2011 MLB Draft: Top High School Pitchers

June 5, 2011

Steve Carter's piece on high school hitters was so good that I felt I needed to craft a similar article just to keep up.

Dylan Bundy (RHP - Owasso High School, Oklahoma) - Bundy's a special talent. His fastball sits 93-96 MPH, occasionally flirting with triple digits. Bundy's curveball shows plus potential coming in at 76-78 MPH with solid break. Unlike many young flamethrowers, Bundy has an excellent third pitch. He throws a cutter with such wicked movement it's often confused with a slider. The high-to-mid eighties pitch is plain unfair against high school hitters and will likely burn the knuckles of many a pro. His cutter is as good a secondary pitch as any high schooler has in this draft. Strong and athletic, Bundy has a simple, well-balanced delivery and he fields his position very well. His command and control are outstanding for a pitcher his age and project plus down the line. He's extremely polished for a high school kid, and should move fairly quickly through the minors. With three plus pitches and plus control, Bundy has legit top-of-the-rotation upside. He's just about the total package and should go in the top four or five picks. Bundy is the best high school arm to come out of Oklahoma in a long time. We've even heard buzz from some scouts that he's the best high school pitcher they've ever seen.

Archie Bradley (RHP - Broken Arrow High School, Oklahoma) - Oklahoma area scouts spent plenty of time in suburban Tulsa keeping tabs on both Bundy and Bradley. As good as Bundy is, Bradley isn't too far behind. Like Bubba Starling, Bradley is a big-time football player and committed to QB at OU though it's doubtful he ever steps foot on campus at Norman. Bradley has an excellent frame, standing 6-foot-4 weighing 215 pounds. He's lean, strong, athletic and just oozing projection. He has plenty of velocity, touching upper-90's but generally sitting 92-94 MPH. Bradley's best pitch is a 12-to-6 curveball that might be good enough to get big league hitters out right now. He's toyed with a changeup but lacks much of a third pitch right now. His motion is excellent. His arm action is beautifully simple and he releases from a high 3/4 arm angle, which allows him to utilizes every bit of his impressive height. There's a little ''tall-and-fall'' in his delivery, but Bradley's motion is very smooth and controlled; showing minimal effort. When/if he learns to really drive with his lower half, the sky's the limit for Bradley's velocity. Archie Bradley gets compared to Bundy a lot only because they happen to attend rival high schools (Bradley's Broken Arrow beat Bundy's Owasso for the state title), but it's unfair to compare anyone else to Bundy. Bradely's frame, stuff and motion remind me a bit of Red Sox prospect Anthony Ranaudo. He's a little bit of a project, but there's so much natural ability in there that it's hard to see Bradley not working out - save injury.

Taylor Guerrieri (RHP - Spring Valley High School, South Carolina) - Guerrieri has seen his draft stock rise as high as anyone in the 2011 class, with good reason. His stuff is as good as anyone in the country. His fastball sits 92-95 MPH with outstanding late life. His four-seamer touches 97 MPH but he lacks command at the upper end of his velocity. Guerrieri's curveball is exceptionally hard, sitting 81-83 MPH with jaw dropping late break. Everything he throws is hard and moves. Guerrieri also throws a cutter and has toyed with a changeup. His arm action is beautiful. He could utilize his lower half a little bit better, but he does so much well and there's so much to work with, it's almost not fair. Nebulous "character" concerns surround Guerrieri but the only certain thing I've found in his background is that the moved high schools prior to his senior year amidst some claiming foul play. The people were likely the ones who now had to face Guerrieri. The only actual problem I have with Guerrieri on the field is that he doesn't repeat his delivery as well as he could. The position of his footplant is inconsistent, leading to problems with control. Guerrieri's control is currently below-average, however I feel experience and maintaining his stride will go a long way towards rectifying that problem. Many a young flamethrower has improved his control. There are certainly pitchers who are more polished, but Guerrieri's on a very short list of pitchers in this draft class who could pitch atop a big league rotation. That upside will get him drafted in the first half of the first round.

Daniel Norris (LHP - Science Hill High School, Tennessee) - Norris has about as good of stuff as you'll find from a high school lefty. His fastball touches mid-90's but usually sits 89-93 MPH with above-average movement. He compliments his above-average fastball with a deep array of off-speed pitches. He'll spin a 84-88 MPH slider with big time break as well as a 71-73 MPH curveball, which breaks much tighter than the slider. Norris also has good feel for a mid-70's changeup with some tumble that projects above-average. His motion, however, is unusual. The arm action itself is pretty short, but Norris dips his back shoulder while loading his back leg and reverse rotates his shoulders. He keeps his front side closed well and shows better hip rotation than you'd think for someone who throws across his body as much as Norris does. While his arm action is short, Norris begins the pick-up phase of his delivery rather late and has shown timing problems. His follow through is explosive. He achieves very good extension and rear hip rotation but ends his delivery off balance. Norris' complex delivery is likely at the heart of the control problems which dogged him this spring. He has a ton of talent, you don't have to squint too hard to see a little C.J. Wilson in there, but an up-and-down spring has likely pushed him towards the bottom of the first round, if not out of it all together. He's a bit of a project and has a strong commitment to in-state power Clemson.

