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The Draft: Kent State LHP Andrew Chafin.

 

   We’ve toured the country in search of the player the Reds will select with the 27th overall pick in the MLB Draft June 6, so let’s stick closer to home this time and take a look at Kent State LHP Andrew Chafin.

   John Sickels of minorleagueball.com predicts Chafin to be Cincinnati’s first-round selection. The rumor mill is hot and heavy with rumblings that the Reds are high on the Golden Flashes star.



   Chafin (6-foot-2, 210 pounds) has extra leverage because he is a red-shirt sophomore. Tommy John surgery cost Chafin the entire 2010 season after a stellar 2009 when he was named Mid-American Conference freshman of the year. As a freshman, Chafin was a reliever and went 4-1 with a 1.26 ERA and eight saves. Chafin struck out 55 and walked 16 in 35 2/3 innings as foes batted .200. His performance led scouts in droves to follow him.

   The native of Wakeman, Ohio, has been even better in 2011, returning to a starting role and going 7-1 with a 1.90 ERA. In 80 1/3 innings, Chafin has struck out 97, walked 21, allowed 55 hits and thrown two shutouts. Opponents have batted a mere .193. Chafin excelled as a starter, but developed a tired arm nine games into the season and spent a short and successful stint in the bullpen before returning to the rotation. He’ll start the Flashes’ NCAA Tournament opener against Texas State.

   Many scouts think Chafin could be one of the quickest, if not the quickest, players from the 2011 draft to reach the majors if used as a reliever. Most, though, believe his future is as a starter. Baseball America reports that Chafin has the upside of a No. 2 starter or a premier closer. BA’s Conor Glassey projects him as a reliever.

   Chafin (21 this month) displays excellent command of his fastball to both sides of the plate. He throws between 90 and 95 m.p.h. It’s his knockout 83 m.p.h. slider, however, that has scouts excited. The pitch rates a 70 on the 20 to 80 scale. The bottom drops out of the slider, which at times appears unhitttable.

   While rehabbing from TJ surgery, Chafin wasn’t permitted to throw a breaking ball, allowing him time to develop his changeup, which already approaches being average.

   Chafin, who attended Collins Western Reserve High School, is known for strong makeup and mound presence. He isn’t easily rattled and throws strikes, as evidenced by his first performance upon returning from surgery. In an exhibition game against a Canadian team, with 30 MLB scouts in attendance, Chafin threw his first eight pitches for strikes and all were at least 94 m.p.h.

   Chafin has several strong performances this season. He allowed just one hit and struck out 10 in seven innings against Louisville. Chafin was impressive in wins over Winthrop, Coastal Carolina and several MAC foes. He whiffed 15, walked none and allowed just four hits in a 1-0 shutout of Toledo. Chafin has pitched well in cold, windy, wet conditions this spring and has struck out 11 or more hitters four times. His lone loss was a 5-3 setback against Houston when he allowed six hits, walked three and struck out eight in five innings.

   KSU coach Scott Stricklin calls Chafin “the best pitcher I’ve ever had.”  Stricklin has coached at Kent State for seven years and was an assistant at Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt before that.

   Chafin, a technology major, began the season ranked by BA as the 22nd-best prospect available. He was 47th by midseason when the tired arm situation developed, but has rallied to a current ranking of 38. In the minds of many scouts, Chafin projects firmly into the back of the first round or early supplemental round.

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