When the Rockies drafted Tyler Matzek in the first round of last year's draft, one of the major comparisons that was drawn to him was to Dodgers left hander Clayton Kershaw. So far, the description has proven quite apt. Check out a comparison of the two pitchers at the single A level, Matzek with the Asheville Tourists this season, Kershaw with the Great Lake Loons in 2007:
The discrepancy in FIP right now may be a function of a very small sample for Matzek giving a misconception of what his GB rate will stabilize at, over the last two games it's been right around 48% while his K's have been up and his walks have been neutral. In the game I saw Matzek pitch this year, it did seem to me that he should be generating a healthy amount of grounders given the downward movement his fastball will have when it's on.
I don't want to imply that Matzek will be aiding the MLB rotation when he's 20 as Kershaw did for the Dodgers, Kershaw did take a significant step forward the following season and there's no guarantee that Matzek will do the same in 2011, but I do want to alleviate concerns that Matzek's anything less than what he thought he was on draft day. Right now, he's still the best chance the Rockies have in the minors of producing another ace level pitcher. Matzek doesn't have Kershaw's curve, but his fastball might be better.
As with Kershaw, I think we can expect the walks to be an issue for awhile, even when Matzek cracks the MLB level. He's good enough that he should be an asset regardless while he finds out how to take the command of his pitches to the next level. I also think it's probably safe to assume that, as with Kershaw, we won't see him p itch particularly deep into ballgames while he's at this level. Expect him to start getting extended a bit more next year.
The Diamondbacks weren't kidding when they said they were targeting pitching, taking hurlers with each of their first eight picks. There are a couple of promising but far away high schoolers (Robby Rowland, J.R. Bradley) mixed in with college mid-rotation workhorse types (Barret Loux, Cody Wheeler) that could advance quickly. I don't really see a potential All-Star, four to six win player in this group right now (save the unsignable Ty Linton) but several that could wind up being three to five win guys if they develop well. I like Wheeler more than Andy Seiler does, as he's sort of intriguing to me as a rare LHP who throws a good two-seam fastball. He could be trouble if he figures out how to use that and his two other MLB average pitches as finesse lefties would.
While the pitching class for the Diamondbacks stands out, the one notable thing I kept reading in scouting reports of Rockies draftees was the potential of their bats. A lot of Purple Row users wanted the club to stock up on hitters, apparently the Rockies felt the same way, as players' defensive skills seemed to be a secondary consideration in this draft (third round selection Josh Rutledge being an exception). Keep in mind that in a weak draft, the two sure things on offense (Bryce Harper and Manny Machado) were gone in the first three picks, so there's bound to be some disappointment in the development phase, but if the Rockies even hit on one of these position players, they've done well. If they somehow get two MLB players out of it, they've hit a motherlode given this year's shortage of position talent.
The Rockies took several risks on toolsy athletes that haven't had a lot of exposure to scouts, despite playing in high profile programs, such as N.C. State's Russell Wilson and UCLA's Chris Giovinazzo, both of whom spent the bulk of the 2010 season on their teams' benches. In a way first rounder Kyle Parker fits this category as well, as the time he's spent on the football field in both practice and competition would be time that full time baseball players would be viewable on the diamond.
The Dodgers Logan White insists the team wasn't deliberately drafting tough signs in an effort at thinly veiling cost control measures, but the number of projected over slot high school picks selected by Los Angeles in 2010, compared to the number of over slot selections that they have taken in the last two drafts, certainly justifies the speculation. A typical Dodgers high school selection would be more like second rounder Ralston Cash than first rounder Zack Lee. It will be interesting to see how this plays out this summer. If they sign everybody, then the Dodgers will have added more pitching talent than anybody in the division, including the Diamondbacks who selected eight straight pitchers at the top. The likelihood though is that this draft winds up a relative disappointment.
The Padres loaded up on several consensus favorites in their draft, first rounder Karsten Whitson could be a front of the rotation starter and I would say has the highest upside of any NL West pick. Jedd Gyorko isn't going to stick at shortstop but has a solid offensive profile and Zach Cates is another much loved prospect by those in the know. Even their late round selections ooze potential if they can somehow sign them. 26th round pick Cory Hahn just led his high school team to the California state title and drew Tyler Matzek comparisons from the L.A. Times. Alright, the Times was probably going overboard there, but he's a very intriguing player. This draft could well wind up the division's best if all goes according to plan.
Sort of like the Diamondbacks draft, but even more in that bleh direction. The highest ceiling of the bunch is first round selection Gary Brown, who if he develops perfectly becomes Carlos Gonzalez with fewer HR's and more doubles. Sort of like CarGo did, however, he has a ways to go mechanically at the plate if he wants to succeed at the MLB level. The draft didn't get much better after that from what I can tell by reading other people's opinions on the players selected, as the Giants took a lot of skill lacking question marks that really lack the upside you'll typically find in toolsy picks. Maybe I'm wrong, but the Giants draft really looks like a dud to me right now.