The last two drafts were each dominated by one player, in 2009 it was the Stephen Strasburg draft and in 2010 it was the Bryce Harper draft. Many in baseball initially thought the 2011 draft might not be as talented but as the summer seasons have ended and the 2011 seasons have started, many scouts believe the 2011 MLB draft may be the best and deepest draft since the 2005 draft that produced Justin Upton, Troy Tulowitzki and Colby Rasmus to name just a few.
The consensus among scouts is that the draft is loaded with potentially dominant arms in both the college and prep ranks, with enough talented position players to help any organization.
In the coming months, I will present a series of articles focused on the top pitching and positional prospects for the 2011 MLB draft, as well as interviews with some of the draft's top student-athletes. In this first piece, I will start with the top-five college pitching prospects based on my conversations with scouts and coaches around the country.
TOP 5 COLLEGE PITCHING PROSPECTS
1. Gerrit Cole, UCLA, RHP
2011 Stats: 1-2, 1.78 ERA, 30.1 inn. 14 hits, 37K, 11 BB, .137 BAA
Cole is a classic power pitcher. His fastball sits in the mid-90s late into games and he has hit 100 mph on occasion. His fastball can be devastating and his changeup is consistent and solid. At 6'4'', 220 pounds, Cole is a workhorse and is an innings eater with no injury history and most scouts believe he is a future number one starter. Two AL scouts I spoke to believe he may be better than Stephen Strasburg.
2. Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt, RHP
2011 Stats: 4-0, 1.71 ERA, 26.1 inn, 12 hits, 36K, 9 BB, .135 BAA
Gray is interesting as he is a power pitcher yet he is only 6'0'', 185 pounds, drawing the occasional comparison to Tim Lincecum. His fastball sits in the low-90s but he can get it up to the mid-90s on a consistent basis. An NL scout I spoke with believes he has a big league ready slider with an improving changeup. Because of his size and the fact that he has a bit of an unorthodox motion, some scouts believe he will be a bullpen arm and be on the fast track to the big leagues.
3. Matt Barnes, Connecticut, RHP
2011 Stats: 2-2, 1.53 ERA, 29.1 ERA, 15 hits, 28K, 8 BB, .150 BAA
Barnes is a classic arm from the Northeast. Unheralded out of high school, he has developed into one of baseball's top amateur prospects. He has a fastball that consistently stays in the low-90s with a hard curveball and a developing changeup. His fastball has great late life that teams love and one NL scout believes if he is more consistent with his command he can be a number one or two starter in the big leagues.
4. Matt Purke, TCU, LHP
2011 Stats: 2-1, 0.66 ERA, 13.2 inn, 5 hits, 13K, 5 BB, .109 BAA
Purke has been struggling with a blister but when he has been on the mound he has been dominant. As the draft's best lefty, he has a fastball that hits the mid-90s, a solid slurve and he, too, is starting to be more consistent with his changeup. He is consistent with his mechanics and is an excellent athlete. He should be at least a middle of the rotation starter but an NL scout told me that he believes that as Purke develops and his body matures, he could be a front of the rotation starter for years.
5. Taylor Jungmann, Texas, RHP
2011 Stats: 4-0, 0.78 ERA, 34.2 inn, 18 hits, 31K, 3 BB, .151 BAA
Jungmann won 19 games his first two years of college ball and he has started the 2011 season on fire. At 6'6'', 200 pounds, his fastball can top out at 96 MPH and he has a slider that many scouts believe will become an above-average pitch in the big leagues. His changeup is developing, as well. Command has always been an issue with Jungmann and an unorthodox delivery has some scouts concerned about his long term projections, but his body of work and pure stuff will make him a first-round pick.