Wednesday, June 1, 2011

OTF MLB Draft Peek: Tyler Anderson, LHP, and Matt Purke, LHP

I will get back to the prospect list countdown at some point, but all the latest developments with the draft have me hooked. I think this week will definitely be draft-centered, with maybe a farm update here and there.

Anyways, I'm going to take a look at two left-handed college pitchers who are rumored to go in the mid-to-late first round: Tyler Anderson out of Oregon and Matt Purke out of Texas Christian.

Tyler Anderson, LHP, University of Oregon

At six-foot, four-inches and 215 pounds, lefty Tyler Anderson is an interesting prospect who doesn't have intimidating stuff, but may be polished enough for the Giants to take in the 29th slot in the first round. Anderson has a very tall, lanky frame, and he has shown good command and ability to strike batters out in his collegiate career.

Anderson is coming off a very solid sophomore year in 2010 and an even better junior season in 2011. Last season, in addition to being voted team MVP and to the Pac-10 first team, he went 7-5 with a 2.98 ERA, and struck out 105 batters in 102.2 IP while only allowing 33 walks (good for a K/BB ratio of 3.18). This season, his ERA improved to 2.17, his W-L record jumped to 8-3, and he struck out 114 batters in 107.2 IP while only walking 35 (his K/BB raito was 3.26). Anderson isn't just a pitcher with a nice frame and good tools, but he has proven himself at the collegiate level, a nice sign that he is very capable of being a solid starting pitcher at the professional level.

John Klima of Baseball Beginnings was high on Anderson, projecting that he could develop into a No. 1 or No. 2 starter at the Major League level. Here is what he said about Anderson's abilities in his scouting report:

"Complete confidence in plus change-up with sink, deception and feel, 81-83, thrown as straight change and also with sink any time in count. FB 88-92, comfortable 91, downhill life, natural sink, not afraid to challenge RHH, CHG makes FB play up. OK slider for third look, enough tilt, uses to change eye level for FB, 76-77. Aggressive up-tempo strike thrower with a little quirk in the back leading to a smooth, easy arm action across top, throws across the body and creates deception. Above-average FB and CHG control."

Anderson doesn't have a lot more room to grow, which is pretty typical for a pitcher coming out of college. However, the grades on him so far are pretty positive. MLB Draft Insider rated his fastball, slider and command/control a 55 with 55 potential (in the case of his command/control, they graded it a 55-plus). His changeup earned a 45 grade with 50 potential, and his mechanics earned a 55 grade, both currently and in terms of potential. As you can see, Anderson has all the right tools as of now, and thus, has the potential to be moved quickly in the Giants system if drafted in the 29th slot.

The only real question with Anderson may be his mechanics. When you watch him on tape, his mechanics and delivery look funky, as he moves extremely quickly, almost as if he's rushing to pitch. One has to wonder how much he'll be able to keep his uncanny pitching motion when he makes the transition to professional ball. That being said, Tim Lincecum was able to keep his unusual mechanics and motion when he transitioned to the minors, and it was obvious that it didn't hurt his development. So, considering his success with his current mechanics and pitching motion in college, Anderson's mechanics may be overblown, and it is unlikely the Giants will mess with them unless he struggles immensely in the transition to professional ball.

While he is not a finesse guy by any means, Anderson's stuff doesn't pop out at you. In many ways, he is very similar to Eric Surkamp in the sense that his velocity doesn't wow you, but he still manages to strike guys out at a great rate. The one advantage Anderson does have over Surkamp is that Anderson's does have a better fastball, so that is something Anderson has going for him. That being said, his lack of "explosive" stuff, may deter the Giants from taking him, especially considering how deep this draft is in terms of pitching (Dr. B makes a note of this in his latest post which looks at left-handed pitchers in this draft).

There is a lot of pluses to Anderson as a potential draft pick. He's got a great frame, he knows how to pitch, he has displayed solid strikeout ability and he has played for a baseball coach who has a lot of experience in terms of producing good Major League players (George Horton used to coach at Cal State Fullerton). It is possible that Anderson will be off the list earlier, but if he's available, he could be a very enticing pick for the Giants at No. 29.

Matt Purke, LHP, Texas Christian University

Purke is probably the riskiest first round pick in this Rule 4 Draft. Purke was originally a first round pick by the Rangers in 2009, but he decided to go to TCU instead. After two years, his stock has taken a tumble, not because of his performances with the Horned Frogs, but because of health issues and the large signing bonus he is demanding if drafted.

