In baseball, draft picks are anything but a sure thing. The overwhelming majority of draftees never make it to the Bigs. Prospects wash out for a variety of reasons. Some don’t have the mental fortitude to handle the pressure. Others fall victim to injuries and many simply aren’t talented enough.
Perhaps the riskiest players to draft are high school pitchers. In high school, the game is obviously much easier. Pitchers don’t have to pitch; if a guy has a big time fastball, it is all he needs to be dominant. When a kid is throwing 95 on the high school level, he will always be extremely successful. For many, the game is so easy that they are unprepared to face the adversity of professional baseball. It takes a lot more than just talent to pitch successfully in the minors and especially the majors.
Many teams are wary of drafting high school pitchers, and for many years, this was the case with the Rockies. However, the franchise seems to have changed their philosophy. They still prefer college pitchers, but, in the last couple of drafts, they have been more willing to snatch up elite high school talent. In 2009, they took Tyler Matzek out of high school and gave him the largest signing bonus in team history. Last year, they drafted another highly touted high school hurler, Peter Tago, in the supplemental round.
Tago attended Dana Hills High School in Dana Point, CA, where he was one of Southern California’s top prep school pitchers. He first popped onto scouts’ radars as a 14 year old throwing 90. Many thought he would be a first round pick, but he slipped into the supplemental round because he was committed to play at Cal-State Fullerton. Just before the signing deadline in August, the Rockies signed him for nearly $1M.
Because Peter signed so late, he has yet to pitch in the minors. Last year, he pitched in the instructional league and the Rox sent him to their Dominican complex in the fall. Reportedly, he was quite impressive at both places. Baseball America ranked Tago as the Rockies’ number five overall prospect and Baseball Prospectus had him at six. I’d like to see what he can do against professional hitters before I would rank him that high.
Tago isn’t a tall pitcher, standing at 6’1″, but he generates a lot of arm speed. The ball seems to explode out of his hand, often reaching the upper-90s. He delivers from a 3/4 arm slot, which gives him terrific late movement on his fastball. He has a decent breaking pitch that still needs work and he toyed with a change-up in high school.
Because he hasn’t pitched in the minors, Tago will likely start the year in extended Spring Training. If all goes well, he will make his way into the Asheville rotation by May. It’s tough to make a prediction on such an unproven commodity, but Tago’s talent is legitimate. If he can stay healthy and develop his secondary stuff, he will move up quickly.