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2018 Draft Preview No. 4: A Sinister Buffet

Three college lefties are featured as we continue our draft previews for 2018.

Milwaukee Brewers v St Louis Cardinals - Game Two Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

Potentially unpopular opinion alert: I would like to see the Cardinals go to red jerseys for their away uniforms, rather than the grey on grey. The home whites are classy, the Saturday alternates are actually my favourite (though I prefer Cardinals over St. Louis across the front), and I kind of would like to see those become the standard rather than the white whites, but the road greys to me are just kind of boring. The red jerseys in spring over grey pants look better to me.

Anyhow, what we have here today for your draft entertainment, education, elucidation, and possibly enervation, depending upon what you think of my writing, is a selection of three college lefties, carefully curated and presented. They vary a bit in draft range, from a slam-dunk first-rounder who may pitch his way near the very top to a curveball specialist who’s probably more in the supplemental round, maybe even second round range depending upon one’s view of him. All have their charms, though.

Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State

6’3”, 220 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 12 September 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Pilkington, coming from the same alma mater as the Cards’ supplemental round pick of 2016, Dakota Hudson, has put up some fairly eye-popping numbers in his time as a Bulldog, though he has done it with an assortment of solid offerings and feel for pitching, as opposed to Hudson, who has two potential 70s on his card but very little feel or finesse for the craft.

For Pilkington, he works with a fastball that sits mostly in the low 90s, with a little more in the tank if he needs it, and puts it at the bottom of the zone very consistently. He’s also good at adding to and subtracting from the fastball, it seems, as he will dip down into the high 80s occasionally or push it up to 95, and for the most part that appears deliberate. It’s not a great fastball, with more downward plane than actual sink, but his feel for working with it and solid ability to locate help the pitch play up.

Beyond the fastball, Pilkington features a changeup as his primary offspeed pitch, and it’s solid, probably a present 55 with some potential of improvement even further down the road. Nice fade, decent sink, good arm speed. It’s not a Marco Gonzales or Luke Weaver change, but it’s pretty good. He doesn’t miss in the zone with it, which helps in a big way. His third pitch is a slider that’s a little loose and slurvy, and not in a good way, but still has enough shape to work as a complementary piece to the puzzle. His arm slot is probably more conducive to a slider than curveball, and so if anything I would think he might be better off trying to tighten the slider into more of a cutter than making it bigger and more vertical moving toward a curve.

If Pilkington’s scouting report sounds vaguely boring, it’s because it sort of is. He’s an excellent college performer whose stuff is only average pretty much across the board. He’s physically mature already, with a thick upper body that will bear watching, and is one of the youngest college players in the whole draft this year. So average stuff, good feel for pitching, big frame, young for his class.

If you’re thinking, “Boy, that sounds an awful lot like a Cardinal draft pick to me,” then you have definitely been paying attention. Actually, Pilkington is much more the sort of pitcher the Cardinals seemed to target under Dan Kantrovitz, rather than under Randy Flores, but still, this kind of college performer, potentially moving quickly through a minor league system, would seem to fit many of the things the Redbirds look for in a draft pick.

Personally, I like Pilkington, but I don’t love him. The arm action looks risky to me, and I worry anytime I see a pitcher without a defining skill/trait/pitch to hang his hat on. Still, it’s hard to argue with performnce, and that’s what Konnor Pilkington has on his side.

via Brian Sakowski:

Shane McClanahan, LHP, University of South Florida

6’1”, 175 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 28 April 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

McClanahan already has Tommy John surgery on his docket, having lost his freshman season at USF to an elbow injury, but since returning has shown the kind of premium stuff and ability to miss bats that could have him sitting at or very near the top of the draft come June. While it’s a little tough to imagine a club using a number one overall pick on a pitcher who has already had to have elbow reconstruction, considering what we know about TJ surgeries having a limited lifespan, McClanahan is as talented as any pitcher in the draft this year, and perhaps teams feel confident enough in the surgery, and the techniques used to strengthen and protect elbows which have become more and more commonplace the past handful of years, that he won’t be penalised for past injuries basically at all. It will be an interesting case study, at the very least.

