In the first installment of the future redbirds draft report we took a look at some of the top college hitters available for this year’s draft. Of that group, Justin Smoak is off to a blazing start having already cranked a pair of homers in his first four games. Unfortunately the draft’s top prospect hasn’t been as fortunate. Baseball America is reporting Pedro Alvarez has a broken bone in his hand and is out for at least 6 weeks.
Now this week we take the first look at the top collegiate pitchers available in June. This year’s college crop may not have any one pitcher as good as David Price from a year ago, but there is no shortage of quality arms. San Diego’s Brian Matusz and Missouri’s Aaron Crow provide the draft with a legit pair of top flight starters while the depth of the class far surpasses that of last year’s draft. There is a nice blend of raw stuff with guys like Fresno State’s Tanner Scheppers, Pepperdine’s Brett Hunter, Tulane’s Shooter Hunt, and Arizona’s Ryan Perry as well as polished pitchers with Eastern Kentucky’s Christian Friedrich, Virginia’s Jacob Thompson, and California’s Tyson Ross.
Brian Matusz LHP San Diego 6’4″ 190 lbs DOB: 2/11/87
Matusz comes into the season as the top pitcher in college baseball. A lefty with a durable frame and a smooth delivery, Matusz is capable of touching the mid-90′s with his fastball, but he usually sits in the 90-92 range. He combines that fastball with a devastating change-up and a curveball that is also above average. The best part of Matusz’s game may be his ability to to throw all three of his pitches for strikes, and that has allowed him to dominate college hitters as he led the country in strikeouts last season. While he may not have the prototypical power stuff to be considered an ace, he is a solid bet to become a middle of the rotation starter, and with his command he could even become a top of the rotation starter in the Mark Buehrle mold.
Aaron Crow RHP Missouri 6’2″ 205 lbs. DOB: 11/11/86
Crow may not have the results that Brian Matusz does, but some teams may prefer his power stuff. Crow possesses the best 1-2 punch in the draft with his power fastball/curveball combo. Last summer his fastball sat at 93-96 and touched as high as 98 mph. He also mixes in a power curve in the 82-84 mph range. Crow isn’t just a raw power arm, he combines his stuff with perhaps the best command in the draft and is really the total package on the mound. While he may not have ideal size, he has a smooth, athletic delivery that he repeats very well. With his power stuff and great command, Crow will not have to spend much time in the minors, and you could see him fly into a major league rotation much like Tim Lincecum did a year ago.
Christian Friedrich LHP Eastern Kentucky 6’3” 210 lbs. DOB: 7/8/87
Athletic lefty features the draft’s best curveball, a true 12-6 hammer that he will throw at any time. His fastball is solid average and checks in at 87-91 mph, and some reports have him touching 94. He has put up dominating strikeout numbers both at Eastern Kentucky and on the Cape last summer with an amazing 307 strikeouts to only 153 hits in 232 combined innings. He kept up his strikeout reputation fanning 11 in just 5 innings of work in his season debut. Friedrich has good command of all his pitches, but has had some troubles with walks at times because he can rely too heavily on his curveball. If he learns to trust his fastball more, he is a candidate to move quickly as a quality lefty starter in the Barry Zito mold. Others believe he has more fastball than Zito and compare him to Cubs’ lefty Rich Hill. Either way you can tell how good his curveball is by the comparisons he receives.