I really, really like this pick. Just looking at Armstrong's athleticism alone sold me. Add in a nice delivery and I can see why the Astros scouts liked him.
There's a reason I included a link to his back flip video and that crazy diving play at first base that he made. This guy is a flat-out player. He's a phenomenal athlete, which this scouting group has put a premium on finding. Getting guys like this into the system, though we all groan at hearing another, "Athletic guy who many not hit much,"-type comments, is crucial to rebuilding the perception of this being a good farm team.
But, we're not in the business of worrying about perception around here. We want results. Why should the Astros take a guy like Armstrong who has injury concerns this season? Should they try to sign him?
Yes and yes. If you look at the video of his delivery, it's very free and very easy. I didn't have enough footage of him to know how repeatable it is throughout a game, but it looks like he has an easy enough time hitting the same spots when he's pitching from the windup.
The problem, to me, comes when he pitches from the stretch. That easy delivery that landed so effortlessly in a good fielding position was gone, replaced by a high-effort delivery that made him fall off to the first base side pretty heavily. He had some of that in the windup, but it was much more pronounced from the stretch.
That seems like the bigger risk for injury right there, but that's fixable, I think. It's also a product of why Armstrong is able to generate such great velocity. For a tall guy, he uses that lower body well to drive through the pitch and generate good velocity on his fastball.
I see his floor being pretty high for a guy taken in the third round. If he can't hold up as a starter (which I doubt with that body), he'd be a perfect candidate to be a lock down closer. I wouldn't shift him there until absolutely necessary, but he's got two pitches now that would work there and using him for shorter stints may make his fastball even more effective.
At his best, he'd be a staff workhorse, putting up 200 innings of good, quality outings. He's got the frame to hold up to it and should be able to strike guys out with his velocity and movement. That's pretty valuable stuff, which means he has the potential to be a staff anchor down the road.
Will thesign him?
Here's the hardest question. In a normal year, there's no way that Armstrong lasts to the third round. In a normal year, he's gone in the supplemental round, even with the injuries he suffered this season. There is just so much depth in this draft that teams didn't have to take risks early. Unfortunately for the Astros, that also means that Armstrong doesn't have to take that same risk by signing for less than he could get in the first round next season. With the way that draft class is shaping up, if Armstrong came back and lit it up like he did his first two seasons at Vandy, he'd easily be a top 10 pick.
Bibliography (Scouting Reports and video)
Below the jump
He’s never been a guy to draw attention to himself. Obviously his old man pitched in the big leagues, and obviously, the kid throws hard. But more than once, I’ve caught this guy running poles or lifting or riding the bike at 4 pm in Wareham when nobody is watching. I like talented players who don’t feel the need to seek the limelight, so long as they compete between the lines. For these reasons, I think Armstrong is going to be a guy with the ability to routinely haul 200 innings and win you close to 15 games or so year in and year out. If that’s not a first-round right-hander, beats me what the heck is.
He hasn't flashed the mid-90s stuff he showed as a freshman, though he has still worked in the low 90s and at his best has shown plenty of stuff against good competition. His best outing came in a loss as he threw four hitless innings against Florida, though he walked four and had more balls (38) than strikes (36). Armstrong throws a curveball and changeup that have their moments, but he's more of a physical athlete than a polished pitcher at this point. Signability will matter a great deal for a player who has been better in the past than he is in 2011.
He will touch 95 but should pitch at 90-94 as a starter, with an above-average changeup. His curveball is very inconsistent and the fact that it moves laterally suggests he's probably better off with a slider. He's cleaned his delivery up substantially since high school, although his arm swing is long enough that he doesn't repeat it as well as he could.
If his back problems aren't significant and he can tighten up the delivery (maybe lengthening his stride a little too), he has mid-rotation potential due to his athleticism, arm strength, and feel for his changeup.