One of the strengths of this draft is the college pitching, and that may be where the Cardinals are leaning with their first pick. We have already profiled the top two pitchers, but the next group of hurlers is pretty strong as well. This set of pitchers may not have the polish of a Crow or Matusz, but they still possess the stuff to be top of the rotation starters or in the case of Josh Fields a dominating closer. This group also contains the guy who I think is the current favorite to go to the Cardinals with the 13th overall pick, Shooter Hunt. Check it all out after the break.
Tanner Scheppers RHP Fresno State 6’4″ 200 lbs. DOB: 1/17/87
Tanner Scheppers is long and projectable, but he already has the makings of a top of the rotation starter. Scheppers has dominated this spring with a plus fastball in the 93-95 range that he can occasionally dial up to the high-90′s. He also features a devastating 86-88 mph slider that can be unhittable at times and a curve that has had its moments. Scheppers not only has powerful stuff, he also has pretty good control and is fairly polished for someone that was originally recruited as a shortstop and is new to pitching. He first drew the interest of scouts last fall with his velocity, but this spring his performance has cemented his place among the top 3 starters in college baseball. With his size and stuff Scheppers has drawn comparisons to former Bulldog ace Matt Garza, and like Garza he might not have to spend much time in the minor leagues.
Shooter Hunt RHP Tulane 6’3″ 205 lbs. DOB: 8/16/86
Hunt is a pure power pitcher with a 92-94 mph fastball that touches 96 and a true power curve that he throws around 80 mph. He has been nearly unhittable this spring for Tulane allowing only 24 hits in 56.2 innings, but about the only thing holding him back is his control as he has walked 32. Hunt uses a classic drop and drive delivery, and his arm action is pretty smooth so there are no serious mechanical flaws leading to so many balls. He can throw his curve for strikes, and at times he commands his fastball well. Consistency is his biggest problem. Obviously the team that drafts Hunt is going to believe they can straighten out his control problems and let his stuff take him to the top of a big league rotation, but it is also possible that he will never fully harness his stuff and have to try and make it as a late inning reliever.
Josh Fields RHP Georgia 6’0″ 180 lbs. DOB: 8/19/85
Fields was seen as a mid-first rounder heading into last year’s draft as the top closer in college baseball. However, he had a disastrous season and fell to the Braves in the 2nd round. Atlanta didn’t meet his asking price, so he came back to Georgia to try his luck again and see if he couldn’t become the next Casey Weathers. Fields seems to have made the right choice as he is pitching the best baseball of his career and has re-established himself as one the best pitchers in the draft. Fields has the stuff of a prototypical closer with a mid-90′s fastball and a hammer curveball. The deadly combo has devastated college hitters this spring as he has yet to allow an earned run and has 36 strikeouts in 18.2 innings pitched. Obviously his draft position will depend on which teams are willing to take a college closer in the first round, but Fields has the stuff to close at the big league level and the polish to do it rather quickly.