Draft : : State Preview
Saturday, May 19, 2012

State Preview: Missouri

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Missouri State

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 scouting reports on all Group 1 and 2 players as ranked in Perfect Game's state-by-state scouting lists.

Contributing: Allan Simpson

Missouri State-by-State List
2011 Missouri Overview

Missouri Overview:
After Two Off Years, Missouri Back in First-Round Realm

Missouri had an embarrassment of draft riches in the four-year period from 2006-09, when five in-state pitchers were snapped up in the first round, including one pitcher twice.

The run began with University of Missouri righthander Max Scherzer in 2006 (Diamondbacks/11th
 overall), and continued in 2007 with Missouri State lefthander Ross Detwiler (Nationals/6th overall), in 2008 with Missouri righthander Aaron Crow (Nationals/9th overall), and concluded with a bang in 2009 with prep righthander Jacob Turner (Tigers/9th overall), Crow again (Royals/12th overall) and Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson (Twins/22nd overall). Notably, all but Gibson, who suffered an elbow injury this spring that prevented him from already being called up by Minnesota, have pitched in the big leagues.

In contrast, in the 2010 and 2011 Missouri drafts only prep outfielder Johnny Eierman (Rays, 2011/3rd
 round) landed in even the top five rounds. Missouri should be represented in the first round again this year as Missouri State righthander Pierce Johnson has shown the type of raw stuff and resiliency, bouncing back from a sore arm in April, to warrant serious consideration late in the first round.

For all his talent, the 6-foot-3, 180-pound Johnson isn’t the most-successful pitcher on the stellar Missouri State staff as the team’s three other primary starting pitchers have combined for a 22-4 record, compared to Johnson’s 2-6 mark, on a 35-18 Bears team. Red-shirt sophomore righthander Nick Petree has been so dominant this spring that he could be in line for some national pitcher-of-the-year consideration after reeling off a streak of 38-1/3 innings without allowing a run, and 75 innings without allowing an earned run. Both streaks came to an end May 17 in the first inning of a 6-3 Missouri State loss to Indiana State.

The unpretentious Petree isn’t considered a premium prospect for purposes of the 2012 draft, and scouts have had to dip into the small-college and junior-college ranks to find the only other pitching prospects in Missouri that are pretty much assured of being taken in the first 10 rounds, righthander Mark Sappington of NCAA Division II Rockhurst University and lefthander Dalton Friend of Jefferson (Mo.) College. One of the nation’s most-talented junior-college clubs, Jefferson (48-9) could land a second player in the top 10 rounds in shortstop Brett Wiley.

While it remains to be seen if a prep player is taken in the first five rounds, there has been a representative number of cross-checkers stopping by Missouri this spring to see a number of young hitters, including outfielder Tate Matheny, the son of St. Louis Cardinals manager Mike Matheny.

The younger Matheny likely won’t need a “courtesy” pick by the hometown Cardinals to assure being drafted, as occasionally happens with the sons of ex-players. Matheny is projected to go any time after the fifth round and could be the first high-school player selected if fellow outfielder Bralin Jackson doesn’t claim that honor first.

Missouri in a nutshell:

High-end pitching talent
WEAKNESS: Premium high-school talent, polished hitters.
OVERALL RATING (1-to-5 scale): 3

Missouri State.

PROSPECT ON THE RISE: Pierce Johnson, rhp, Missouri State University.
Johnson’s draft stock has actually been on the rise twice already this spring. The first time occurred over the first seven weeks of the season, when a series of strong performances, capped by a 16-strikeout, 5-hit shutout against Creighton on March 23, propelled him into first-round draft discussions. Soon thereafter came three weeks on the sidelines with what was diagnosed as a forearm strain. Johnson bounced back quickly with seemingly no residual effects. No doubt, Johnson’s start in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament, little more than two weeks before the draft, will be closely monitored.

WILD CARD: Blake Brown, of, University of Missouri.
The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Brown has third to fourth round tools, but his performance hasn't matched his potential to date. With a distinct lack of high potential college position players in this draft, that should help Brown’s standing. While 114 strikeouts in less than two college seasons reflects a need for him to improve his plate discipline, Brown has performed at a high level when he makes contact.

BEST OUT-OF-STATE PROSPECT, Missouri Connection:
Stuart Pudenz, rhp, Dallas Baptist University (Attended high school in Blue Springs).
Top 2013 Prospect: Rob Zastryzny, lhp, University of Missouri.
Top 2014 Prospect: Alex Lange, rhp, Lee’s Summit West HS.


Draft History:
Roy Branch, rhp, Beaumont HS, St. Louis (1971, Royals/1st round, 5th pick).
2006 Draft: Max Scherzer, rhp, University of Missouri (Diamondbacks/1st round; 11th pick).
2007 Draft: Ross Detwiler, lhp, Missouri State University (Nationals/1st round, 6th pick).
2008 Draft: Aaron Crow, rhp, University 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, University of Missouri (Rangers/6th round).
2011 Draft: Johnny Eierman, of, Warsaw HS (Rays/3rd round).


College Players Drafted/Signed:
Junior College Players Drafted/Signed: 1/0.
High School Players Drafted/Signed: 8/2.


Best Athlete:
Blake Brown, of, University of Missouri.
Best Hitter: Kevin Medrano, 2b, Missouri State University.
Best Power: Blake Brown, of, University of Missouri.
Best Speed: William DuPont, ss, Lafayette HS, Ellisville.
Best Defender: Kevin Medrano, 2b, Missouri State University.
Best Velocity: Mark Sappington, rhp, Rockurst University.
Best Breaking Stuff: Pierce Johnson, rhp, Missouri State University.
Best Pitchability: Nick Petree, rhp, Missouri State University.


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

1. PIERCE JOHNSON, rhp, Missouri State University (Jr.)
Even though he was drafted in the 15th round in 2009, Johnson was lightly scouted and recruited out of a small Colorado private school. He went on to post a 1-2, 7.52 record as a freshman for Missouri State with marginal improvement as a sophomore (6-5, 4.76, 75 IP/80 H/34 BB/72 SO). His time spent in the Cape Cod League last summer was limited to 12 innings after Johnson dislocated a knee cap while warming up for a start. Despite his performance over his first two years in college, Johnson began the 2012 season as a legitimate candidate to be an early-round pick in this year’s draft, and that scenario began to unfold on cue this spring, even as the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Johnson went 2-6, 2.85. But looking beyond the basic box score provides a more accurate reading on the true degree of Johnson’s talent. His lively fastball has been consistently in the 92-94 mph area this spring, while touching a high of 96 mph—several miles faster than his fastball as a high-school senior, or even as a college sophomore. His biggest improvement this spring, though, has come in the quality and command of his two off-speed pitches, a low-80s breaking ball that is alternatively called a slider and a hard curve by scouts, and a potential plus change. Johnson’s 3-week stint on the sidelines in April with forearm tenderness doesn’t seem to have hurt his draft stock, as he returned with no obvious signs of discomfort or a decline in raw stuff. Johnson’s chances of ultimately landing in the first round in June may all hinge on his final outing of the 2012 season, possibly in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

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