pitcher of the Year, 2009 All-ACC (First Team).

McGuire is 6'6'', 218 pounds and scouts like his size and polish. He throws 91-93 with ease and has good command of his secondary pitches. His fastball is heavy and sinks running into right-handed hitters. His hard downer curveball is considered a plus pitch and he has confidence throwing his changeup at any time in the count.

Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State
After struggling a bit with command as a freshman, Wimmers had a great season in 2009 when he became the ace of the Ohio State pitching staff. He started 16 games while going 9-2 with a 3.27 ERA tossing four complete games. He struck out 136 batters in 104.2 innings of work but remained a bit wild, walking 55 batters. He did hold opponents to a .211 batting average against. Ohio State coach Bob Todd says that Wimmers is a "leader in the weight room" and his team's hardest worker. He mentioned that his "command of three pitches" will translate perfectly to pro ball.

Scouts feel there may not be much projection left for Wimmers but they feel he can add velocity to a fastball that sits now at 89-92 mph and that his curveball is one of the best, if not the best, in the draft. Throwing strikes consistently is the key for his spring and with added velocity he is considered a mid- to back- of-the rotation big league starter.

Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University
Sale had a solid 2009 season at FGCU posting a record of 7-4 with a 2.72 ERA in 14 games, including 12 starts. In his 89.1 innings of work he struck out 104 batters while walking only 27 batters and holding opponents to a .246 batting average against. He earned All-Atlantic First Team honors. Sale spent the summer of 2009 in the Cape Cod Baseball League with the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox and opened eyes going 4-2 with a 1.47 ERA in nine starts while pitching in 55 innings. He struck out 57 batters and only walked nine batters. He was given the Outstanding Pitcher Award by the CCBL and was named the top prospect in the league by Baseball America.

At 6‘5'', 175 pounds, scouts believe he has a lot of room for projection. He is tall with lean muscles in his arms and legs and scouts believe he will get much stronger. Sale has good command of a hard, sinking fastball that sits at 91-93 mph. He throws a hard slider at 87-89 and is becoming more confident is his changeup. With continued development and experience scouts see him as a solid three-pitch starter in the big leagues.

Drew Pomeranz, LHP, University of Mississippi
Following up a freshman year in which he was named a Freshman All-American, Pomeranz was the leader of the Rebels rotation in 2009 as he made 16 starts on the season with an 8-4 record and a team-leading 3.40 ERA. He walked 37 batters while striking out 124 in 95.1 innings, holding opponents to a .237 batting average against. He came up huge in the post-season, pitching eight innings against Monmouth and then striking out 16 and giving up two hits against Western Kentucky on two days rest.

Pomeranz pitched for the USA Collegiate National team in the summer of 2009 and was outstanding in five starts going 4-1 with an ERA of 1.75 as he struck out 48 batters in 25.2 innings.

At 6‘5'', 220 pounds, he is a big-bodied lefty with solid stuff across the board and two legitimate swing-and-miss pitches. He consistently throws his fastball at 89-92 mph and scouts love that he can throw to both sides of the plate. His curve is his best offering and when on, it has a tight break at 77-79 mph. He is gaining command of his change and one AL scout commented that he throws it with great arm speed. The key for his spring is that he become more consistent with his throwing motion. He struggles at times with getting all the pieces of his motion working together but when he does, scouts agree he has some of the best stuff in the 2010 draft class.

Top-Five High School Pitchers

Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands School, TX
Many scouts believe that Jameson Taillon is a near perfect pitching prospect created out of a scout's prototype. Already 6'7'' and 230 pounds, he comfortably draws comparisons to Stephen Strasburg. Taillon's fastball sits at 93 to 95 mph and often hits 96. He also adds a wicked breaking ball which he throws at 82 mph and many scouts believe it is already a plus big league pitch. His changeup is solid and he has shown the ability to throw down in the zone and to both sides of the plate with ease. He has committed to Rice University but is not likely to sign as he seems to be a certain top 5 pick.

A.J. Cole, RHP, Oveido (FL) High School
Cole is an overpowering righty. At 6-5, 190, scouts love his loose and easy motion, his athleticism and believe he has more room to develop and add strength. His fastball is consistently in the 94-95 mph range and frequently tops out at 97. Cole's curveball is decent and his changeup is developing quickly. He is committed to Miami (FL).

Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley (FL) High School
Whitson is tall and still growing into his body. With much physical projection, scouts are interested to see how he develops and whether he can maintain his mechanics. His fastball is at 91-94 and has good late life. His slider is already a solid number 2 pitch and he made a lot of progress with his changeup last summer. Scouts love his body type and are pleased with his mechanics as he throws loose and effortlessly. Teams believe he has the raw physical tools to be a three-pitch big league pitcher and just needs more experience and instruction. He has committed to the University of Florida.

Stetson Allie, LHP, St. Edwards High School, Cleveland, OH
Allie is one of the more interesting prospects currently projected to go in the top half of the draft. He has four tools that scouts all rate out as plusses with speed his only average tool. At 6'3'', 215 pounds, he has a pro body at 18 years of age and his game is all about power. He has quick hands and wrists and has power to all fields coupled with soft hands and a cannon of an arm for third base. However, it is his arm and pitching that scouts think will get him to the majors. He easily hits 94-95 consistently with his fastball and reached 99 at an All-Star showcase in Minnesota. His changeup is at 85 and he throws a hard slider in the low to mid-80s. He is presently considered more of a thrower than a pitcher as his command is incredibly inconsistent, but the scouts love his big arm and figure him to go in the middle of the first round. He has committed to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha High School, Pasadena, CA
Covey is an excellent power pitcher, but he plays for a small private school, so competition could be an issue when evaluating his performance. He is a classic power pitcher and he pounds the strike zone with his fastball, hitting 91-94. His curveball is solid and he throws it hard, hitting mid-80s with it on occasion. One AL scout thinks the curve will be his best pro pitch. His slider is developing. At 6'2'', he has a loose motion and his fastball runs down in the zone. His makeup is off the charts with an NL scout saying that his combination of tools and mental approach will get him to the big leagues very quickly. He has committed to the University of San Diego.

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