When Andrew Cashner's name is called on Thursday, it will mark the fourth time he has been drafted in the last four years. But Cashner has never been a prospect of this magnitude. From his senior year of high school to his two years at Angelina Junior College, Cashner was drafted in the 20th, 18th and 29th rounds, respectively.
Angelina has gotten recent attention for producing Red Sox phenom pitcher Clay Buchholz. When Buchholz entered the two-year school, his fastball sat at 88-89 mph. By the time he had left campus, the right-hander was topping out at 97.
Cashner may not have had his breakthrough while at Angelina, but after transferring to Texas Christian University for the 2008 season, he went from sitting in the low-90s to pitching in the 95-97 mph range. The newfound velocity, along with a relatively new above-average slider, has helped make Cashner one of the most intriguing pitchers in the 2008 MLB Draft.
The 6-foot-6, 180-pound hurler has been a starter in the past, but he moved to the bullpen shortly after joining the Horned Frogs. Cashner proved to be one of the country's stingiest closers, as he surrendered only 21 hits in 54.1 innings [.122 BAA] while punching out 80 batters.
Despite Cashner's dominant numbers out of the ‘pen, most clubs would like to convert him back into a starting pitcher in hopes that his velocity holds up deep into games.
Cashner is widely considered the best draft-eligible prospect from the state of Texas this year and he has been rumored to go as high as 11th overall. Scout.com MLB Draft expert Frankie Piliere recently rated the fireballer as the 12th best prospect available in the draft.
Scout.com's Jason Cole was able to chat with Cashner just a few days before the 2008 MLB Draft.
Scout.com: What are your thoughts on your season with TCU this year?
Andrew Cashner: I thought I had a really good season this year. My last game doesn't really define my season. I kind of caught bad luck there in my last game. I just made one bad pitch and I paid for it. The other one I thought was a good pitch. I thought I had a really good season here at TCU. I thought I helped us a lot. I had some great teammates this year and I put us in some situations where we could win some ballgames.
Scout.com: Late in the college season, especially as your draft stock has gone up and more scouts are watching you, how difficult is it to put the draft stuff behind you and just focus on your team and the postseason?
Cashner: This is my fourth year to go through the draft stuff, so I've got a little more experience than some guys do just as far as dealing with all the stuff. I think that being drafted three previous times has allowed me to be able to deal with it a little easier. It does get stressful sometimes. The higher of a prospect you are – I wouldn't say there is a lot of pressure but there is always the scouts there and there is always somebody watching when you have a bad game.
Scout.com: Having already been drafted three times, what has led you to pass up the opportunity of pro ball every time you've been picked?
Cashner: The money was a little bit, but I wanted to get some more education under my belt. I wanted to go to a four-year school, but also I really wanted to sign last year. It just didn't work out. I wanted some more money. It didn't work out and I was set on going to TCU. I'm very happy with my decision.
Scout.com: TCU's closer last year was Sam Demel. He was another guy who was a high draft pick as well. Do you ever speak with him?
Cashner: Yeah, I do. I actually talked to him last night.
Scout.com: Like you, he was a guy that had done some starting in the past before moving into the closer's role. Has he given you some advice with that?
Cashner: I talked to him at the beginning of the year because coach wanted to move me to closer. I really wanted to start and I kind of thought of it as a demotion. He was just like ‘It's not a demotion. You're our best pitcher and we want you in the bullpen.' I talked to Sam a lot about it. We went out to lunch a couple of times. I talked to him a lot about it and I kind of asked him what he did during games and stuff. That helped me out a lot going into the season on what to expect as a closer.
It has been a lot of fun this year. I think going to closer has made me more valuable. I think my velocity jump is just because I have finally put on some weight this year and I have gotten a lot more muscular. I'm a lot stronger. I don't know what it will be like when I start, but I think every time I've thrown four innings my velocity has stayed the same the whole time. I think a lot of the scouts that are talking to me want me as a starter, but we'll see what they want me as.
Scout.com: Do more scouts want you as a starter rather than a reliever or is it pretty much split?
Cashner: There are just like a handful of scouts I've talked to that want me as a closer. Most every team wants me as a starter from just what they told me.
Scout.com: Can you talk about some of the differences, both mentally and physically, between starting and relieving?
Cashner: Starting, you come to the ballpark once a week and you're going to start that day. Every day, you know what you are doing that whole week. You have your separate thing that you do every single day. You have your lifting schedule. Nothing changes – everything stays the same. Coming in as a closer, every single day you have a chance to throw. There is never an off day. It's kind of hard getting in lifting days and figuring out everything. You have to go day-by-day on how many innings you throw, how many pitches you throw, or just on the situation that your schedule puts you in.
Scout.com: Is there one role that you prefer more than the other at this point?
Cashner: No, I like both of them. I think I've had a lot of success with both of them. I think in getting to the big leagues, I could get into the big leagues quicker as a closer. But I think I could stay longer as a starter.
Scout.com: Tell me a little about yourself as a pitcher. What pitches do you throw and what speeds have you generally been working at this year?
Cashner: I throw a fastball and a slider. My fastball usually sits 95-96 mph and touches 97-98. The other day I think I was 95-97. Usually every once in awhile I get it up to 98. I think I hit 99 once and 100 once this year. My slider – it just depends on how fresh my arm is. Sometimes my slider will sit 85-86 or 87-88. The majority of the time, it has been 84-86, but every once in awhile it'll be 87-88.
Scout.com: How hard did you throw last year?
Cashner: I usually sat like 90-93. I'd hit 94 or 95 every once in awhile.
Scout.com: When some guys see such a spike in velocity, they have problems harnessing and controlling their stuff right away. Did you have any issues with that this year?
Cashner: Personally, I didn't feel anything different. To me it's all just the same. I started throwing a two-seam this year a little more. I thought coming out of the ‘pen with my arm really live and fresh, I had a lot of trouble controlling my four-seam at times because I got a lot of arm-side run on it. In some games – like Oklahoma State – it was running a lot. Whenever it's running, sometimes it's hard to control because I don't know how much it is going to run. It just depends on the day and what my arm is like.
Scout.com: How hard is the two-seamer compared to the four-seam fastball?
Cashner: Yeah, there is no difference in velocity. I threw a couple of two-seams this year at 97, so it's just a different grip on the ball.
Scout.com: Did you throw a curveball before this year?
Cashner: I used to throw a curveball in junior college. In my last two starts of junior college, I started throwing my slider and I had a lot of scouts interested after seeing my slider. My curveball was probably below-average. It was ok, but my slider is something I started working on. I showed my coach one day and he told me to keep throwing it. I went and threw it this summer for the Cubs. It just didn't work out money-wise. I have been working on it all fall. I've just now been throwing it a year – this May. It's something that's there sometimes and sometimes it's tough to get the feel for it. But I'm always working on it and I've only been throwing the pitch for a year.