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.
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.