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2015 Phillies Draft Preview: Pitching (mostly)

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Some top arms rising and falling and well, this draft is unpredictable, so just preview everyone.

James Kaprielian
James Kaprielian
Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Brady Aiken, LHP - I'm a big Aiken fan from last year. It's unlikely he goes as high as 10 and unlikely he drops to the Second Round, but who knows this year. The profile is basically the same as last year. Plus Fastball, potentially plus change and Curve, advanced control and command, which he'll need to rebuild due to his recent Tommy John surgery. Some have asked about signability since he turned down the Astros last year who were still offering top of the First money, but Aiken has no choice this time. He won't pitch until next Spring, which means he won't get drafted any higher in 2016, so he'd have to go to a 4-year school for 2 years to rebuild his stock and even then he may not go as high. Plus any team is taking on the risk that he doesn't recover well from TJS, which is a risk. In this draft, even at 10, he may be worth it since he's got just about the highest ceiling of any of the Pitchers and he's likely to sign somewhat underslot. I won't bother with a video since the TJS is the bigger story here.

Mike Matuella, RHP - Sticking with the former projected top picks with TJS theme. Let's look at Matuella a guy with a better chance of slipping to the Round 2 pick (though still not a great chance). Matuella is built exactly the way you want a Pitcher. He's 6'6" and 220 lbs, he can throw a mid-90's Fastball (usually in the 93-94 range). He also throws a Slider that showed as a future Plus pitch, a Curveball he struggled to stay on top of, that some work could get to average and a Changeup that he threw too close in speed to his fastball (only about a 5 mph difference most of the time). The Changeup could eventually work up to an average or above average pitch. Before his inury this Spring he previously threw his fastball more in the 94-96 range, able to goose it up to 98 mph when needed. Matuella is kind of like the Kelly Dugan of Pitchers. He looks really good when healthy, but he just can't stay healthy. During his time at Duke he initially worked out of the bullpen as a Freshman before getting a handful of starts at the end of the season. As a sophomore he was limited to almost a dozen games by a Lat strain. He missed Summer ball in 2014 as he dealt with spondylosis. Technically spondylosis is a symptom not an actual condition, it refers to the pain caused by degeneration of the disks. The actual causes can range from long term arthritic issues to more transient items like pinched nerves. Then of course this Spring he was limited to just a few starts before having to go the TJS route. Red flags abound for the team Doctors to review here. What is the root cause of the spondylosis? Does he have any larger physical ailments leading to this string of injuries? Is the spondylosis still present and the other injuries are possibly a result of him adjusting his mechanics to the pain? He does also have a few issues with his mechanics to clean up, but nothing major (like Funkhouser, he lands awkwardly on his front foot and falls off to First, while releasing across his body. It's not as severe as Funkhouser's, so should be a fairly easy fix).

James Kaprielian, RHP - If there's an Aaron Nola in this draft, It's the UCLA ace. He was a Top 100 Draft prospect back in 2012, but a strong UCLA commitment scared teams off and he lasted until the 40th round when the Mariners took a futile run at signing him. He's 6'4" and 200 lbs and coming out of High School it was expected he could add 20 pounds of muscle and crank his fastball up to mid to upper 90's. That hasn't happened, instead Kap became a really, really smart Pitcher with very good control and solid command of 4 Pitches. None of his pitches are particularly special though. His Fastball is only 89-92, very Average velocity. He keeps it down in the zone and really tends to pitch backwards a lot only using his Fastball to really set up his other stuff. His Changeup is his best pitch (unless you saw a game when one of the others was his best Pitch), it's not much different in speed from his Fastball and it doesn't have a lot of break, but he locates it pretty well and deploys it when it isn't expected. The secret is that he deploys it when guys look Fastball and it looks so similar he can get some early cuts on it and generate weak contact. His Curve is almost equal and he plays with it a lot tweaking his release and rolling it to different breaks. His release does tip it sometimes and he'll need to clean that up as a pro, but it should be an average pitch. His Slider is similar and due to his playing with the Curve release sometimes it's tough to tell them apart. It has a similar ceiling. He also throws a few times a game a Cutter. He throws it in Fastball counts. It shows some potential, but it's really just a show-me pitch right now. There's no top of the rotation potential here. His Ceiling is #3 Starter, his floor is AAAA starter. I don't see him working in relief due to his lack of any standout pitches that could play up in that role, which means he's a safe, yet weirdly risky pick. He'd move almost as quick as Nola, but he won't be anywhere near as good if they both reach their ceilings. It's also worth noting he has a few things funky in his delivery that could limit his command ceiling and some view as injury red flags (Inverted W, for example).

Jon Harris, RHP - I'll confess I guess the night terrors at the prospect of a Philadelphia sports team drafting another Jon Harris in the first round after the disaster the Eagles had with their own Jon Harris back in the late 90's. Still, that's not fair to pin on a kid of no relation in a different sport. This Harris is a 6'4" 190 lb Pitcher for Missouri State with a 90-92 MPH Fastball (topping out in the 94-95 range), a Curve that could profile as a Plus pitch down the road, a Change up that shows above average potential and a Curve that might get to fringe average, but some reports suggest it flashes Plus at times when he has the feel for it. Harris is a rather safe pick. He does show above-average command which allows things to play up a bit. His ceiling is #3 Starter, his floor is mid-leverage reliever. Sure, that's not sexy, but you need mid-rotation guys too.

Dillon Tate, RHP - Up until a month ago Tate was a strong contender for #1 overall, but his stock has dropped of late along with his stamina. This is Tate's first year Starting after 2 years in UC Santa Barbara's bullpen and he seems to be running out of fuel. Tate is listed at 6'2" 180 pounds, but he may have been standing on a phone book at the time, as most Scouts seem to think his height is more ~six foot flat. The 180 may be about 10 pounds generous too, so perhaps he held on to that phone book for the weigh in as well. His stuff is potentially special though, a fastball that goes 94-96 and he can crank up to 98, with all kinds of crazy movement. A Slider he throws mid-80's that can make Righties look stupid and a Changeup that, at best, does in fact exist (it's the pitch that needs the most work to combat Lefites as a pro). I'm not going to spend a ton of time of Tate, as I don't like him for a pick. His ceiling is #2 Starter or better, but that's with a whole, whole lot of work and a very significant risk that he can't handle the workload. The good news is that slider and fastball might make his floor Brad Lidge like. Yeah, you need a Closer, but don't ask me to get excited about drafting one tenth overall.

Chris Betts, C - Guess who got shutdown with the classic precursor of TJS known as "forearm soreness"? Betts was a likely First Rounder who could now slip to Round 2. He's currently a Catcher, but he's not a sure bet to stick there. He's listed as 6'2" and 220 lbs. He has a pretty great arm and has picked off a few runners at First throwing behind them. His movement needs work, his pop times are slow because of his long release (though throws are very accurate and hard), he struggles a bit blocking. The good news is he has Plus power potential. Among the best for High Schoolers in this draft and his bat will play anywhere. He's an above average runner so Right could be an option if he can't stick at Catcher. His hit tool can get a little sketchy as he sometimes get under balls or loses leverage by getting too far inside the ball in his swing. He was a very fast bat, great plate coverage and actually projects to be an above-average hitter with plus power (with the usual HS hitter caveats about pitch recognition). Would be a nice value grab if he slips to Round 2, but highly unlikely an option if the Phils also take Tyler Stephenson in the First, as many now project. The video below is great as you can see hitting, Catching, defense, a little bit of everything you need.