Breaking down the Draft's top pitchers
HS arms may have more potential than college hurlers
A year ago, exactly half of the first round of the First-Year Player Draft -- 16 of the 32 picks -- were pitchers. In 2008, it was 11 out of 30. Evidently, Major League teams take that whole, "You can never have too much pitching" idea seriously.
It should come as no surprise, then, if many of this year's 32 first-round picks also come on the mound. And while this year's overall Draft class has not gotten particularly high marks, there are some very interesting arms. And if there is a strength, it might be in the high school set.
With that in mind, here's a dozen names to know -- pitchers who could find themselves coming off the board in that opening round.
Matt Harvey, RHP, University of North Carolina
A highly sought-after prospect coming out of high school, Harvey opted for Chapel Hill instead. He struggled mightily as a sophomore, making many question just what kind of prospect he was. But he bounced back with a solid junior season, and while some think he might be a reliever when all is said and done because of his delivery and his stuff, he's definitely moved himself back into first-round discussions.
Deck McGuire, RHP, Georgia Tech
Sometimes slow and steady win the race. It's not that the Georgia Tech ace doesn't have decent stuff -- he's got three good pitches with command. It's just that he's not the most exciting pitcher in the class, with a somewhat limited ceiling. That being said, for the most part, he's been the most consistent college arm in the class, doing what he needs to do to help his team win. He's been good in big situations throughout his career and should be quick to the big leagues. His consistency, especially while others have had question marks, has put him squarely in top 10 consideration.
Drew Pomeranz, LHP, Ole Miss
A stretch of four or so starts during which Pomeranz struggled with command and velocity had some concerned. A strong start in the SEC Tournament likely helped allay some of those fears. Though there's some worry about his arm action, he's got three above-average pitches when he's locked in and a strong track record of success. Talk of a slide likely stopped with his last outing, and he should be gone in the first handful of picks.
Chris Sale, LHP, Florida Gulf Coast University
Sure, he's from a smaller school and he's not the most physical pitcher in the world, but Sale put himself firmly on the map by dominating during the Cape Cod League and he really hasn't stopped pitching well. He's got three pitches that are above-average to plus and commands them all, coming from a funky arm angle. That concerns some, but it won't keep him from coming off the board early, as some think he might surpass Pomeranz as the first lefty to be selected.
Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State
A hamstring injury kept teams from getting more looks at the right-hander for a while, but that shouldn't keep the advanced Wimmers from being taken early. He's got a nice three-pitch mix with good command, and while his stuff doesn't grade out phenomenally, he's a quick-to-the-bigs type of college arm. That's bound to draw some interest as the first round unfolds.
Brandon Workman, RHP, University of Texas
Pitching for a big program like the University of Texas, you're going to get noticed. Workman deserves the attention. While not thought of as being in the top tier of college arms being discussed in the top 10, he's not far off from that. He's got a good mix of pitches, commands them well, and has a bulldog mentality on the mound. There's a little effort to his delivery, but it's not something that's a major concern, so Workman should hear his name called at some point in the opening round.
Other first-round hopefuls: Jesse Hahn, RHP, Virginia Tech; James Paxton, LHP, no school; Anthony Ranaudo, RHP, LSU; Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, The Citadel.
High school pitchers
Stetson Allie, RHP, St. Edward HS, Ohio
For much of the year, Allie was all about arm strength, with one of the better fastballs in the class to go along with a power slider. That repertoire, along with a lack of changeup, command and a tendency to not maintain his stuff deep into games, led some to think he might be a reliever when all was said and done. But Allie was commanding his pitches much better late in the season, giving teams high up in the first round reason to at least consider him.
A.J. Cole, RHP, Oviedo HS, Fla.
While Cole's stock seemed to take a small hit as the Draft approached, he still was very much in first-round discussions. That's because of his extremely projectable frame, which could lead to more ticks on the fastball, to go along with a power breaking ball. There have been some concerns about his arm action, but nothing too major. He's no longer considered at the top of the elite high school crop, but he's not too far behind at all.
Dylan Covey, RHP, Maranatha HS, Calif.
Once thought to be perhaps the second high school pitcher to be taken, Covey's status has come down a bit. Nothing's changed about who he is; rather, the industry has gotten a better feel for where he stands in this class. Covey's got a good fastball and a plus curve, along with the makings of a changeup. He's strong and sturdy, though he isn't as projectable as some would like a high school arm to be. Still, expect to see Covey gone at some point in the opening round of the Draft.
Kaleb Cowart, RHP, Cook County HS, Ga.
Also on the list of corner infielders -- some teams like him as a hitter -- most seem to prefer him on the mound. He does have an outstanding fastball with plus movement and he commands the pitch well. His secondary stuff lags behind, but the hope is that focusing on pitching would allow him to quickly improve those offerings. The only question is if he's willing to do that. There was some word coming from Georgia that he'd rather hit as a pro, which could make it very interesting if a team drafts him for his mound work.
Jameson Taillon, RHP, The Woodlands, Texas
It's easy to see why Taillon has separated himself as one of the top prospects in this class. At 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds, he's a beast on the mound. He's got three outstanding pitches, with the chance for four. Sure, he could improve his command, but what high schooler couldn't and Taillon has shown an advanced feel for pitching and off-the-charts makeup. It's generally expected that he'll be gone in the first three picks of the Draft.
Karsten Whitson, RHP, Chipley HS, Fla.
With an outstanding fastball, a nasty slider and even a solid changeup, Whitson was considered to be right behind Taillon on the high school pitching front. As is often typical with prep arms, an uneven start or two temporarily can hurt one's status, but Whitson never slid too far. He performed very well at the Florida High School All-Star Game in front of a ton of scouts and there's no way that hurt. His name has been mentioned as high as the top 10, with it seeming fairly certain he'll be off the board well before the first round is over.
Other first-round hopefuls: Tyrell Jenkins, RHP, Henderson HS, Texas; Zach Lee, McKinney HS, Texas; Aaron Sanchez, RHP, Barstow HS, Calif.; Peter Tago, RHP, Dana Hills HS, Calif.; Taijuan Walker, RHP, Yucaipa HS. Calif.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.