Draft pick Scheppers a risky choice
Pitcher's live fastball, high upside muted by recent injury
PITTSBURGH -- Drafting Fresno State pitcher Tanner Scheppers is a bit of a gamble, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington admitted.
After all, the big 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander, whom the Pirates selected with their second-round pick, was reported in May to have a stress fracture in his right shoulder. But a second opinion confirmed that Scheppers only had some rotator cuff and labrum damage, Huntington said.
"If you were to see MRIs on 20 starting pitchers, you're going to find a similar wear and tear on most shoulders," the Pirates' first-year GM said. "In Tanner's situation, it's a relatively fresh arm in scouting terms."
Scheppers, who was originally recruited as a shortstop, made only 12 pitching appearances as a freshman. The next year, he pitched in 25 games with 15 starts. And this year as a junior, Scheppers dominated with an 8-2 record, 2.93 ERA and a Western Athletic Conference-record 109 strikeouts.
However, Scheppers hasn't pitched since May 4 and has had to watch from the dugout as his Bulldog teammates have made their way to the NCAA Super Regional.
One of the first steps for the Pirates is to get Scheppers into Pittsburgh and have medical director Dr. Patrick DeMeo examine him. However, the Pirates cannot control Scheppers' rehabilitation or return-to-pitch process until he signs.
"But we can be very involved," Huntington said.
If Scheppers regresses medically or the Pirates are unable to sign him, Huntington and his staff have a good fall back. They will be given the third pick of the second round in next year's First-Year Player Draft.
"The opportunity cost is losing the players available to us in the second round that we didn't draft, but it we felt it was a worthwhile risk with a safety net," Huntington said.
One of those risks is Scheppers' fastball, which can reach anywhere from the mid to upper 90s. Some mock Drafts had Scheppers taken within the first 10 picks, but he fell into the second round because of his shoulder troubles.
"He is physical," Huntington said. "We've seen him in the mid-90s. We've seen a quality breaking ball from him [and] the makings of the a third and fourth pitch. So for us, it was an intriguing pick. We think he can be a big league starting pitcher."
In other Draft news, the Pirates have agreed to terms on three of their selections: their 11th-round pick, outfielder David Rubinstein of Appalachian State University, their 35th-round pick, left-hander Tyler Cox of Illinois State University and their 36th-round pick, outfielder Kyle Morgan of the University of San Francisco.
Todd Krise is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.