Baseball isn't like other sports. While most sports gain a majority of their best talent from the first round of the draft, that is hardly true in baseball. First round draft picks however remain a key component of how franchises are built, largely because that is where the greatest amount of Major Leaguers come from. Given the compensation system that is now in place, teams also have the ability to gain extra draft picks when their players are signed away by another team. Stockpiling those first round draft picks is often the quickest and easiest way to breath new life into a franchise - provided the scouting is good.
Last year our five AL Central teams combined to take just seven players in the first round, and first round compensatory picks. Two each for the White Sox and Twins, and just one each for the Tigers, Royals, and Indians. I'll be breaking down all seven over the next few days to give fans of those teams a better idea of what tools their prospects have, where their prospects are at, what they'll eventually do, and when they'll start making an impact at the big league level.
Alex White, Royals, 11th:
Scouting report: 6'3" 200lbs, R/R
White has a strong arm and can reach 95 mph with his fastball but he operates in the 90-92mph range with a very good sinker. Some say he actually possessed the best sinker of any pitcher in the draft. He also has a good compliment of breaking pitches with a plus slider and a plus split finger fastaball. While some project the splitter to eventually develop into the better breaking ball, I prefer the slider. Yes, it's still a pretty 'fat' pitch in the sense that it doesn't have the sharp, late break that Major League hitters will be fooled by, but that can be improved with mechanical tweaks. Given that he does generate big movement with the pitch, I see it more as an issue of improving it.
White also possesses a show-me changeup and has been said to throw a curveball, but I've never seen it. Without dominant velocity, I don't give White the same upside that I'd give to Jacob Turner, but with improvements to his breaking balls, he has good enough stuff that he could become a #2-type pitcher, and he is very projectable. With Zach Grienke locked up for the next few years and fellow prospect Aaron Crow already in the system, the Royals have some top-end pitching talent in the system for the first time in recent memory.
I must say, I'm not a huge fan of White's mechanics, his motion is all over the place with tons of moving parts. He doesn't ever seem to take a beat to find his balance, and that leads to what I consider serious command worries. In order to succeed at the MLB level you need to be able to repeat your mechanics, and spot your pitches. Whereas cleaning up some pitchers mechanics is a matter of making a 4-5 tweaks, there are some many issues with White that it seems like a daunting task. What's more, it all leads to increased injury concerns. The fact that his throwing elbow ends up over his shoulder is of particular concern as that specific motion tends to lead to rotator cuff issues. The Royals HAVE to fix this.
Overall, there are a lot of good tools - solid velocity, good movement on all of his pitches, some plus breaking offerings... But for a college pitcher he strikes me as being at least a few years away. Should White ever reach his full potential he could be a #2 starter. He has the stuff to succeed, but lacks dominant velocity or good enough command. As I said just a moment ago, I expect he's still 2-3 years away and the earliest I'd expect to see him would be late 2012, but more likely mid 2013.