Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pirate young guns

We sang the blues about the pitching yesterday, so we thought we'd take a look at the 2008 draft haul so far. The guys signed are:

14th - Michael Colla, 21, RHP, Arizona - Colla throws a fastball in the low 90s, but his other stuff is iffy. He's a bona-fide project. Colla was assigned to the State College Spikes on July 1, but hasn't been activated yet.

15th - Christopher Aure, 19, LHP, North Pole HS - He's all about potential. Aure's hit the upper 80s with his fastball and should be able to add a foot to it. Baseball America says that his curve and change have potential. He's 3-2 with a 5.11ERA at Bradenton, and has a save. From the North Pole to Florida...no wonder he signed so quickly!

21st - Brent Klinger, 20, RHP, Glendale (AZ) CC - His fastball reaches 94 and Baseball America referred to him as "projectable." He just signed Sunday.

25th - Brian Leach, 22, RHP, Southern Mississippi - He was drafted by the Royals in the 38th round in 2007, although his stat line has been flat out lousy the past two years. Baseball America likes him, too, so he apparently has a truckload of pure physical ability and down-the-road potential. In 6 games at State College, he's worked 18-2/3 innings with no record and a 5.30 ERA.

35th - Tyler Cox, 22, LHP, Illinois State - He pitched fairly well as a reliever in college, and not very well as a starter. Cox started 13 times in his 33 ISU outings. He's 1-2 with a 3.18 ERA at Bradenton, where he's both started and relieved.

38th - Alan Knotts, 23, RHP, Louisiana Tech - He averaged better than a K per inning, with a 3:1 K to BB ratio. Started as a fifth-year senior. In 7 games at State College, he's 2-0 with a 4.15 ERA.

39th - Albert Fagan, 21, RHP, Manhattanville College (2007) - He gave up his college eligibility last year for an unsuccessful try-out with the Cubs. Fagan's 1-1 with a 10.18 ERA in his 3 appearances for Bradenton.

44th - Mike Williams, 21, LHP, Mt. Olive (NC) College - As the #3 starter on 2008 NCAA Division II champion Mount Olive, he was 8-2 with a 4.10 ERA. He's only been in 3 games at State College, with a 3.18 ERA in 5-2/3 innings.

45th - Allen Ponder, 24, RHP, Auburn @ Montgomery - Ponder played for Alabama for two years, sat out two years, then spent two years at NAIA school Auburn Montgomery as the team's 1B and closer. The Pirates listed him as a pitcher when they drafted him. He's 0-1 at State College, with a 5.74 ERA in 15-2/3 innings.

48th - Owen Brolsma, 23, RHP, Texas Tech - He had TJ surgery in 2006, sat out 2007, and had a poor 2008 season. But some scouts believe Brolsma has a good arm and just needs to get it back in game shape. He has a low-90s fastball and a slider, and projects to be a reliever. Brolsma's worked 8 games for the Spikes, and has 2 saves and a 2.08 ERA.

49th - Zachary Foster, 21, RHP, Pitt Bradford - He's pitched and played first at Division III Bradford, and will work out of the pen. Foster's 1-0 with a 6.18 ERA at Bradenton.

Don't read anything into the stats; they're meaningless. These guys are all just starting out, and none have enough innings to make a read from yet. You can't even tell where they'll end up, in the rotation or pen, because generally the innings are capped at a max of three at their level.

But more importantly than who Pittsburgh has signed so far is who they haven't - Tanner Sheppers (2), Justin Wilson (5), Andrew Gagnon (10), Quinton Miller (20), Austin Wright, (23), Daniel Martin (30), Ryan Hinson (31), Anthony Forrest (32), and Johnny Gunther (43).

They signed one of the 3 HS kids they picked (Aure, Gagnon, Miller) - no surprise there - and none of the top 3 arms they've selected (Sheppers, Wilson, Gagnon). That is a surprise. And so far, no Latino help - the kids they've signed so far have all been position players.

In fairness, this was a bad year for pitchers, and the Bucs did manage to snag one of the top arms in Sheppers, if they sign him. Next year will have some very highly touted hurlers available, and will be a better indicator of Pirate draft strategy, we think.

Of course it's too early to tell if this class is gonna produce any MLB caliber arms, especially with the top guns unsigned to date. And even if it does, we're looking at probably 4 years down the road before any of them are ready for the show.

It just emphasizes that if Pittsburgh wants to close the gap between its pitching and position players within a reasonable time frame, they'll have to deal.

And thanks again to WT Miller's Pirate Player Profiles for the capsule reports on the newest Bucs.

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