2004 MLB Draft Preview: LHP, Taylor Tankersley

The 2004 MLB Amateur Draft is just hours away and this is really the time to start pondering what might be by Monday afternoon in the early rounds. Thoughts around the pre-draft world have been shaken up over the past couple days as some players stock has skyrocketed while others dropped like rocks. Who are these draft prospects who have gone up in value like helium balloons? Well, one of them is University of Alabama LHP Taylor Tankersley. <b>(Free Preview of Premium Content)</b>

Vital Statistics:
Name: Taylor Tankersley
DOB: March 7, 1983
Height: 6' 2"
Weight: 225
Bats: Left
Throws: Left
Nickname: "Tank"
Place of Residence: Vicksburg, Mississippi
College: University of Alabama

Taylor Tankersley has been described as many things coming into this 2004 draft and has been drawing some late attention from scouts and MLB officials. Tankersley has shot up the charts this year after overcoming an injury last year and showing that he was badly misused by the Crimson Tide. Now, in this 2004 college season, he has made his way into the starting staff and became the established ace of the Tide. As a result of his performance, he has opened up a lot of eyes and has gone from a potential fifth round pick to a possible late first rounder.

Even though he Tankersley has been an effective and solid pitcher throughout his Crimson Tide career, his senior year has been the turning point that has transformed him into one of the elite pitchers in the nation. As a freshman, Tankersley was used as a reliever, a role in which he thrived in but eventually a slot that his stuff and performance got him pushed out of. In his sophomore year, he split time between relief and starting appearances but in each role, he had mixed results and by many standards had a fairly disappointing season. He battled a wrist injury and doubts of what kind of role he should be used in. However, his senior year would be the one that got him the recognition that he desperately deserved.

Taylor Tankersley rolled through three dream-like seasons as a high schooler at Warren Central High School. He was dominating over the competition and as a senior, he went an amazing 13-0 with a 0.44 ERA. Taylor also was a work horse for Warren as he tossed 95 innings, allowing only 41 hits, walking 32 and striking out an incredible 165 batters. That comes out to a strikeout to walk ratio of over 5 to 1. With such an overpowering season, Tankersley set a school record for wins and strikeouts and for the third year in a row, he was named Warren Central High "Pitcher of the Year". He received another honor when he was named Second-Team High School All-America by Baseball America. Following this remarkable high school career, Taylor Tankersley was eligible for the MLB Draft in 2001. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 39th round of the 2001 MLB Draft. However, Tankersley promptly turned the offer down to pursue a college career at the University of Alabama. He had already signed a letter of intent and he likely would have been drafted higher if not for the fact that MLB organizations suspected he would turn down his selection in order to attend college.

In his freshman year at Alabama, Tankersley was primarily a reliever and even a closer type for the Crimson Tide. He made 22 appearances out of the bullpen and racked up eight wins with seven saves and a 2.62 ERA. His total of seven saves matched the Crimson Tide's team total for the 2001 season. Tankersley was also in the top ten in four categories for SEC rookies. He was second in ERA (2.62), second in opponents batting average (.225), third in saves (7) and seventh in appearances (25). The young lefthander also made three starts and compiled an impressive 3.37 ERA. So, it was decided that Tankersley would be in much more of a starting role the following year.

Not only did Taylor Tankersley take over a starting role in his sophomore year, 2003, but he was also named the ace of the Crimson Tide staff. He certainly has the makeup to be a No. 1 starter, and he has improved," said head coach Jim Wells in an interview with The Crimson White. "There will be a learning curve, but he certainly has put in the work, time and effort needed at the position." Wells was not the only one that had high hopes for the upcoming season. "I'm pumped," Taylor Tankersley said. "I'm glad I'm getting an opportunity. Hopefully, I can hold down that role. I like to have the ball on the field when the game is on the line." Adrenaline and emotion have been something in the career of Tankersley that have helped him but also sometimes hurt him at the same time on the mound. "Hopefully, I'll be more calm this year," Tankersley said in regards to his high strung attitude on the mound. "Last year coming out of the pen, there was a lot of energy and hype, and I was running on a lot of adrenaline. This year it's all about longevity, so I'll be more calm and more stoic." However, to the disappointment of just about everyone, the young lefty did not have the season that was anticipated. Tankersley went 7-5 with a bloated 5.88 ERA. Despite that, scouts were not completely turned off as he still struck out 97 batters in 90 innings.