Dillon Howard (RHP - Searcy High School, Arkansas) - In a down year, Dillon Howard might be viewed as a top 10 talent. The 2011 MLB Draft does not suffer from a lack of talent. Hailing from a small town northeast of Little Rock, Howard has tremendous upside. His fastball currently sits 90-93 MPH touching higher and it's easy to project more velocity down the road. Howard's a big kid with an extremely projectable 6-foot-3, 200 pound frame. His arm action is short and simple. There's room for added velocity once he figures out how to use his lower half, but his motion is smooth, well balanced and offers a lot to work with. Howard flashes a plus breaking ball and has some feel for a changeup. He'll take a little bit of work, but he has big-time upside. High school pitchers with arm strength, chance for a couple good off-speed pitches, projectable frames and clean mechanics don't last too long on draft day. Howard will get pushed down a few spots just by the depth in this class but will present excellent value in the mid-first round.

Jose Fernandez (RHP - Alonso High School, Florida) - Fernandez generated significant buzz early in the draft process by showing big velocity on the summer showcase circuit, getting as high as 98 MPH in the AFLAC game. Long time Project Prospect fans know how we hate focusing solely on peak velocity. It does make a little more sense for a high school prospect, though. There's an old scouting axiom "If I see it once, it's in there," then it's up to the player development people to get it out of him again. Still, Fernandez is unlikely to stay in upper-90s and was mostly 92-94 MPH this spring. His fastball has some life to it and while the velocity may be exaggerated by some, it's still a plus pitch. Fernandez has a good slider which projects be at least above-average in the big leagues. He'll mix in a curve and changeup, but his fastball and slider are well ahead of the pack right now. Fernandez is a really big kid. He stands 6-foot-4 and listed at 215 pounds but looked 20-30 pounds heavier than that to me. He's got some thickness in his mid-section and lower half - don't we all? - and would benefit greatly from a professional workout regimen. Fernandez uses those strong legs well in his delivery and keeps his front side closed very well. The arm action has a little added length. While he picks the ball up with his elbow and doesn't hyperabduct, he does have a bit of a timing problem. The delay in this pickup is my biggest concern - but it can easily be fixed - otherwise Fernandez has arm strength and potential for a starter's repertoire, including two plus pitches.

Henry Owens (LHP - Edison High School, California) - Owens is a well known prospect as a regular on the showcase circuit but may have been surpassed by a few ''fast-risers'' this spring. He stands 6-feet-7 inches tall and weighs approximately 12 pounds. He has very long arms and legs and reportedly wears a size 17 shoe. Despite being so gangly, Owens is remarkably coordinated. He's smooth and well balanced on the mound. His arm action is simple and efficient. He appears to have excellent timing in his delivery. He can finish a little short, as you'd like to see someone with such long levers get better extension through his release point, but that can be worked on. Owens is a fastball, curveball, change guy. His fastball sits 89-92 MPH and he has solid command of it. He relies heavily on a big, slow curve. The curve registers 68-71 MPH on the radar gun with rainbow arch that draws natural Barry Zito comps. He shows some feel for his changeup, and while he needs greater consistency with the pitch, it has definite potential. Owens has starters stuff, a clean delivery, and decent command/polish for his age. He lacks elite arm strength and ace potential but could develop into an above-average starter.

Joe Ross (RHP - Bishop O'Dowd High School, California) - The younger brother of Oakland A's hurler Tyson Ross, Joe is a very interesting prospect in his own right. Perhaps the best thing about Joe Ross is that he had different pitching coaches than Tyson. His motion bears no resemblance to his elder brother's, and that, my friends, is a good thing. Ross' motion is simple, straightforward and powerful. He reverse rotates his shoulders slightly as he comes to his balance point, adding deception, but lands in line with home plate. His arm action is simple. His pick-up is clean and he finished in an excellent fielding position. Ross stands 6-foot-2 and weighs 185 pounds, with broad shoulders, long limbs and plenty of room to add strength. He's hit 96 MPH with his fastball, but works 91-94 MPH with life. Ross throws a hard, 78-81 MPH curveball with excellent tilt and has strong feel for a 80-83 MPH changeup, which should be at least average down the line. He has a chance for three above-average pitches, maybe better than that if he adds some velocity. He's got the stuff, body, motion and bloodlines big league teams love. In most drafts he'd go very high, but Joe Ross could provide excellent value late in round one or in the sandwich round.


Email Lincoln at LHamilton@projectprospect.com and follow him on Twitter @LHamiltonPP.