The stuff for McClanahan is undeniable. He features a sailing, twisting, moving fastball at 93-97, and hitters simply have no luck trying to square the pitch up most days. He works from a low arm slot (you’re going to get a lot of Chris Sale comps on McClanahan, just warning you now, even though they physically look nothing alike), and the fastball alone is enough to overmatch most college hitters. His command of the pitch is not pinpoint, but it tends to not matter much when hitters are swinging and missing so often.

He features a pair of offspeed pitches, both of which could end up pluses down the road. The changeup is more advanced right now, and has a ton of horizontal tailing action, though not as much sink as you might like. The slider, meanwhile, comes and goes, but will flash 60 on his best days, with hard tilting action that can backfoot righties quite effectively.

McClanahan is still somewhat raw as a pitcher, but you can dream on the stuff and project him out as pretty much anything you want. The movement and velocity on his fastball makes it potentially elite, and he could end up with two 55+ offspeed pitches when it’s all said and done if things really come together for him. Projecting a pitcher to future ace status is risky, and very rarely works out well. In the case of McClanahan, though, the tools are certainly there. It’s just a matter of how much a team fears the rawness and injury history.

via Jheremy Brown:

Tim Cate, LHP, University of Connecticut

6’0”, 170 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 30 September 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

One word: curveball. Or two words, I suppose, if you wanted to make it “curve ball”, but I’m not sure why you wouldn’t use the single word version, as it seems to have fully infiltrated the vernacular, if not the Oxford proper.

Anyhow, grammatical asides aside, Tim Cate features the best college curveball in this year’s draft, and would have the best curve overall if not for the potential historic hammer of Carter Stewart. He works from almost straight over the top, and that high arm slot gives his curve tremendous drop, a true 12-to-6 move, without a whole lot of lateral action on the ball. When he’s on, Cate’s curveball can be completely untouchable, which is why it’s a little surprising that, overall, he’s actually been more hittable than you might expect from a pitcher with this kind of talent.

His freshman season at UConn, Cate was outstanding. He threw 82 innings, allowed just 55 hits, walked 27, and struck out 101. Those kinds of numbers will get you drafted in the top 15 picks. His sophomore season, though, Cate was not nearly as dominant. He threw 75.2 innings, and while the strikeouts went up (102), he also walked four more hitters in fewer innings, and allowed 78 hits. Still a fine line, but that’s not at all the kind of progression you want to see from a second-year college pitcher.

It’s tough to say why Cate has been hit around more than you might expect, although it’s probably worth pointing out he’s pitched for Team USA each of the past two summers, and the workload between college and national team ball can be grueling. Still, there’s some reason to be concerned about Cate’s results, even if the stuff looks good.

Beyond that amazing curveball, Cate has a solid-average fastball that sits 90-93, and it’s a little better up than down, I think. He’s not very tall, and the pitch tends to be a little flat, though there is some armside run. His changeup is just okay. It’s a little too firm and doesn’t move enough, making me think he could be a potential candidate to switch to a splitter, rather than a traditional changeup.

Cate is a very intriguing talent, a blend of plus stuff and some rough edges, a pitcher who would seem to be in need of tweaking his approach in a few cases. He’s sort of the college version of what we hoped Rob Kaminsky would be, though Kaminsky as an amateur had a touch more velocity than Cate. In my view, Tim Cate needs either a fourth pitch, a cutter or slider or something, to give him an extra look to hitters, or he needs to change the way he utilises what he already has to make him more effective. Working more north and south with the fastball and switching out the straight change for a split would be my personal approach, but then I freely admit to being guilty of thinking basically every pitcher would be better off with a splitter.

Of the three pitchers highlighted here, I think Cate is probably the guy I actually like the best. McClanahan’s stuff and ceiling are tough to beat, but the injury history and high-risk arm action worry me. Cate has a dead simple delivery which looks very low-stress to my eye, and has the stuff for me to believe an organisation that excels at pitcher development could add to his repertoire, adjust his approach, and he could take off. Pick 19 would be too early for Cate, I think, but if he were still to be on the board at 42 — and I think there’s a chance he could be — I would love to hear his name called at that point.

via Baseball America: