You know what I like? Super Bowl ads.
Wait. Am I allowed to call them Super Bowl ads? Hmm. I think that should be okay. I shouldn't have to call them Big Game ads, right? I know bars and the like aren't allowed to advertise Super Bowl parties; rather, all commerce in America has had to come up with a way of celebrating and advertising our unofficial holiday without referring to it by name, settling on "Big Game" as the workaround of choice. I'm not really advertising anything here, though, so that should be fine, no?
Anyway, you know what I like? Super Bowl commercials. They're awesome. It's pretty much the only good thing about the game, really; as a very lukewarm Ram fan at the best of times (the only two things I like about the team currently are watching Robert Quinn do awful things to offensive tackles and how much Jeff Fisher looks like Jimmy "Mouth of the South" Hart, which never fails to make me laugh), I haven't had a rooting interest in the NFL playoffs in years, and the Super Bowl is basically the Disneyland version of football anyway, sanitized and oversold and just shitty in its own special way. But the ads, oh, those are so wonderful.
You know what I don't like? Companies rolling out their Super Bowl -- ahem, Big Game -- ads before said Big Game arrives. That's bullshit. It's not a Super Bowl ad unless it debuts during the Super Bowl. Period. Stop it, corporate America. If you want me to buy in to this artificial construct of agreed-upon manufactured interest in seeing how you plan on selling me your product in the biggest, most expensive, most vulgar way possible every year, then you can't spoil the surprise ahead of time. If your mom came to you on December 16th and told you you can open your Christmas presents, but have to then rewrap them and act excited and surprised when Christmas actually comes, you're not going to much care about Christmas.
No more early showings of Super Bowl ads before Youtube videos, corporate America. I'm not joking. I'll just stop caring about your commercials.
Anyway, here we are again, another Wednesday draft post at hand. This week, we've got three young men of the high school persuasion, all of whom share the qualities of pitching with their right hands and, well, that's just about it. Hooray for sorting! All are extraordinarily talented, with one standing out even a bit beyond the others, though as was discussed in the comments for last week's preview, said ultra-talented pitcher is also a very, very scary case study for me in everything I abhor mechanically in a pitcher. Onward and upward.
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Coral Springs Christian High School (Florida)
6'2", 185 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
I thought I would just go straight to the most fascinating guy on the list right out of the gate; I hope you don't mind. Touki Toussaint has ridiculous stuff. Capital R Ridiculous. It isn't often you see a pitcher with two pitches you could easily slap a 70 grade on, but that's what we have here. Touki Toussaint is insanely talented, plain and simple.
The two pitches in question are a fastball and a curveball, the former of which has been up in to the upper 90s at showcase events here and there, topping out at 98, and a curve that causes the fastball to buy an overpriced sports car in an attempt to compensate for its own shortcomings.
I can honestly say Toussaint's curveball is a major league quality pitch right now, at least when he's able to command it. It's a huge pitch, slow and soft and devastating, very Adam Wainwright in its sheer gear-stripping majesty. Of course, this is also a high school kid we're talking about here, so the command of said Uncle Charlie comes and goes. Still, I feel comfortable saying Touki's curve is likely the best breaking ball among the prep set in this year's draft class. (Although I feel like Kodi Medeiros's slurve is at least in the neighbourhood, as well as a slider I'll get to a little later.)
The fastball has velocity and movement both, cruising in the 92-94 mph range most of the time and rarely coming in straight. The downside of the heater for Toussaint is the fact he somewhat surprisingly has less control over it than he does his curveball most days. Picture Kerry Wood early career, where hitters were pretty much helpless if he was getting his fastball in and around the zone, but also able to basically just stand there and let him walk himself into a hole when he wasn't.
There's a changeup, too, though it isn't much to write home about at the moment, and a cut fastball that's actually shown some fair promise at times. I think the cutter has more potential than the change right now, but either way you're talking about the third pitch of a kid who virtually never needs to throw a third pitch. Both need plenty of work before they become meaningful parts of the arsenal.
Which brings us to the bad on Touki Toussaint. Actually, the really bad. And that, dear friends, is the delivery. Toussaint's mechanics are, put simply, a disaster. His arm is so late it could be a red baron post. Textbook inverted W arm action and all the scary stuff that comes along with it. Of course, the problem is, those extremely risky mechanics are also probably at least partially responsible for the quality of his stuff, so we run into that dilemma of whether you want to mess with what makes the kid so special. On the one hand, he might stay healthier (probably would, in my opinion), if you changed his delivery, but on the other, what happens to the quality of his stuff? Does he have major league ability with lower-risk mechanics? Does trying to change him ultimately screw up what he's doing? Unfortunately, I don't know the answer to that question. What I do know is as it stands now, I would have zero confidence in Touki Toussaint staying healthy long term.
There's also, of course, the question of command. Toussaint can throw his curveball pretty consistently where he wants, but even so the break is large enough he can't always get it over for a strike, and his fastball command wavers between below average and not there at all on any given day. He's plenty athletic, so you would hope he would improve as he learns to repeat his motion, but there's a chance he just never develops anything resembling great command of his arsenal.
Personally, my optimal solution would be to draft him, put him immediately into the bullpen, and just let him throw those two devastating pitches in short burst until his arm self-destructs. He could be unhittable in a closing role, and would hopefully end up staying healthier longer than with a starter's workload. Think Bobby Jenks at his very best, only rail-thin and Haitian instead of white and, um, filled out, I guess you could say.
Of course, announcing your brand new high school first round draft pick is going to close for the rest of his baseball career is something that will never, ever happen, so treating him in what I see as the optimal way is a complete impossibility. I love the talent of Touki Toussaint, but for my money he's one of the very riskiest bets in this year's class.
Tyler Kolek, RHP, Shepherd High School (Texas)
6'5", 230 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
You know, it's really weird; every single year we come up to the draft, and there's this high school kid from Texas who is right-handed and throws incredibly hard. I don't know for sure that Nolan Ryan donated a bunch of his blood to a secret Texas state government project to produce fireballers, but I'm certainly not going to say he didn't.
Back in 2009, our own Shelby Miller was the guy drawing the Josh Beckett/Nolan Ryan/Kerry Wood comparisons. Meet this year's model: Tyler Kolek.
Kolek is a big, big dude. He's not your typical lanky, projectable fireball type; rather, he's cut from that country-strong farmboy mold, also known as the Cal Eldred. He's a little soft right now, and may always have to watch his weight to a certain extent, but he isn't what one would call fat, either. He's just...big.
The fastball is big, too; Kolek is generally regarded as the hardest thrower of the high school crop this year, and what I've seen of him gives me no cause to argue. He throws like he looks, just a hulking, powerful pitch that is too much for hitters at his level most days. It ranges between 93 and 97, and he's been clocked as high as 99 once or twice. Where Toussaint can reach 98 but varies quite a bit, usually sitting much lower than that, Kolek already has the ability to throw hard pretty much all the time, maintaining that stuff over full games. He generally locates his heater reasonably well also, somewhat surprising for a guy with his velocity at such a young age. His fastball is an easy plus pitch, and while I actually wouldn't put it among the very best in the draft (it's a little straight for my tastes, honestly), it's more than good enough to get the job done.
The rest of Kolek's repertoire is still in its nascency; he throws a curve, a slider, and a changeup, and all of them are a long way from finished products. Of the two breaking balls, the slider is probably the better bet long term, as it's a much tighter offering than his curveball at this point. He throws a change with good arm speed, adding to the deception on the pitch, but it tends to come in pretty flat; the sort of pitch more disciplined hitter will tee off on until it improves.
Kolek's delivery is okay, but not great. He's not a mechanical disaster like Toussaint, but he picks the ball up with his elbow, which I don't care for, and tends to land well over to third base with his plant foot, which I think leads to inconsistent command. He specifically reminds me of someone, but for the life of me I can't put my finger on who it is, and it's at least moderately maddening to watch. Perhaps one of you intrepid readers can figure out who it is Kolek looks like in his windup.
I have to admit, while Kolek is certainly a big-time talent, I personally think he's one of the more overrated players in the draft right now. He's got the pedigree of a hard-throwing Texan, but I don't see his fastball as truly elite at present, and the rest of his arsenal has a long way to go for me. He's blowing away high school kids right now, but I don't see the upside here being as sky high as a lot of others do. Still, big dudes with big fastballs are always in demand come draft day, and Kolek will be no exception, I'm sure.
Luis Ortiz, RHP, Sanger High School (California)
6'2", 190 lbs
So, what's so great about this guy?
Like both of the other players covered here today, Luis Ortiz throws very, very hard. Not quite as hard as the other two, to be quite honest, but if I were betting on one of the three to end up a very good pitcher in the big leagues over the long haul, Ortiz would probably be the guy I would put my hard-earned money on.
Ortiz has a plus two-pitch mix right now, with a fastball that sits comfortably 92-94, with a tad extra in the tank every once in a while, and nice movement down and to the third base side of the plate. His slider a nasty mid-80s offering that tends to make high school hitters look fairly helpless, not to mention making high school catchers look fairly hopeless. It's a take it out behind the middle school and get it pregnant kind of pitch.
He's shown an aptitude for a changeup already, although it's a definite third pitch at this point. I don't know why, but watching him I feel like a splitter would be a nice addition to the repertoire. Could be I just like the pitch. Truthfully, the repertoire for Ortiz puts me a little in mind of Fausto Carmona or Roberto Hernandez or whatever his name is; that hard sinking fastball and wicked slider going in the opposite direction just feels very reminiscent to me of Carmona when he was good. How well Ortiz develops a third pitch will go a long way toward determining what he becomes down the road; his fastball/slider combination is more than good enough to pitch at the back of a bullpen, but I think he should end up closer to the front of a rotation long term.
He's not a projectable beanpole like Toussaint, nor is he huge and country strong like Kolek. Ortiz is somewhere between the two, having dropped 30 pounds a couple years ago in an attempt to get himself into better shape, and the work looks to have paid off. He reminds me physically a little of Carlos Zambrano, and I have a feeling he'll probably always have to watch his weight the way Big Z did, too. Mechanically, he's easily my favourite of the pitchers I've covered here today; his timing is better than either of the other two, and watching him throw doesn't make me want to go and have just in case shoulder surgery the way Toussaint's delivery does.
In short, I really, really like Luis Ortiz. I think there's a very good chance he ends up a number two starter for some team someday, or failing that, a really nasty bullpen arm at the least. Give me a choice of the three guys here, and while Ortiz is the least heralded to this point, he's the guy I'm buying on for the long run.