Saturday, May 14, 2011

OTF MLB Draft Peek: Pitchers, Alex Meyer and Henry Owens

The MLB draft is a very unique animal from the NBA and NFL versions. Let's go over some things before I go into a bit of analysis into Alex Meyer and Henry Owens, two pitchers whom MLB Bonus Baby and John Sickels have going to the Giants in the first round.

1.) You can't trade draft picks in the MLB Draft: One of the biggest misconceptions by baseball fans. A lot of fans see the NFL draft and NBA draft and think "Why don't we trade draft picks for this player?" or "How can we trade up spots?" You can't do that in the MLB draft, so that's something to keep in mind.

2.) "Signability" and "Singing Bonuses" for the most part outweigh "talent": A lot of the time, the best players don't go where they should. Why did the Giants get Buster Posey at five in the 2008 draft? Because the teams ahead of the Giants (especially the Tampa Bay Rays) thought he would ask for too much. The same happened when the San Diego Padres infamously draft Matt Bush No. 1 over Stephen Drew. Bush was a late first round maybe second round talent, but he went No. 1 because he was a shortstop and he could be signed at a cheap cost. A lot of the time, the best talent actually goes a lot later in the first or perhaps even in the following rounds. So, you can't totally evaluate a guy by the "well he was a [insert round] pick" argument like you would in the NBA or NFL draft.

3.) It's a crap shoot at times: When you look at how many rounds there are and such, a lot of the times, the draft can be a matter of luck at times in terms of picking up good talent. The Giants have gotten some good talent the past few drafts, but for every Posey and Madison Bumgarner, there is a Tim Alderson and Eddy Martinez-Esteve that doesn't live up to expectations.

Okay with that out of the way, let's look at Meyer and Owens.

Alex Meyer, RHP, Kentucky
2011 Stats: 3.06 ERA, 6-5 W-L, 4 CG, 2 SHO, 94 IP, 73 H, 36 R, 43 BB, 101 SO.
OFP Grade (according to John Klima): 52-55.

According to Matt Garrioch of MLB Bonus Baby, he has the Giants taking Meyer in his latest Mock Draft. While the Giants have pretty good depth in terms of arms in the minors, Garroich feels that Meyer is too enticing for the Giants to pass up and he could easily transition in the Giants system.

Meyer is a power arm who can strike guys out in bunches. He has a 101 strikeouts this year (a 9.7 rate), and has shown pretty decent command in his senior season (2.35 K/BB ratio). Control and walks have been an issue for Meyer over his Wildcat career, as he has walked 151 batters over 266.4 innings in his career. (His career BB/9 is 5.1.)

That being said, his ability to make batters miss and his stuff make up for his control issues. Klima of Baseball Beginnings had this to say about Meyer in a scouting report:

"Live arm, FB 91-95, comfortable 94-96 with giddyup late in the strike zone. CB 82-84, mostly 84, tight rotation and bite. Occasional straight CHG, 79. Fair Delivery, ¾ slot...Potential middle-rotation starter with plus arm and below-average pitchability may be better suited for lockdown bullpen role."

Prospect Junkies shared some concerns about Meyer's projection as a prospect, mostly focusing on his control (they note his high BB/9 numbers his first two years in college), and the fact that he hasn't lived up to expectations. Once considered a top prep prospect out of high school, and a dark horse to be the No. 1 pick in this year's draft, Meyer took a stumble this year as he hasn't been as dominant in college as many would have hoped. Another big issue PJ brings up is his delivery, which isn't exactly the cleanest or most sterling. Here is what they say:

"Though he possess rare athleticism for a big man, Meyer doesn't follow through on any pitch. When you're 6 foot 9 and you don't bend your back your ball is going to sail up and out of the strike zone and Meyer's balls have so much sailing experience he could actually tell you the difference between starboard and port."

Mechanics are always key for pitchers, as we have seen many pitchers careers derail due to questionable deliveries. Then again, it's not always an end-all sign. Remember, Mark Prior apparently had the cleanest delivery scouts had seen, but he has struggled through injuries. On the flip side, Madison Bumgarner and Tim Lincecum had a lot of delivery issues when they were drafted, but they haven't really had any major problems to date. Thus, while the pitching delivery questions do make me a little uneasy, I'm not ready to give up or downgrade him just yet.

The fact that Meyer hasn't lived up to his lofty prep expectations as a collegian is disappointing and does make me a little hesitant about Meyer's future as a professional. That being said, you can't solely judge him on stats, and from what I've read on his stuff and ability, he is an enticing pitcher that would fit well in the Giants system (the Giants organization is known for developing pitchers well). Furthermore, Brandon Belt has proved that disappointing college stats aren't exactly an indicator of a player having success as a professional. He was a highly touted prospect going into Texas, but didn't exactly show the power people thought he was capable of with the Longhorns (and thus, went to the Giants in the fifth round). As we all know, Belt has obviously overcome his college performance and is the Giants' top prospect.

