The 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft begins on Monday with the first round, and while Washington State is unlikely to have any players selected in those first 33 picks, there should be a number of Cougars picked on Tuesday. Leading the way will be hard-throwing lefty Adam Conley, WSU's Friday-night starter this year.
Conley, who was 6-7 with a 3.50 ERA and 83 strikeouts in 108 innings, intrigues scouts with his low- to mid-90s fastball. Baseball America considered him one of the top 30 prospects in the country as recently as January, and although his performance dipped a bit as the season went on, he's still going to be a hot commodity. Much like 7-footers in basketball, live-armed lefties don't grow on trees.
To get a full read on Conley's draft prospects, we dialed up Jason Churchill of ESPN.com's MLB Draft Blog and ProspectInsider.com for a podcast interview. He's scouted Conley earlier this year, writing this at Prospect Insider:
Conley's slider is at best a 40 on the 20-80 scouting scale but he's usually 90-94 and has hit 97 early in starts this spring. He'll go in the first five rounds because of the velocity, but he might be a reliever, limiting his upside.
We asked Churchill to expand on his thoughts in the podcast. Here's a sneak preview:
He does bring velocity to the table, and with a left-hander, that's something you don't see a lot. If you look into the big leagues, and you think about the rotations, there's not a lot of starting pitchers that are left handed that throw 92, 93, 94 miles an hour. We've seen a little bit of an infusion of that lately with the David Price's of the world, but there's still not a lot of it. It's still rare. Throwing 92-95 miles an hour as a starter, which is generally where Conley's been, you're going to catch scouts' eyes, and he's certainly done that.
You'll have to listen to the podcast to get the full breakdown, including what round he's likely to be drafted in. Churchill also had some thoughts on what righty Chad Arnold's struggles this year have done to his draft stock -- he was the Cougars' top pitcher and a
fifth 18th-round pick* a year ago but couldn't reach terms on a contract, so he returned to school, only to suffer an elbow injury -- and whether power hitting first baseman Taylor Ard should return to school. (His answer to the latter question may surprise you.)
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