After Strasburg, college arms diverse
Range of talent among Draft hopefuls, little hierarchy
It's a simple formula that teams often follow. Find the best advanced college arm on the board, take him and get him to the big leagues quickly.
Plus stuff or upside in terms of velocity is a nice bonus, but in some ways a good feel for pitching and an ability to rise through a system in a hurry trumps that, particularly from the left side.
This year's crop of college pitchers has a little bit of everything for everyone. There are some power arms who can light up the gun, starting, of course, with the guy who'll go No. 1 overall, Stephen Strasburg. There are some lefties with some power stuff, as well as some who have the all-important "pitchability." And this doesn't count the duo of Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers, the two former college hurlers who are back in the Draft after not signing last year.
The one thing there hasn't really been is separation. Aside from Strasburg, the rest of this group is kind of bundled together, and some did not pitch particularly well in conference tournament play. How some of them perform in regional play could go a long way in determining who goes where.
"The higher-ranked college pitchers for this Draft have faltered late in their season and in their conference tournaments," one scout said. "Not that they've lost their Draft status, but they have to reestablish in the regionals why people were considering them high. They need to show again they're the guys that should be selected high in the Draft."
You can see how that plays out courtesy of MLB.com, which will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft on June 9-11. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. ET on June 9, noon on June 10 and 11:30 a.m. on June 11.
Here are some of the top college arms whose names you will hear early during the coverage.
Eric Arnett, University of Indiana: Arnett broke out in a big way in his junior season, streaking ahead of fellow Hoosier Matt Bashore on Draft boards everywhere. He was named Big Ten Co-Pitcher of the Year and is one of five finalists for National Pitcher of the Year honors. He's recorded some pretty high pitch counts but took a series off the last regular-season weekend then came back with seven shutout innings and 10 strikeouts in a very well attended Big 10 tournament win.
Rex Brothers, Lipscomb University: Brothers is one of those southpaws with power stuff, with a plus fastball and slider that's allowed him to strike out 120 in 84 2/3 innings. His last impression -- five shutout innings in the Atlantic Sun Conference semifinal -- was a good one, though there are some who feel he's more likely headed to a bullpen role down the line. He also has to overcome playing at a smaller school and the "lesser" competition that comes with it, but power left arms like his don't last long regardless of where they come from.
Kyle Gibson, University of Missouri: Gibson is one of those college arms who has long been thought of as a top 10 pick, but had a lackluster conference tournament start. His velocity was down and he was throwing too many changeups in that start, though the results weren't bad. With his strong track record, though, he's not one who would slide too far because of that one start. A strong outing in Mizzou's regional would certainly help cement him into the upper third of the Draft.
Chad Jenkins, Kennesaw State: His teammate Kyle Heckathorn began the year higher on most Draft boards, but while Heckathorn will probably still go pretty early, it's Jenkins, the Saturday starter, who looks more like a first-rounder these days. He has three very good pitches and has the ability to both strike guys out and induce ground balls. He was the Atlantic Sun Conference Pitcher of the Year, beating out both Heckathorn and Brothers for the honor. He has been mentioned as high as No. 10 overall and certainly could be in the mix for any team in the opening round.
Michael Leake, Arizona State: He's not the biggest guy in the world and he doesn't have the same kind of power stuff some others on this list possess. But he has four pitches he can throw for strikes, and he just goes out and dominates, pretty much every time out. Outside of Strasburg, Leake may have been the most consistent college pitcher in the class this year (14-1, 1.24 ERA, 128 K, 18 BB in 115 2/3 IP). He is an advanced arm that should be able to get to the big leagues in a hurry.
Mike Minor, Vanderbilt: While the lefty has had a bit of an up-and-down junior season, he has a long track record of success, both in the competitive SEC and in high-pressure international competition with Team USA. His overall numbers from the season -- 6-4, 3.64 ERA -- aren't overwhelming, but he might be saving the best for last, tossing a complete game against highly ranked LSU in the SEC tournament. It doesn't look like he'll make it out of the top 10, and a strong regional start certainly wouldn't hurt.
Andy Oliver, Oklahoma State: Oliver made headlines for first getting suspended, then going to court and having the suspension overturned, over reportedly having an agent/lawyer present during negotiations when he was drafted out of high school. His results have been puzzling (5-6, 5.58 ERA) because he has the kind of stuff that has dominated college competition at times. He's all about fastball command and a plus changeup to go along with it. Thanks to the NCAA selection committee, which extended an at-large bid to the Cowboys despite the fact they didn't qualify for the Big 12 tournament, it's looking like he'll get one more chance to impress scouts at a regional this weekend.
Drew Storen, Stanford: College closers are usually popular, especially as the Draft draws closer, but this hasn't been a good year for relievers sneaking into the first round. The one exception should be Storen, Stanford's Draft-eligible closer, who was moving up boards as a potential high pick, one that might be more affordable and signable than some other options. There are some who feel he could be a starter at the next level, and he certainly helped his own cause by striking out eight in 2 1/3 innings in his last outing of the year with a lot of decision-makers in attendance.
Stephen Strasburg, San Diego State: There's really nothing left to say about the big right-hander at this point. He quickly separated himself as the top talent in the Draft and has been the presumptive No. 1 pick from start to finish. He has put up video-game-type numbers and threw a no-hitter for good measure. It's hard to imagine anyone else winning the Golden Spikes Award, and it's just a formality waiting to hear his name be called first on June 9.
Alex White, University of North Carolina: White has been a little tough to figure out, a guy who was dominant on a big stage during last year's College World Series and still has some pretty high-octane stuff. But the results have been inconsistent all year, and in the ACC tournament, he didn't pitch well. Like Gibson, he's not going to fall too far in the first round, and a strong regional performance could lift him right back into strong top-10 consideration.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.