In terms of what Purke has done in college, it's nothing short of amazing. His freshman year, he went 16-0 with a 3.02 ERA and had 142 strikeouts in 116.1 IP while only allowing 34 walks and 91 hits. The 14th overall pick by the Rangers the previous season, Purke lived up to his lofty hype his first season with the Horned Frogs, as he led them to the College World Series and was projected as a Top-10 pick when he was eligible for the 2011 draft.

However, this year proved to be difficult for Purke. He only made 10 starts and pitched 47.2 innings as he was diagnosed with shoulder bursitis in late April. Jonathan Mayo said this about Purke in a scouting update that examined Purke's "issues" in 2011.

"There’s been a lot of speculation about Purke and his prized left arm for much of the 2011 season. Some scouts felt something wasn’t quite right all season, and there were some people who questioned the validity of reports about a blister shutting Purke down in the early part of the season, thinking perhaps that it was a cover for the shoulder. Someone familiar with the situation assured Purke did indeed have a nasty blister and that his shoulder didn’t bother him until after he returned. It’s possible that the 10 days he had to take off from throwing to let the blister heal contributed to the shoulder issue he’s now dealing with."

After being diagnosed with bursitis, Purke was shut down until May 25th, when he made his return in the MWC Tourney against New Mexico. With his pitch counted limited, he threw four innings, and allowed four hits, one run, two walks while striking out four. While it wasn't a bad performance by any means, it definitely displayed that the arm issues still linger, and may hurt how he'll project as a pitcher in the minors. He is a tall, lanky pitcher who could fill out as a professional (he's six-foot, four inches and 180 pounds), he has some interesting tools, and his stuff prior to his injury (especially in high school) was of "Top-10 pick" caliber. That being said, it's obvious that he isn't the same pitcher he once was when he was the 14th overall pick in 2009. Here's what Klima said in his scouting report of Purke this year:

"Former first-rounder no longer overpowering. Violent, max-effort and slingy pusher, mid-to-low ¾, body in front of arm, leading and dropping elbow, front side flying open. Leads with elbow and drags arm to compensate, jeopardizing entire future. Arm does not work. Lacks consistent downhill plane and confident repetition of breaking stuff. Transformation from schoolboy flame thrower to ordinary average well underway. No longer a premium pick."

Another big issue with Purke is his signability. He burned some bridges with the Rangers after he turned down their six million dollar offer in 2009 (he wanted $7.5 million). Now, Purke is apparently asking for a four million dollar bonus if drafted. Of course, that was before his injury issues, but it goes without saying that the price tag for Purke will come high nonetheless. The Giants under Brian Sabean have been a bit stingy when it comes to signing bonuses with their picks. Until Buster Posey, Sabean really didn't sign guys over the slot suggestion, which usually resorted in them drafting guys in the first round who weren't first round talents (e.g. Wendell Fairley). That certainly will be the case with Purke if he falls to No. 29, and one has to wonder if Sabean will cave in to Purke's demands if the Giants draft him (logic says "no").

If Purke could recover from his injury problems, then he could be a very interesting prospect. He had such promise in high school and in his first year at TCU, that if taken slowly, perhaps Purke could regain the form that made him such a premium pick-candidate a year ago. But that's a huge risk, and with so many pitchers in this draft, the Giants can't afford to whiff on a "questionable" pick like Purke when there are much better and cheaper options available.


  1. Nice write ups. I would be OK with Anderson at #29. Historically the Giants have drafted pitchers with more velocity in the first round, although they have taken their share of "pitchability" pitchers in later rounds so it's not like they are totally off their draft board. Ordinarily you'd be thrilled to get an Anderson at #29, but the pool of high ceiling pitchers is so deep this year the Giants may feel they can get a potential #1 starter that late.

    I say stay away from Matt Purke for a whole lot of reasons. If you have to pay high first round money to sign him, then it's really a moot issue that he "fell" in the draft. You just don't commit $4 million to a kid whose shoulder might be mush already.

  2. Hey Dr. B. Thanks for the comment! Sorry for the late reply.

    I agree with you on both pitchers. Anderson may have had a higher stock any other year, but considering the talent pool at pitcher this year, Anderson may not be as an enticing pick at No. 29 as in years past. I like his strikeout ability, but I do have some concerns about his mechanics and delivery. Very high effort and quick, which isn't a bad thing, but it'll be interesting to see if he could carry that over the course of a full minor league season. My gut says "no" and he'll have to slow things down a bit so he can maximize his stamina as a starter.

    As for Purke, you got it right. I pretty much did a write up on him because it's a possibility, albeit a lean one. Shoulder problems and a high signing bonus demand should rule him out, especially considering the pitching depth in this draft. Just not worth it.