Keeping Tabs on the 2009 Draftees: Part 3

All right, who's ready for round three? In round one, we took a look at the Mets' first ten rounds and followed it up with a look over the hitters of interest from later rounds. In this, our final look at the 2009 draft debacle, we'll look for potential sleepers from the ranks of the pitchers taken in those same later rounds.

On the whole, the Mets didn't grab a whole lot of pitchers in 2009, taking only 18 after the tenth round. Of those 18, eight didn't sign. Another (Zach Dotson) signed too late to debut this season. And two guys threw so little, I don't have much to say about them at all: 39th rounder Taylor Whitenton and 24th rounder Michael Johnson. So we'll toss them both aside for now. That leaves a class of seven guys to consider. Let's jump right into it.

The Mets selected Georgia Tech righty Zach Von Tersch in the 22nd round. Von Tersch was something of a Hail Mary pick. He was a college junior with fringy stuff, a lack of polish, and no track record of success. So why waste a pick on him? Well, he is 6'5'' and 215 pounds, so there's some hope he'll add some velocity as he develops; he currently tops out at 93 or so with consistent velocity in the high 80's. Now, people have been saying this of Von Tersch since high school, and it just hasn't happened. If it continues not to happen, he'll need to improve his offspeed offerings dramatically to make it as a junkballer. He threw a curve, slider, and change at Georgia Tech; the slider is the best of these offerings, possessing some bite when he gets tight rotation on the pitch.

Mechanically, he's doing a lot I don't like. He's very tall-and-fall, so he's not using his body to its fullest, and he's got red flags for both shoulder and arm injuries in his arm action. Like a lot of tall guys, his delivery isn't consistent from pitch-to-pitch. Performance-wise, he didn't pitch great for Kingsport (37:27 K/BB ratio, 37.1 % groundball rate in 45 innings), but still got a promotion to Savannah. He's a 21-year-old project, and those often don't work out.

John Church is another big righty, standing 6'3'', 235 pounds. The Mets took him in the 23rd out of West Florida and sent him to Savannah, where he went 1-4 with a 5.28 ERA over 29 innings of relief, striking out 34 and walking 14. I wouldn't worry too much about the ERA yet, as he was fairly unlucky. Church has a four-pitch repertoire consisting of a sinking, low-90's fastball, a decent slider, a curve that he'll probably end up ditching, and a changeup that needs lots of work. If he can improve his groundball rate and command, he could become a useful reliever.

The Mets drafted tall, lanky righty Brian Needham out of Lamar University in the 29th round. He has long been on prospect radars, but never blossomed in college nor added the velocity many expected. He throws in the high 80's with heavy sink, also tossing a slider, curve, and changeup. Like Von Tersch, he's the sort of guy you just pray adds velocity with better coaching. I haven't seen any video, but it seems likely that there are mechanical issues. Despite a starter's height and a sinker, I'd be surprised if he were used anywhere but relief, given his age. He didn't pitch especially effectively for Kingsport, and I'd be surprised to see him bumped up next year.

Although they drafted a few guys earlier, 32nd rounder T.J. Chism might be the Mets' best chance at finding a useful arm late in the draft class. Chism is a short lefty whose numbers over three years at LaSalle are frighteningly bad. Many scouting reports have his velocity in the mid-80's without much in the way of offspeed stuff. However, others have seen him throw in the low-90's—above average for a southpaw—with a decent slider when working in relief. If he can find consistent velocity in the bullpen and refine his command, he's probably the only arm here that makes an impact. And those are still some big ifs.

I will be secretly rooting for Wesley Wrenn, a senior from the Citadel. Wrenn is a very bright kid, a great student with pitchability and poise on the mound. Unfortunately, he's also short on both size and stuff. His fastball mostly sits in the upper 80's, and none of his breaking pitches grade above average. Still, the kid may get by with superior command, and his 41:8 K/BB ratio in 47.2 innings for Brooklyn is a good start. Due to his size, he may end up in relief, though I'll reserve judgment until I get a chance to see his mechanics.

Wrenn's left-handed counterpart may very well be Kansas State draftee Lance Hoge. Like Wrenn, Hoge is short pitcher who thrives with superior control (six walks over 41 innings for Brooklyn and Savannah), not velocity or great breaking stuff. His fastball sits 87-90, with a low-80s changeup being his best secondary offering. Due to his being a southpaw, he's probably got a little more leeway than Wrenn.

Brandon Sage, a product of the University of South Alabama, is another soft-tossing lefty. He stands a little taller, but throws sidearm. If he can improve his slider, he may better a poor strikeout rate (15 in 31 innings) and turn himself into a LOOGY. I'm not hopeful.

It's not a very promising bunch, but considering the earliest draftee was a 22nd rounder, that's not unusual. Of these guys, I think the best bets to have any kind of impact are Chism and Church, though both figure to help most in a relief role. You should probably keep an eye on Hoge and Wrenn, too, but 2010 will be an important season for both; as they advance, the ability to throw strikes will mean less and less. The guys with the most upside are certainly Von Tersch and Needham, but both have the most work to do.

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