The two youngest arms of the 2012 pitching class were taken with the second and third picks in 2012 as the front office grabbed a pair of high school right-handers
Ryan McNeil, RHP, 3rd Round, Pick #101, Nipomo High School
The fact McNeil had a baseball scholarship to join his brother, Jeff, at Long Beach State didn’t deter the Cubs from taking the 6-foot-3, 210-pounder with their third round pick. He eventually signed on July 3 for a reportedly $425,000 and headed to the Arizona Rookie League, making his pro debut on July 24 against the Indians. Its not surprising the 18-year-old had some nerves allowing six hits and a pair of runs in 2.2 innings in two games. He was able to make adjustments and pitched well his final six games. Pitching on four days rest, McNeal got into a groove issuing only one run in his final 17.1 innings. He yielded 13 hits during that span but gave up nine free passes. In his final game of the season, he silenced the Giants bats for four hitless innings and ended the year with a 1.35 ERA, second best among 2012 draft picks.
McNeil made a name for himself in Nipomo, California, finishing his final two years on the mound for the Titans with a 1.26 ERA with 178 strikeouts in 122.1 innings. He played in the 2011 Area Code Games and was selected as a 2011 AFLAC All-American. He also had individual workouts with Minnesota and St. Louis prior to the draft.
McNeil’s development will likely continue at extended spring training, and depending on his progress, will either pitch for the Cubs in the Arizona Rookie League or the short-season Northwest League with the Boise Hawks. His fastball has been clocked in the low 90s but the youngster is learning pitch location is more important than speed. He also throws a slider and change-up.
Duane Underwood, RHP, 2nd Round, Pick #69, Pope High School
Underwood had plans to head to University of Georgia as a two-way player for the Bulldogs after a successful career at Pope High School but the Cubs used their second round pick and over $1 million signing bonus on the 17-year-old to change his mind. Contract negotiations lasted up until the deadline and by the time 6-foot-2, 205-pounder had signed, the Arizona Rookie League was well underway. After several bullpen sessions, Underwood made his debut on Aug. 5 allowing a homer and four runs while facing five hitters. With three pro outings under his belt, the Marietta native gave Cub fans a possible glimpse of the future with three hitless inning when he faced 10 batters, striking out three while walking one. He ended 2012 with a 2.1 scoreless inning stint against the A’s even through he allowed two hits and two walks. Underwood threw 8.2 innings with a WHIP of 1.50 but a BAA of .206, third lowest for the 2012 pitching class.
Underwood dazzled scouts with a 97 mph fastball at Pope High School and hit .337 with 6 HR, 19 RBI, and 13 SB his senior year. He had a 2.36 ERA with 75 strikeouts. He participated in the 2011 Perfect Game All-American Classic at PETCO Park in San Diego where his fastball was clocked at 96 mph. Some draft experts had Underwood a first-round talent while others felt he could go in the third or fourth round.
According to Kevin Gallo of BigLeagueFutures.net Underwood has top of the rotation stuff and but is very young and needs work. Gallo said Underwood’s fastball has good late tailing action and has shown glimpses of a plus curveball and has a good feel for a change-up. He said you shouldn’t expect to see Underwood at Wrigley until 2016 at the earliest and 2017 is more likely. The 18-year-old is expected to stay in extended spring training and gain experience and may pitch in Boise before the summer is over.
This is the seventh in a series featuring the 17 pitchers the Cubs drafted and signed in 2012. It takes a look at their career before the draft, how they pitched after turning pro, and where they may start 2013. Its also serving as a free look at future subscription only stories that NorthSidersReport will start running soon.
Kevin Gallo, director of scouting for BigLeagueFutures.net, helped contribute to this story. Gallo was recently in Arizona and stopped by Fitch Park for some first hand observations.