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Checking up on last year's top pick Hayden Simpson

With the draft coming up on Monday, it's a good time to check on how last year's surprise first round pick, Hayden Simpson, is faring so far.  Simpson, you may remember, did not show up on anybody's mock draft and I was as surprised as anyone when I heard his name called.

Hayden Simpson Card.jpg

 

Despite the befuddlement of draft followers across the country, Simpson wasn't a pick that came out of nowhere.   There were media outlets claiming that he should have been picked in the 5th round or even later.  Not so.  Simpson projected as a 2nd or 3rd rounder on most boards, and at least three teams-- the Cubs, Angels, and Rays, had him pegged as a first rounder.

The teams who liked Simpson saw him as a Roy Oswalt type.  A little undersized but good stuff and good makeup.  He dominated Division II hitters to the tune of a 35-2 record in his career.  In his last season at Southern Arkansaas he struck out 131 batters in just 99 innings.  But enough about the past, how has he pitched since joining the Cubs?

First off, it must be said that Simpson didn't get a chance to get his feet wet last season in short season ball like most draftees because of a bout with mono.  This season has been his first experience with pro hitters.  The Cubs showed confidence in Simpson and started him at full-season ball, Class A Peoria.  That's a pretty big jump from Division II ball and Simpson has been trying to make the adjustment.

The result has been that Simpson has had an up and down season thus far.   He has 11 starts in which he's pitched 40.2 innings.  He has an ERA of 5.06 and has given up just over a hit per inning at 46.  His control has been average, walking just a shade under 4 batters per 9 innings while striking out a very solid 8.19 batters.  It's that last number that is the most encouraging.  Simpson may not be dominating, but he is still making more experienced batters swing and miss regularly.  If he can learn the nuances of pitching and refine his control a bit more, the hope is that he'll show a little more consistency as the year goes on.

It's too early to know if the Cubs were right and most other teams are wrong when it comes to Simpson.  He has had flashes of brilliance in his first pro season but has struggled more than you would like from a first rounder.  Because he didn't get to pitch at all last season, I'm interested to see how Simpson performs in the 2nd half as he adjusts to professional hitters.  If he finishes strong this year, it will bode well for Simpson's chances to live up to the Cubs' expectations when they drafted him. 

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  • Awesome, I remember asking about him with your 1st draft preview, good update.

    How would you rate each of his pitches individualy? And do you believe his command will improve, perhaps dramatically? How was it in college?

    -apprecitae it

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I aim to please!

    The Cubs saw him throw 94-97 mph when they scouted him, but most think he'll settle in at around 92-93 mph. It's an above average pitch but he'll need to add movement on it if it's going to be an out pitch. No better person to teach him that than Greg Maddux...similar size and velocity. The other thing he has to learn is to keep that fastball down. It's a good pitch, but he's not going to get away throwing letter high fastballs the way he did as an amateur. The pros can and will hit that even at the lower levels.

    He has one of those old-fashioned knee buckling curves that looks like it's going to hit you in the head and then somehow falls in the strike zone. That pitch can be tough to command, though -- so we'll see if he stays with it. Obviously it would be great if he could.

    He's got a hard slider that he throws in the low 80s and it has late break. It definitely can be a strikeout pitch if he can command it well.

    Then there's the change which is the furthest behind as it is with most young pitchers, but it shows promise and should turn into at least major league average.

    He also shows good command and control with all his pitches. He is also a great athlete, which means he should be able to repeat his motion -- a key for showing consistent command.

    The bottom line is that he has 4 pitches which, combined with his good control/command has a chance to be major league average or better. That profiles as a #2 type starter if it all comes together.

  • Also, assuming he can make it, how far away do you think he is? Being from divison II, factoring in his late start after missing last summer, and knowing he's taking time to adjust to A ball, I would guess he'd be a prospect for the '14 season.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    I can say the Cubs like to fast track their best prospects. The Cubs selected P Trey McNutt out of a community college and he adapted very quickly -- though he did get that half season head start that Simpson did not. I'd give him a half a season. If he starts stringing good starts together in the second half, it wouldn't shock me to see him move up a level to high Class A Daytona. If that happens we could see him around late 2013.

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