Another issue for Meyer is the fact that he's represented by Scott Boras. While this can scare off a lot of teams, I don't think this should be too big an issue mainly because the Giants have gotten things done with Boras clients before (i.e. Posey, who was a Boras client).

Henry Owens, LHP, Edison HS (Huntington Beach, CA)

Sickels has the Giants taking Owens in his latest mock draft, and it seems like an interesting pick that could have a lot of upside (though he does say Owens is from California HS, where everywhere else I've seen has him from Edison HS...more research to come). Owens has gained a lot of attention ever since he performed well at the Area Code games last August. In the first day of the showcase, Owens struck out six of the first seven batters he faced in two innings of work. However, the Area Code games showing was just a small snippet of how well he did last summer, according to Rich Lederer of the Baseball Analysts.

"A member of the USA Baseball 18U National Team, Owens has had a busy summer. He was 3-0 with a 2.33 ERA in five appearances and four starts, whiffing 31 batters and walking nine in 19.1 innings. He was also named to the Aflac All American Baseball Classic, which will be held on Sunday, August 15 at 5 p.m. PDT in PETCO Park. The game will feature the nation’s top 38 high school players heading into their senior year."

Owens also put up a good showing in the Aflac All American Classic, as he struck out the side in the ninth, according to a report from The Hardball Times. He gained a lot of attention from scouts with the performance, as Lederer claimed that Owens was the "most highly heralded prep pitcher in the country" going into 2011. Additionally, the strong performances earned him Rawlings First Team All-American and All-Region honors for California.

So if Owens is so highly touted, why is he not going higher in this draft? Well, he still has a lot of growing to do and while his fastball velocity is good (it ranges in 88-92 MPH range now), it still is going to develop considering he is still growing into his tall, lanky frame. Thus, if the Giants do draft Owens, he is going to be a project of sorts that probably will take a few years to develop before he is ready for Big League consideration.

Another issue is the fact that he's committing to the University of Miami next season. So, it's unknown whether Owens will sign if he is drafted, and teams, Giants included, probably don't want to waste a first round pick on a guy who is committed to going to college (though like I said, it's up in the air, and if the Giants throw a good enough bonus at him, he probably would sign).

Despite the concerns, there is a lot to like about Owens. He has a good fastball, and his curve has gotten raves as of late. Here is what Klima said about the development of his breaking pitch:

"In the more recent looks, the curveball has become sharper. He’ll throw it at various speeds and to various parts of the plate. He’s in settings where he doesn’t have to hold back his stuff. What you get is the sharper and harder breaking ball with the two-plane depth and then the slow roller which also has depth but isn’t intentionally as hard."

There is a lot of upside to Owens as a prospect, and one has to wonder if the Giants will be shrewd enough to take the high school hurler in the first round. He has great strikeout ability, and the characteristics of a legitimate Major League pitcher. The big question now is if the Giants will take a risk and shell out the cash and patience necessary for him do so in a Giants uniform.


  1. The Giants have had success with high school pitchers drafted in the first round: Matt Cain, Bumgarner and Zack Wheeler is looking good so far. This draft is phenomenally deep in pitching. There will almost certainly be several high ceiling HS arms to choose from at #29 who would go much higher in any other draft. Possibilities include Owens, Dillon Howard, Jose Fernandez and now BA has the Giants taking local product Robert Stephenson at #29.

    As for College arms, I think they may be looking at Josh Osich, a LHP from Oregon State.

    Then again, scouting director John Barr is a hitting specialist, so the Giants could cut against the grain of the draft and take a hitter while looking for pitching later in the draft which is the approach they took last year.

    I'm intrigued by Meyer's upside, but I think he's quite risky. I'd be more comfortable with Meyer in he Supplemental first round at #49, but he'll probably be gone by then.

  2. Thanks for the heads up on those arms. I definitely am looking into this draft more as of late, and it definitely seems like pitching is very deep in this draft. I've always felt like the Giants have done a good job selecting and developing pitchers in general out of the draft as of late. Even the one guy that didn't totally pan out (Tim Alderson) produced well in the Giants system than in the Pirates system. Not saying that shows the Pirates pitching development is worse than the Giants pitching development, but it makes you wonder.

    I definitely am intrigued by what Barr will do. The word on the street is that the Giants want to go with a position player, but they might selecting a pitcher simply because they could get a steal at 29 with the pitching so deep. Meyer is also interesting, and I think his frame and upside is enticing, despite his "good but not great" college numbers. If we can get a Meyer or Owens in the Supplemental round, that would be a steal (though I think Owens will probably be for sure gone, and Meyer most likely gone).

    Thanks again for the tip on Osich as well. Looking forward to how things will develop as we reach closer to draft day.