Dallas Keuchel, anyone? He may not have the profile of throwing at a school like Arkansas, but Nick Tropeano definitely feels a lot like Keuchel in terms of how quickly he could move through the system.
I mentioned in my review of Springer that he felt like a Moneyball pick, since he had tools that were in short supply but big demand, had some polish because he played in college but may fall with teams fixating on his flaws. I think Tropeano is an even bigger example of the philosophy Billy Beane laid out in that book.
Pitching is as much an art as a science. Some guys have it and some guys have the tools, but won't ever put it together. Tropeano gets it done no matter where he's at. His fastball is not special, but his changeup is. He's got a great makeup and already understands how to pitch at a high level.
He's succeeded in the NCAAs. He's succeeded on the Cape. He's succeeded as the No.1 starter for his team this season. I like that the Astros are betting on him to continue that success in the pros and can't wait to see if his makeup trumps somewhat ordinary stuff.
Any time you hear 86 MPH fastball, there's a pretty low floor. If he can't keep hitters honest, he won't get past Lancaster or Corpus. He also isn't a good bet to stick as a reliever with that stuff, though his fastball might play up a bit coming out of the bullpen. If that's the case, he might turn into a Brandon Lyon-type reliever.
Again, these comps are entirely to give you a frame of reference and not to say this kid will end up with Nolan Ryan's career. I'd throw out the Greg Maddux comp, just to bait Clack, but I'll be nice. Instead, I'll look at a couple of lefties from Billy Beane's stable in Barry Zito and Mark Mulder. Neither had great fastballs, but they were able to get guys out at a high rate and had good pitching instincts. Tropeano doesn't have the built-in advantage for his fastball of being left-handed, but I think his ceiling is somewhere in there, as a third or fourth starter who might play up for a year or two at the height of his powers.
Will the Astros sign him?
I'm betting yes. He is a junior, so he could technically go back to school for another year, but I doubt he gets drafted this highly again next season. So, for now, I expect him to sign and get sent to Tri-City, where he'll lead that team to another championship. Put it on the boAAARD, YES!
Bibliography (Scouting Reports and video)
Below the jump
Tropeano's statistics are better than his pure stuff, and he uses pitching savvy and competitiveness to get hitters out. His fastball sits at 86-90 mph and touches 92, and he relies heavily on his secondary stuff. He has arguably the best changeup in the college ranks, a plus pitch that he'll throw in any count, and a hard slider. He has worked on a sinker. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Tropeano has a prototypical pitcher's body and is an innings-eater, but if he doesn't boost his upper-80s fastball he'll need to have above-average command throughout his career to advance.