Draft : : State Preview
Friday, May 27, 2011

State Preview: Missouri

David Rawnsley        

In the weeks leading up to the draft, Perfect Game will be providing a detailed overview of each state in the U.S., including the District of Columbia, as well as Canada and Puerto Rico. These overviews will list the state's strengths, weaknesses and the players with the best tools, as well as providing mini-scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players.

Missouri State-by-State List

Missouri Overview:
Eierman Stands Out Among Thin Crop of Missouri Prospects

It wasn’t a streak that talent-rich states like California, Florida or Texas would pay much attention to, but for a mid-level talent-producer like Missouri, it was a noteworthy achievement.

In each year from 2006-09, a college pitcher from the Show-Me State was drafted in the first round, starting with Missouri righthander Max Scherzer (Diamondbacks) in 2006, Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler (Nationals) in 2007, Missouri righthander Aaron Crow (Nationals) in 2008 and Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson (Twins) two years ago.

Three of the four have pitched in the big leagues already, with Gibson, who is pitching well in Triple-A, on the brink.

In addition to those impressive arms, Holt High righthander Tim Melville (4th round/Royals) in 2008 and Westminster Christian Academy righthander Jacob Turner (1st round/Tigers) in 2009 were widely considered to be among the top high-school arms in their respective classes. Melville slipped in the draft because of signability concerns, but was eventually given the equivalent of a first-round bonus.

Missouri’s impressive run in the draft all came crashing down in 2010, when no player from the state was picked in the first five rounds. University of Missouri catcher Brett Nicholas was the first in-state player taken off the board, going to the Texas Rangers in the sixth round. He was quickly followed two picks later by Missouri State lefthander Mike Kickham (Giants).

Oddly, Missouri’s greatest impact on the 2010 draft occurred in the 16th and 17th rounds. South Harrison High lefthander Jordan Shipers was claimed in the 16th round by the Toronto Blue Jays, while Lee’s Summit High righthander Ryan Hafner was selected a round later by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

It was readily apparent to most scouts that Shipers had the ability to be drafted much higher, but his high school didn’t field a baseball team. So he was forced to improvise during the spring and summer in order to get exposure from scouts. He pitched during the spring in the Perfect Game-sponsored Iowa Spring League, and didn’t overly distinguish himself, causing his stock in the draft to tumble. He reasserted himself last summer, pitching for Las Vegas in the California Collegiate League, and the Blue Jays rewarded him with an eye-opening $800,000 bonus, equivalent to early second-round money.

The 6-foot-6 Hafner was not as well known to scouts, or as highly-regarded a prospect as Shipers, but he still commanded the second highest bonus given to a Missouri player in 2010. He received $450,000 from the Pirates just before the Aug. 16 signing deadline.

Perhaps it was a sign of the times in the state, but the big loser when Shipers and Hafner signed late was Missouri State, which had signed both pitchers, and was otherwise left holding an empty bag.

If the 2010 draft left Missouri cold, the pickings in this year’s draft could be even slimmer. Warsaw High shortstop Johnny Eierman is the only player in the state that was heavily cross-checked, and may end up being the only player picked in the first 4-5 rounds.

Eierman comes from a small west-central Missouri town, where quality competition is limited. So his dad, John, who was a 13th-round pick in 1991 out of Rice University and is his son’s baseball coach at Warsaw High, made a point of finding the best competition possible for his son last summer. In turn, Johnny excelled on the summer showcase circuit with his combination of power and speed (clocked in 6.41 seconds in the 60 at the Area Code Games), and clearly elevated his worth entering the 2011 season with his strong showing. He followed up this spring by hitting .571-10-33, while stealing 24 bases.

Eierman flashes all five tools, and although he is still somewhat raw in his approach to hitting and has a choppy, unrefined swing, the biggest question scouts have concerns the lack of a clear, defineable position defensively. He has the arm strength to play on the left side, but Eierman lacks the proper actions of a shortstop. Either center field or second base is a potential destination at the next level. Eierman has signed with Louisiana State should he decide to pass on an immediate career in pro ball.

After Eierman, the Missouri high-school class is muddled. McCluer High outfielder Lance Jeffries rates a slight edge to become the second Missouri prep player drafted after Eierman. The two have very similar toolsets, including raw bat speed, foot speed and arm strength, but Jeffries is even more unrefined in his approach than Eierman.

Just as the current Missouri draft crop created little buzz around the state, it was also a relatively uneventful year at the college level.

Missouri State gets the nod as the top college team in the state by posting a 32-21 record heading into the Missouri Valley Conference tournament. It also defeated in-state rival Missouri, 5-2 and 5-0, in their annual home-and-home, mid-week series. Missouri finished the regular season at 24-30, but managed to claim the eighth and final seed in the Big 12 Conference tournament.

