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This post is the fifth in a series where we’ll breakdown the top available talent by position and describe consensus first-rounders and sleepers alike. Today, we’ll talk about pitchers. It’s unfair to talk about pitchers as another item in this series like catchers or third basemen. Teams may spend 50% or more of their draft picks on pitchers this week. Drafting and developing pitchers (especially starting pitchers) is the most important mission of any scouting director and player development staff. The going rate for free agent No. 2 and No. 3 starting pitchers is $10 million per year and aces can be twice as expensive. Every team must develop at least a few homegrown starting pitchers to field an affordable team. Here are our top five pitchers:
Top 50 Overall
- Aaron Crow, rhp, Jr, Missouri
- Christian Friedrich, lhp, Jr, Eastern Kentucky
- Brian Matusz, lhp, Jr, San Diego
- Seth Garrison, rhp, R-Jr, Texas Christian
- Ryan Hinson, lhp, Jr, Clemson
Aaron Crow, rhp, Jr, Missouri
Our rankings buck conventional wisdom. Crow makes it to the top of our pitching lists thanks to arguably the best stuff in the draft and the best numbers of any pitcher in the draft. In 107 1/3 innings, he has struck out 137 batters compared to only 38 walks. His finished the ’08 season with a 2.35 ERA. He did all this while pitching in one of the ten best hitters’ parks in the country. Crow isn’t a finesse pitcher. He throws a mid 90s sinker that tops out at 98 mph. He also has an above average slider and solid changeup. The biggest qualm with Crow is his violent mechanics. If he can clean them up, he can move to the front of a big league rotation. He will be drafted in the first half of the first round and likely in the first ten picks.
Christian Friedrich, lhp, Jr, Eastern Kentucky
We are one of the few pundits to have Friedrich ranked ahead of Matusz. Friedrich has dominated weaker Ohio Valley Conference hitters over his three year college career. He finished his final college season with a 1.43 ERA, a 108 to 33 strikeout to walk ratio and one home run allowed in 81 2/3 innings. Although he pitched against mediocre competition, his home park is a hitter’s haven. Friedrich deals with a low 90s fastball and a 12-6 curveball that evokes comparisons to Rich Hill and Barry Zito. He also has a good changeup. While he may not have the upside of Matusz, he has performed better and should be drafted in the middle of the first round.
Brian Matusz, lhp, Jr, San Diego
Matusz is the top pitcher on many teams draft board and is ranked as high as the third best prospect by some teams. He is projectable at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds and he has dazzled in the West Coast Conference, posting a 1.71 ERA with 141 strikeouts, 22 walks and 4 home runs on the season. Although his stats are outstanding, they are not quite to the level of Crow and Friedrich because he pitches in a pitcher-friendly ballpark. He has plenty of stuff, too. He has a low 90s fastball, his above-average curve and changeup and average slider. The Baltimore Orioles are rumored to be considering Matusz with their fourth overall pick. He’ll be a top 10 pick even if the O’s pass on him.
Seth Garrison, rhp, R-Jr, Texas Christian
There are a host of college righthanders like Fresno State’s Tanner Scheppers and Tulane’s Shooter Hunt who could be drafted towards the end of the first round or taken in the supplemental round. My favorite second-tier college pitcher is Garrison, however. He is a 6-foot-5 righthander from Dallas who has sparkled with Arizona State and TCU. His career strikeout to walk ratio is better than two to one. He’s also stingy when it comes to homers, allowing only three in three years. He underwent Tommy John surgery in early 2007, but has come back strong in 2008. When he’s healthy, he offers a low 90s fastball and a hammer curve that is already a plus pitch. Garrison needs polish, but he has a lethal combination of stuff, projection and performance. Someone will draft him between the third and fifth rounds.
Ryan Hinson, lhp, Jr, Clemson
Clemson coach Jack Leggett started as many as seven underclassmen this year and wasn’t able to advance out of the ACC Tournament. What kept the Tigers competitive was their weekend rotation with juniors Ryan Hinson and D.J. Mitchell. Hinson is a 6-foot-2 left-handed pitcher and he offers a plus curveball and a 90 mph fastball. More impressively, he struck out 62 in 68.1 innings and walked only 22 in 2008. He did allow opponents to hit .301 against him, but that number is much higher than his freshman and sophomore numbers and will go down. Hinson has excelled in three seasons pitching against tough ACC competition in a hitters’ park and will move quickly in pro ball. He could be drafted between the third and fifth rounds.