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One could say that right-handed pitchers are the strength of every draft. No other position is more represented, year after year, simply because there are more right-handed pitchers than there are of anything else. Teams consider pitching to be a precious commodity and are willing to draft multiple righties to get one who sticks. The 2011 Draft will be no exception.
That’s why we’re ranking the Top-100 right-handed pitchers while only ranking 35 catchers and 30 first basemen
So it might come as a surprise that there has never been a high school right-handed pitcher selected first overall in the 46-year history of the draft.
The 2010 Draft represented the seventh time a prep righty was selected second overall when Jameson Taillon went to the Pirates after the Nationals took Bryce Harper.
The closest a prep righty has ever come to going 1/1 in recent history was in 1999. Josh Beckett would have gone first overall in most years, but he was unfortunate enough to be in the same draft as Josh Hamilton, a once-in-a-generation talent himself as an outfielder.
The reason they don’t go 1/1? High school righties have such a high failure rate that teams are much more willing to spread their money over several good ones rather than pour it all into just a single arm. There are exceptions; even though Taillon wasn’t the first overall pick, he did get $6.5 Million. Taillon, like Beckett, may have gone 1/1 in a different year, but consensus talents like them are few and far between.
For those reasons, it seems unlikely that our #1 prep righty Archie Bradley (Broken Arrow HS, OK) or anyone else in the Top-100 will go first overall to the Pirates next June. But this is an impressive group and we should have some 1st-rounders when all is said and done.
Bradley is a couple inches shorter, but not all that different from Taillon in style. He’s a physical 6’4”, 220-pounder who shows low-mid-90s arm-strength and the makings of a plus curveball. Bradley isn’t necessarily a consensus as the #1 prep righty, but we feel his stuff, size, athleticism, and pitchability combine for a slight edge over the next five, any of whom could end up #1 come June.
Another intriguing aspect of Bradley is the fact he’s yet to focus 100% on baseball. In fact, Bradley has signed a football scholarship to Oklahoma to play quarterback in the fall and pitch in the spring. That means that whoever selects Bradley in June will have the option to spread his bonus over five years by the two-sport guidelines allowed by Major League Baseball.
#2 Robert Stephenson (Alhambra HS) is a northern California righty with a strong overall package himself, showing a low-90s fastball as well as both a curve and change-up with plus potential. At 6’3”, 180 lbs, he’s supremely projectable and has an athletic delivery. If Stephenson shows more polish and command come spring, he could become an early 1st-round pick.
This group of righties is unique for who’s ranked at #1, #3, and #12, because all three are from Oklahoma.
Think there might be a few scouts burning up the trail between Owasso and Broken Arrow next spring?
Bundy is a solidly built 6’1”, 200 lb righty with a very quick and live arm. His body is more blocky than projectable, unlike Bradley and Stephenson, but his stuff is right up there.
At #4, we’ve ranked another “less projectable” righty with advanced present-day stuff. Jose Fernandez (Alonso HS, FL) is physically mature at 6’3”, 240 lbs, but he already throws low-mid-90s with a big league slider and is an intimidator to boot when on his game. Fernandez and #5 Mike Kelly (West Boca HS) rank as the two best prep righties in Florida. Kelly stands 6’4”, 200 lbs, with the classic projectable build. He’ll flash a big league curveball and also live in the low-90s when he’s on.
Noticeably absent among the top righties are southern Californians. Generally the nation’s most productive area for all positions, we don’t have a single southern Californian righty ranked until #28, where you’ll find Ryan Keller from West Ranch HS in Castaic, still a ways north of Los Angeles.
North Carolina (led by #8 Dillon Maples from Pinecrest HS) and Massachusetts (#10 Tyler Beede, Lawrence Academy) are also unusually strong with high school righties and have multiple early-round candidates for 2011.
Of all the positional rankings we’ve put together, this one is not only the longest, but the most fluid. There are more injuries, more breakthroughs, and more disappearing acts among prep righties than any other position. Someone will be taken in the 1st round whom we’ve underrated, and several who are rated very high will end up dropping and/or attending college.
Generally, the pitchers at the top who have the right size, mechanics, and stuff, will still get drafted high as long as they show command and pitchability next spring. But as history shows, that’s no guarantee for anyone.