Missouri’s 5-foot-11 righthander Matt Stites and slender Missouri State second baseman Kevin Medrano head up a mediocre college draft drop, even though Stites produced no better than a 3-5, 3.69 record this season, though did strike out a team high 72 batters in 85 innings. Despite his small frame, Stites has an unusually live arm and easily the best stuff and command on the Missouri staff. He can mix four pitches, including a low-90s fastball.

Medrano, a three-time All-Missouri Valley League pick, has managed to preserve his draft worth despite seeing batting his average drop from .410 as a sophomore to .320 this spring. Though he has little or no power, Medrano can capably use the whole field offensively, plays with passion and is a quality defender at second.

The most successful team in Missouri this spring was Jefferson College, which earned a berth in the Junior College World Series. The Vikings (43-20) may also have the best arm in the state, college or high school, in 6-foot-6, 215-pound freshman lefthander Dane Gronewald, who contributed a 6-2, 2.79 record to Jefferson’s drive to a national-tournament berth.

At athletic southpaw with a loose, deceptive arm, Gronewald can flash above-average velocity to righthanded hitters while neutralizing lefthanders with his off-speed stuff.

Missouri in a Nutshell:

Johnny Eierman.
WEAKNESS: Depth in college/high school.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 2

Missouri State.
BEST HIGH-SCHOOL TEAM: Rockbridge HS, Columbia.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Johnny Eierman, ss/of, Warsaw HS.
Eierman stands head and shoulders above any other prospect in the state, and could go as high as the sandwich round. He’s nowhere close to a finished product as a hitter, and currently plays a position he won’t likely see again as a pro, but he’s so gifted athletically that the scouts don’t seem to care where he’ll eventually play.

The University of Missouri roster. There was a time in the recent past when Missouri was churning out first-round draft picks on an annual basis, and attracting choice recruits from all across the Midwest. Those days seem to have disappeared.

Lance Jeffries, of, McCluer HS. Jeffries is a feel-good story of an inner-city youth who learned to play baseball at the local Boys/Girls Club, and has excelled in Major League Baseball’s Urban Youth Program. He has three potential plus tools in his speed, arm and center-field defense. A team that thinks he can hit could take a chance on him surprisingly early.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Missouri Connection:
Charlie Lowell, lhp, Wichita State University (attended high school in Old Monroe).
TOP 2012 PROSPECT: Pierce Johnson, rhp, Missouri State University.
TOP 2013 PROSPECT: Rob Zastryzny, lhp, University of Missouri.

Draft History: Roy Branch, rhp, Beaumont HS, St. Louis (1971, Royals/1st round, 5th pick).
2006 Draft: Max Scherzer, rhp, U. of Missouri (Diamondbacks/1st round; 11th pick).
2007 Draft: Ross Detwiler, lhp, Missouri State U. (Nationals/1st round, 6th pick).
2008 Draft: Aaron Crow, rhp, U. of Missouri (Nationals/1st round, 9th pick).
2009 Draft: Jacob Turner, rhp, Westminster Christian Academy, St. Louis (Tigers/1st round, 9th pick).
2010 Draft: Bret Nicholas, c, U. of Missouri (Rangers/6th round).

Best Hitter: Kevin Medrano, 2b, Missouri State University.
Best Power: Johnny Eierman, ss, Warsaw HS.
Best Speed: Johnny Eierman, ss, Warsaw HS.
Best Defender: Kevin Medrano, 2b, Missouri State University.
Best Velocity: David Schmidt, rhp, Christian Brothers HS, St. Louis.
Best Breaking Stuff: Matt Sites, rhp, University of Missouri.


(Projected ELITE-Round Draft / Rounds 1-3)

1. JOHNNY EIERMAN, ss/of, Warsaw HS
Intriguing tools; + raw bat speed/power potential, 6.41 speed, 90-plus arm; scouts debate 2B or CF in future.

(Projected HIGH-Round Draft / Rounds 4-10)

2. LANCE JEFFRIES, of, McCluer HS, Ferguson
Small package (5-9/180), but strong; 6.6 speed in 60, + arm strength/solid defender, + raw hitting mechanics.
3. DANE GRONEWALD, lhp, Jefferson CC (Fr.)
Classic projection at 6-6/215; loose arm, sound delivery; 88-91 FB, flashes sharp CU, led team to JC W/S.
4. MATT STITES, rhp, University of Missouri (Jr.)
Smaller RHP, lacks consistent stuff start to start; 92-94 FB, + SL at best; has reliever profile, + competitor.
5. KEVIN MEDRANO, 2b, Missouri State U. (Jr.)
Slender frame (6-0/160), + LH bat, + contact, lacks strength to drive balls; + savvy player, smooth defender.
6. BRETT GRAVES, rhp, Francis Howell HS, St. Charles
+ athlete, dual-threat D-I QB prospect, also plays SS; fast/loose arm, 89-91 FB/T-93, CU/CH are developing.
7. DAVID SCHMIDT, rhp, Christian Brothers HS, St. Louis
Small statute (6-0/170), but quick/powerful arm, FB 88-92/T-94, good CU, + pitchability, Stanford signee.

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