RC reports on Daniel Bard...

Daniel Bard is congratulated by teammates after his first victory of the 2006 season.

  • Daniel Bard

    On Sunday afternoon, Daniel Bard took the first step toward putting his lackluster 2005 effort behind him, picking up a victory against Seton Hall. Bard opened the season by going seven strong innings, allowing three earned runs on five hits while striking out five and walking none. RC kept a pitch count for Bard's performance, and 60 of the 81 pitches he threw on the afternoon went for strikes. In fact, Bard went to a three-ball count only once, before retiring the batter on a soft liner to the first baseman.

    For the most part, Bard kept the ball down while working to both sides of the plate, retiring more than twice as many batters on ground balls than fly balls. His mechanics looked pretty flawless, as his delivery is smooth and efficient. He's got a high (but not obnoxious) leg kick, and he gets good drive toward the plate with his legs.

    His primary breaking ball is a hard slurve which he throws from the same arm slot as his fastball (The velocity and delivery is indicative of a slider, but the break is similar to a curve, and RC just isn't certain what he calls it. Actually, he could have been throwing both a curve and a slider, but we didn't note any real variation in velocity. After reviewing our video again, it looks as though he may have mixed in a slower curveball that we missed during the game. In fact, we think the third pitch in the video we've provided may have been such a curve.). It has a late sharp break, and he was throwing it at 81-82 mph. We saw him use it on both sides of the plate, back-dooring lefties and moving it in and out on righties. It's definitely a plus pitch, but like Andrew Miller's slider, we're curious how much effect the raised seams on the ACC balls have on his breaking ball(s).

    Bard's fastball is a very good pitch as well. We saw several with nice tailing action, and he was throwing 92-93 mph all afternoon. In the sixth inning, we saw him hit 94 a couple times, which was the fastest we saw from him, although we didn't have access to a radar gun for his entire outing.

    Bard's other pitch is his changeup, which he didn't seem to use much in the game. It has the tailing movement of a circle change, and we saw him leave it up a few times, once for an RBI triple (394 ft. shot to dead center) off the bat of Seton Hall's best player, Dan McDonald. In fact, McDonald had Bard's number all afternoon, lacing a double to left center in addition to the triple, and scoring two of the three runs against Bard while knocking in the other. Other than McDonald, Bard had a very easy time with the weak Seton Hall lineup.

    RC really likes Bard -- he showed us easy velocity on his fastball in combination with a very nice breaking ball. He's got a good pitcher's build, and he's very athletic. He'll need to add another quality pitch to become a frontline starter, but if he makes some strides with his changeup, he should have everything he needs to do very well as a professional pitcher.

    For more photos of Bard, click here, here, here, and here.

  • We are also pleased to announce that we're ready to unveil our newest feature: RC's Top 10 College Prospect Tracker. Click on the hyperlink or the box on our sidebar to view the page. RC Correspondent Chris Ray has promised to update the stats frequently, so you'll be able to view the progress of the nation's best collegiate talent right here on RC throughout the season.

    Our Top 10 list is below. RC has ranked these players as being the most likely to draw serious attention from the Royals for the first overall selection in the June draft. We believe the Royals will most likely select a pitcher or outfielder, but players like Matt LaPorta, Evan Longoria, and Wes Hodges may prove, with great seasons, to be too good to pass up. There are a few high school players who are likely to draw attention as well, but access to their stats is very limited, so we've decided to focus solely on college players.

    1) Andrew Miller - LHP - University of North Carolina
    2) Max Scherzer - RHP - University of Missouri
    3) Ian Kennedy - RHP - University of Southern California
    4) Drew Stubbs - OF - University of Texas
    5) Evan Longoria - 3B/SS - Long Beach State University
    6) Daniel Bard - RHP - University of North Carolina
    7) Matt LaPorta - 1B - University of Florida
    8) Wes Hodges - 3B - Georgia Tech
    9) Dallas Buck - RHP - Oregon State University
    10) Joba Chamberlain - RHP - University of Nebraska

    Be sure to check out our College Prospect Tracker page frequently for statistics and updates.

  • Monday

    RC reports on Andrew Miller...

    As promised, we are proud to present our scouting report on Andrew Miller. We initially planned to discuss Daniel Bard as well in this post, but we'll give you our take on his first start of the season either tomorrow or Wednesday. Also, a slight snag has caused us to delay the launch of our Top 10 draft prospects feature, but that too will be unveiled in the next couple days.

