Over the last week, we've looked at potential players the A's might select in the upcoming Rule IV draft (here, here). Most analysts have us penciled in for a high school bat, and the names most prominently featured in rumors ("I love Rumors") are Monte Harrison (OF) and Ti'Quan Forbes (SS/3B). But alas, rumors are rumors and simply because Billy Beane was spotted at a Ti'Quan Forbes game in Mississippi, or Lew Wolff at a Matt Imhof start, doesn't mean they'll be picked.
As enamored as we are with young, projectable high-school position players, the truth is we need arms. Our best pitching prospect, Raul Alcantara, recently underwent Tommy John Surgery, and when healthy, he's no more than a potential No. 3 starter. With a pitching class as deep as 2014, it makes sense for the A's to do their due diligence on as many pitchers as possible, because in all likelihood, one, those who in most years would go in the middle of the first, will fall to the 20's or compensation round.
Let's look at some prospects the A's brass may have in mind tomorrow evening:
Erick Fedde, RHP UNLV
Along with Jeff Hoffman, Fedde is another high-profile college arm who fell victim to the Great UCL Te(a)rror of 2014. Before injury, Fedde was a virtual lock to go in the top half of the first round. His calling card is a devastating slider he throws in the low-to-mid 80's. He also throws a good fastball that he can locate on either side of the plate that sits in the 91-94 region (it can scrape higher). He's rail thin at 6-foot-4 175-pounds, which leaves room for physical growth and upside. He could fall into the mid-20's given the associated risk with drafting and TJS survivor.
Tyler Beede, RHP Vanderbilt
Beede (AKA Young Beedah) was drafted 21st overall in 2011 by the Blue Jays, but reportedly wanted >$3 million to forgo his commitment to Vanderbilt. Three years later, Beede's draft stock is about the same as it was exiting high school. He's a physical specimen at 6-foot-4, 215-pounds but has struggled with control, evidenced by his career 4.58 BB/9. His value has waxed and waned like the tide this spring, and at one point he was seen as a potential top-five pick. He ended the season on a positive note, however, pitching eight shutout innings versus Xavier, striking out 14 and walking just two in his final start. He has three above-average pitches, showing especially good feel for his potentially elite change-up.
Nick Howard, RHP Virginia
Howard was Virginia's everyday third baseman the last two seasons, juggling 12 starts with 207 PA in 2013, and moving to the bullpen in 2014. His spring, as closer, was nothing short of impressive: 29.1 IP, 2.15 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 15.34 K/9. He saw an uptick in velocity from previous years--although some of that can be attributed to pitching in shorter bursts. He works mostly off the fastball that he spots well and sits in mid-90's in relief, low 90's as a starter. He also shows a plus (60 or better) slider and an average change-up. He could move quickly as a reliever, but would need extra seasoning and instruction to start. The good news is he hasn't logged a ton of innings as a two-way player.
Luke Weaver, RHP Florida State
Weaver--no relation to Jered or Jeff (phew)--is a command and control righty who reminds scouts of a young Tim Hudson. Weaver relies primarily on an upper-80's, low-90's fastball that he can locate to either side of the plate. He has an excellent change-up as well, but lacks a useable major league breaking pitch. Weaver's stock has fallen some, due in part to regression in K/9 from 10.89 as a sophomore to 7.19 as a junior. His feel for pitching and above-average command give him the upside of a mid-rotation starter, although it's more of a back-end profile.
(A mark in his favor, he likes birds)
DRAFT LUKE WEAVER FIRST pic.twitter.com/w0rkhRXZ9a— Lana Berry (@Lana) June 2, 2014
Matt Imhof, LHP Cal Poly SLO
As mentioned before, Lew Wolff was seen at a Matt Imhof start this spring which set alight rumors he may be selected first. It's dangerous to scout college--or minor league, for that matter-- boxscores, but Imhof's 99.1 innings of 2.45 ERA ball, striking our 124 hitters against 43 walks, deserves attention. The 6-foot-5 Lefty is a bit of an enigma; in essence, he's a one-pitch pitcher, who's upper-80's, low-90's fastball gets an incredible amount of whiffs. He deceives hitters with his awkard, if not scary, delivery (long levers flying everywhere!). I haven't seen a source put a first-round grade on him; it's more likely he comes off the board towards the end of the second round.
You'll notice there aren't any high school pitchers on the list. As most of you remember, Billy threw a chair at a wall the last time his scouts chose a high school hurler (Jeremy Bonderman, 2001). Perhaps he's reformed his opinion after drafting nobodies like Ben Fritz, Bradley Sullivan, and James Simmons (all college pitchers) in recent first rounds; maybe the new mantra is "Pitchers be damned!" altogether. Regardless, we need them, and given the depth in this year's class, it would be a shame to come away without a reliable starter.
*special thanks to BP for providing links to the above videos