What on earth is going on with college pitching?

Remember when it was the college arms that were the safest picks in the Draft? The guys with track records, at big programs were often the way to go when push came to shove, right?

Well, if that’s the case, can someone please tell me what’s happening lately?

I’m talking, of course, of two pitchers who began this year at or near the top of many draft lists, not just for pitchers, but for overall picks. They’re both in the SEC, pitching for big-time schools, and had some track record for success. But things have gone awry lately.

The case of LSU’s Anthony Ranaudo has been well-documented by now. Once thought to be the top college arm in the class, he missed a chunk of time with an elbow issue. He’s back now, but clearly not himself. Some have said it’s not the injury still, but for whatever reason, he has not been throwing well. Here are his last four starts, dating back to that big matchup against Ole Miss:

April 24:    1.2 IP, 9 H, 9 ER, 1 BB, 2 K
April 30:    2 IP, 6 H, 4 ER, 0 BB, 0 K
May 7:      2.2 IP, 5 H, 6 ER, 4 BB, 1 K
May 14:    4.1 IP, 8 H, 7 ER, 3 BB, 4 K

Overall, that’s just 10 2/3 IP over four starts, during which he’s allowed 28 hits and 26 earned runs (That’s a 21.94 ERA for those of you scoring at home). His performance, along with his advisor (one Mr. Scott Boras) make him extremely hard to figure out in terms of first-round projections.

Then there’s the lefty who faced Ranaudo in that Ole Miss-LSU matchup, Drew Pomeranz. The southpaw spent the first half of the season cementing himself as the top college arm — if not the top pitcher — in the Draft class. With a strong track record of success he seemed as sure a thing as there was to go near the top of the first round.

Now? Not so sure. There are many scouts who will say that you don’t throw away three yearsPomeranz-Drew_RM_v.jpg of strong performances based on a few bad/iffy ones, but I have to think at some point, it becomes concerning. Pomeranz was equally awful as Ranaudo in that game, but did bounce back the following week, leading many to be willing to give him a mulligan on the one really rough outing. But it’s been heading in a bad direction since. Here are his starts from that LSU-Ole Miss game on:

April 24:   3 IP, 1 H, 4 ER (5 total), 9 BB, 3 K
April 30:   6.1 IP, 5 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
May 7:     6.2 IP, 9 H, 4 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
May 14:   5 IP, 1 H, 1 ER, 7 BB, 9 K

Cumulatively, that’s 21 IP, 16 H, 10 ER (4.29 ERA), 19 BB, 31 K. His line from this past Friday is beyond bizarre. Now, there have been reports of a strained pectoral muscle and that may have something to do with these performances, particularly the complete loss of command. He threw 108 pitches, only 58 were strikes in his last start. Beyond this pec issue, which the school and Pomeranz downplayed last week, there’s been a loss of velocity. He was throwing 85-90 mph in that May 7 start and in his last start, he was sitting around 87 mph.

I think Pomeranz can right himself if he returns to form in these last couple of starts, but a scouting director was telling me that Pomeranz had a drop in velocity last year late in the season as well. He did not pitch well down the stretch as a result, though he won his regional start (it was against Monmouth) and pitched well in his super regional outing. Whether teams extrapolate from that and worry about his durability and ability to withstand the long Major League season and pitching every five days remains to be seen. But it will definitely make teams pause and want to see how he finishes off the season.

We’ll have to see what this means for the shape of the first round. Tomorrow, I’ll write about some of the college pitchers who have performed well and may have supplanted Pomeranz and Ranaudo as the top of the class.

I’ve got my first projection of the top 10 picks running on Wednesday. Should be interesting, to say the least…

1 Comment

Looking for pitching in the wrong spot. Look to some of the smaller schools. If help is needed you know how to get a hold of me!

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