Taylor Tankersley was still optimistic for his 2004 season despite his 2003 struggles. "I had a lot of ups and downs last year," Tankersley said. "And it's mainly because I didn't do a good job preparing myself mentally and physically. I've learned from that, though, and spent a lot more energy in preparation this off-season. I know it will make me better this year." However, he would at least be starting off in a closers role for Alabama. "Tank's a great competitor," coach Jim Wells said. "He struggled some as a starter for us last year, but we're going to put him in our closing-type situations, and he will do fine. He just seems to have a closer's temperament." Tankersley end up with 4 saves in 2004 but little by little was moved into more of starting role where he also proved he could succeed. The lefthander has a 2.00 ERA in 67.2 innings pitched with 70 strikeouts and only 26 walks. He is also holding hitters to a .213 batting average. Despite his fantastic overall performance, scouts and others close to the team say that the Crimson Tide coaching staff badly misused Tankersley. Even though he got his fair share of starts and was perhaps the team's most consistent pitchers, he could have racked up much more gaudy statistics as a full time starter.

For the Crimson Tide, Taylor Tankersley has been in just about every kind of role possible on the pitcher's mound but it is obvious that his future is as a starter and Major League teams are now all over him leading up to the 2004 Draft. With his nasty stuff, left handed arm and excellent pitching attitude, there is not much doubt that Tankersley will go no lower than the sandwich round of the draft.

Year

School

W-L

SV

IP

H

BB

SO

ERA

2002

Alabama

8-5

7

68

55

20

65

2.65

2003

Alabama

7-5

0

90.1

114

47

97

5.88

2004

Alabama

2-5

4

67.2

50

26

70

2.00


* Stats as of 6/5/04

Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Slider, Changeup.

Fastball. For the most part, the fastball of Taylor Tankersley is in the 90-92 MPH range but many times it will get up to as high as 94 MPH. Tankersley gets excellent movement on his fastball and has learned to locate it better and better in each year of college. Is absolutely fearless on the mound and is not afraid to come in on a hitter with the heater at any time in the game or in any count.

Other Pitches. Taylor Tankersley is certainly not all about the fastball as he possesses a nasty repertoire. "Tank" has a curveball but his primary breaking pitch is a hard breaking slider. It is nearly unhittable pitch when he is on his game. Breaks hard down and in on a right handed hitter much to the similarity of Randy Johnson's slider. It is usually thrown in the low 80 MPH range. Has developed the ability to have excellent command of this pitch. The slider is his primary strikeout pitch. The major difference in Taylor Tankersley that transformed him from a solid to outstanding pitcher was the development of his changeup this season. Tankersley has picked up this pitch quickly and has become incredibly effective for him. Will be the difference maker in his career.

Pitching. Tankersley has a solid, strong frame that is very similar to that of Denny Neagle. Uses his body very well to drive towards the plate. Taylor can be very deceptive at times, coming from a 3/4 delivery and that will continue to help his strikeout totals. Is the definition of a live arm and has late pop to his pitches. As already mentioned, he is fearless on the mound and has frequently been described as a "bulldog".

Projection. At this point, it is fairly easy to say that Taylor Tankersley projects to be a No. 2 or No. 3 starter on the Major League level. He is not the ultimate dominator but he knows how to pitch and has nasty stuff that will carry him and his left handed arm to the big leagues.

Comparison. Randy Wolf. When comparing pitchers, it is very difficult to put a tab on somebody as being much like another. However, Randy Wolf and Taylor Tankersley are quite similar. Both have the same type of build and go right after the hitter with the bulldog type of approach. Their fastballs are in the same range of velocity and the two both have very good breaking balls and a changeup.

Draft Possibilities. In this year's draft, pitching is a hot commodity as it has been made publicly well known, especially left handed pitching. Taylor Tankersley has several possible suitors and he will likely land somewhere in the sandwhich round of the draft. That means that one team that could be interested is the New York Yankees who are searching for left handed pitchers. Teams also in the mix include the Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics and Minnesota Twins. Of course, he could land in many other destinations as well.

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