If Tanner Bushue had gone to college, he might have ended up like Alex Wimmers. If you scroll down after the jump, you'll see a video of why Wimmers' curve ball is so highly regarded. That's a sick pitch. The question is whether he has anything else to offer with his one breaking pitch.
Scouts and pundits have leapt to the Mike Leake comparisons, because they think Wimmers will be ready quickly. As in next year quickly. But, as Keith Law points out, they're different players. Wimmers probably has a higher floor but a lower ceiling. If Wimmers were a lefty, he'd be drafted in the Top 10. That's how his stuff profiles, as a command guy without overpowering stuff. I can name plenty of lefties with that description (Wandy, Jamie Moyer, etc.), but few right-handers fit that bill. The radar guns are clocking his fastball at 88-91 now, when he's pitching once a week instead of every five days. That's why the fastball is his biggest liability. He can't afford to lose much more velocity and be successful in the majors.
There's also the matter of where he went to college. While it would matter that he went to Ohio State in most sports, baseball is not one of them. The Big 10 was a veritable wasteland of baseball talent, for whatever reason (I'd blame the cold weather). Wimmers dominated this season, but he did it against mediocre competition. It leaves us hard-pressed to project him based on that.
As I said, his floor is pretty high. He's already got two pitches which are close to big-league ready in his curve and his changeup. Once he gets used to pitching on a five-day schedule, he's a good candidate for the back end of a rotation. The problem is he's not got much more potential that that, if his fastball doesn't improve. Without a fastball to keep hiters honest, they'll sit on the curve and won't chase the change. Worst case for Wimmers is that he washes out as a starter due to his fastball problems and ends up as a reliever, but not as a closer/setup man. As Brian Moehler.
Unless he can magically add 5 MPH to his fastball, I don't see him making a run at the top side of a big-league rotation. That leaves his ceiling as a No. 4 starter, which is nice. It could certainly help a pitching-starved team like Cincinnati or Arizona. It won't, however, help a deeper team. Plus, Wimmers would need a Wandy Rodriguez-type season to be an ace, and we have seen how the followup to those performances go. So, No. 4 starter it is.
Will the Astros pick him? If so, where?
Wimmers would quickly become the second-most polished pitching prospect behind Jordan Lyles and he'd join Douglas Arguello, Fernando Abad and Polin Trinidad in the "can't throw hard but am a good pitcher" category. The Astros seem to have a lot of those guys, but they were all drafted/signed by another regime. I'm not confident this new Astros setup is interested in guys like this. Specifically, I think the fact that he's coming out of college means he's not separated quite as much from the Whitston's and the Covey's. Plus, it looks like he'll be gone before No. 19 and there is no way the Astros take him at No. 8.
Where is he projected to go right now?
Keith Law has him at No. 21 to the Twins.
Andy Seiler has him at No. 15 to the Rangers.
Deep Leagues has him at No. 18 to the Angels
Jonathan Mayo has him at No. 13 to the White Sox.
Perfect Game USA has him at No. 15 to the Rangers.
Baseball America has him at No. 21 to the Twins.
Frankie Piliere has him at No. 14 to the Brewers.
Kevin Goldstein has him at No. 16 to the Cubs.
John Sickels has him at No. 11 to the Blue Jays.
Bibliography (Scouting Reports and video)
Below the jump.
Alex Wimmers, RHP, Ohio State (via 5ToolTalk)
Wimmers is the closest thing to a Mike Leake this draft class has, although he's not the athlete that Leake is and hasn't pitched in a major baseball conference as Leake did. Wimmers does have a chance to end up with two plus offspeed pitches in his curve and change, and that could very well be enough to offset a grade-45 fastball.
Wimmers will pitch at 88-91 most weeks, maybe showing a few 92s, but he's slight of build, and he's not likely to keep that velocity when he's throwing every fifth day instead of every seventh. At 91, the fastball flattens out, but I've seen some tail on the pitch at 88. His curveball was his out pitch on the Cape last summer, 73-75, sharp with a late downward break, but his changeup has improved dramatically this spring, 77-79 with some downward action of its own. He comes from a slot just over ¾ and takes a long stride, generating good arm speed but still no more than average velocity.
There's some question whether he'll hold up as a starter, but I think average fastball/two plus pitches/control is a starter, until his performance proves otherwise.
Wimmers has a strong and athletic frame. While he’s only average in height, he has fairly broad shoulders, a developed core and a strong lower body. There is a little projection left in him, as he could stand to gain some arm strength to increase durability throughout the game and season.
Wimmers throws out of a true three-quarters arm slot, and starts his motion tall and using a quick and high leg kick before entering his delivery. The high leg kick is effective in building momentum to the plate, but he doesn't always balance over the rubber, leading to inconsistencies in his timing and variance in his release. This, in turn, can affect his control and command of his pitches. Moving out of his leg kick, Wimmers flies open with his glove, which can also detrimentally affect his control. He circles the baseball down below his waist before bringing his arm up, creating extra deception. During the arm swing, his glove-side elbow rises up above his shoulder, creating extra stress on the UCL of the non-throwing arm. He strides sideways towards the target, maximizing the force with which the hips pull the shoulders around. Upon foot strike, landing properly with his glove-side knee bent, his arm is in good shape -- parallel to the ground and even or slightly below the pitching arm-side shoulder. Wimmers keeps his shoulders back, creating good scapular load and allowing his hips to rotate through first. He incorporates his trunk well, getting good drive off the rubber. He concludes with his upper-body hunched over, but his pitching arm ends almost touching the ground, which shows remarkable follow-through. He isn’t put in the greatest fielding position by doing so because he finishes towards first base, but hasn’t appeared to have problems reacting to balls hit back up the middle.
Fastball - Wimmers currently sits in the upper-80’s to low-90’s with his fastball, with a little room to add velocity as he increases arm strength and improves his mechanics. The pitch has good arm-side run and average command that fluctuates when he struggles to find a proper release point.
Curveball - Wimmers owns one of the finest curveballs in the draft. He throws the pitch in the mid-70’s with plus 11-5 movement on hitters. With improved mechanics, it could be a true Major League out pitch.
Change-up - Wimmers also throws