  • Andrew Miller

    Miller, the pre-season favorite to be selected by the Royals with the first overall pick in the draft this June, began his 2006 campaign with a dominating performance over a very weak Seton Hall squad. Miller tossed six innings, yielding four hits, one walk and no runs while striking out nine. Run support was not a problem, as the game became a laugher in the fifth inning, the second consecutive inning in which the Tar Heels batted around the order (destroying RC's official scorecard in the process).

    Miller left the game with a 13-0 lead, and the final result was a ridiculous 21-2 North Carolina victory. Miller was very efficient with his pitches after the second inning, and he probably could have gone another frame or two if it weren't for the consecutive half hour breaks on the bench in sub-40 degree weather spent watching his team assault Seton Hall's thin pitching corps. In fact, through six innings, Miller only faced two batters over the minimum.

    Mechanically, we liked what we saw from Miller. He's got an easy arm action, and he doesn't seem to have any problem repeating his delivery. The arm angle on his slider is identical to his fastball, and he retains good balance throughout his delivery. One thing we did notice, however, is that Miller doesn't step directly toward home plate on his delivery. Rather, his front foot lands a few degrees to the first base side, and he then rotates his body and whips his arm around that point. It's certainly not the most efficient delivery, but it clearly adds to his deception, and it doesn't seem to affect his control. Here's a photo we took that does a fine job explaining what we're talking about:

    Actually, that photo might make his stride look a little more extreme than it actually is. As you can see in the video we shot behind the plate, it's far less noticeable from a perspective better than the one we had while observing his warmups, but it's still a motion that could put pressure on his arm.

    Stuff-wise, Miller was pretty much as advertised. His fastball velocity wasn't great -- he was at 88-92 mph all afternoon -- but that can probably be largely attributed to the seasonably cold temperature (or by another factor discussed below). He located the fastball well on both sides of the plate, and he used it to set up his other pitches. He also showed a nice changeup (we have to assume it was a change), which had good tailing movement and sat at 81-82 mph. Of course, his money pitch is his slider.

    The nastiness of his slider is hard to describe with words, but "unfair" probably does it justice. Miller used it frequently during the game, and nobody put solid wood (or metal, for that matter) on it all day. The velocity on his slider was 77-78 mph all day, and nobody on the Seton Hall team had any chance against it. The first pitch you see on the video shows you the insane movement on his slider, and the last two strikeouts show the type of futile swings offered at it all afternoon.

    Of course, we did uncover one thing that gives us some cause for concern. Just as we were getting ready to leave, a Tar Heel batter fouled a pitch off in our direction, and RC retrieved the ball. We immediately noticed that the ball felt funny in our hand, and upon closer inspection, we realized the seams on the ball were raised. It came as a bit of a shock to us, because we assumed that all college conferences used a standard ball with the same specifications as a professional ball. When a Tar Heel player came out of the clubhouse to search for foul balls, RC started asking questions, and we learned that all ACC balls have raised seams.

    "The pitchers don't like them," explained the player. "They help breaking balls, but they make fastballs seem very sluggish and knock some velocity off the pitch." Indeed, anyone who has ever pitched knows that raised seams improve movement on breaking balls. We have no idea why the ACC uses those balls, but it definitely makes it harder to evaluate pitchers. Does Miller's slider become a more human pitch when thrown with a standard ball? We have no idea, but it's definitely something to consider, as it just might be a factor. Or it could be nothing.

    Nevertheless, RC came away from the game very high on Andrew Miller. Much is still left to be determined throughout the course of the season, but the Tar Heels probably couldn't be more pleased with Miller's first start of the year, even if it was against a rather pathetic Seton Hall lineup. We'll continue watching him closely throughout the season, and we hope to get another look at him later in the year. For more photos of Miller, click here, here, here, here, and here. And we agree...the mustache HAS to go.
  • Sunday surprise! RC sees both Bard and Miller in NC...

    On a cold Sunday afternoon in Chapel Hill, NC, RC was on hand to see future first rounders Daniel Bard and Andrew Miller mow down an overmatched Seton Hall squad. We arrived at the park expecting to see only Bard, and we were pleasantly surprised when Miller emerged from the dugout after the first game to begin warming up for game two. The Tar Heels prevailed in both games behind the solid performances of both starters, and RC got an excellent look at two of the best amateur pitchers in the country.

    We'll have our scouting reports and video ready later today, but in the meantime, here are some photos we took of Bard and Miller: