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2019 Draft Preview No. 7 — More College Pitching

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Two college performers and one true wild card.

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

Isaiah Campbell, Drew Parrish, Seth Johnson

Happy Mother’s Day to any and all mothers reading this. Unless you’re one of those mothers who, like, drowned their kids or something; in that case, I feel like you probably forfeit your good wishes for this holiday. But all the mothers not in that specific situation, have a great Mother’s Day.

Here are some draftable kids whose own mothers are, I would assume, proud of them.

Isaiah Campbell, RHP, University of Arkansas

6’4”, 225 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 15 August 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Isaiah Campbell has had a bit of a rocky road to reach this point, and to have put his name at least in the conversation of a potential first-round draft pick. Personally, I feel like he falls a little short of that; he feels more like a mid-second rounder to me, but I could be wrong. College performers, particularly pitchers, always seem to push up a little higher come draft day, though, so it isn’t as if seeing Campbell in the top 30 instead of the top 50 is really that hard to imagine.

This spring has actually been Campbell’s fourth pitching for the Razorbacks, as he had to take a medical redshirt his sophomore season when bone spurs in his pitching elbow led to him missing the entire 2017 campaign. He was draft eligible last June as one of the youngest college pitchers in the draft, but wasn’t selected until after the 20th round. And so, he headed back to school, pitched better this spring than he ever has before, and is pushing himself up draft boards as a solid performer cut from the Lance Lynn mold.

The stuff for Campbell is solid, but not spectacular. He works around 93 with his fastball, will push 95 a few times an outing, and mostly puts the pitch where he wants it. He’s a big dude and works almost over the top, so the fastball has good plane on it a la Michael Wacha. He has added either a splitter or a split change this spring, and it’s pretty good. I could see a 50 on the pitch, and maybe it plays up a bit because he works from the same arm slot.

The breaking ball is where I have an issue with Campbell. He throws both a curveball and a slider, and I have problems with both pitches. The curveball would seem to fit his high arm slot better, and considering how he sits down on his back leg and really brings everything over into his delivery he just feels like a curveball pitcher to me. But the curve, sad to say, is not very good. It’s lazy. Big drop, but no real power. Too soft. He can drop it in the zone to steal a strike now and again, but the pitch is going to get crushed in pro ball, I think. The slider, on the other hand, has better power and spin, with a short, tight break, but he often drops his arm slot to throw it. Or, at least, it looks to me like he’s dropping his arm. He’s doing something that makes it so I can spot the slider every time he throws it, and if I can see it, professional hitters and coaches are absolutely going to see it.

I don’t know which breaker would be better for Campbell to work on; the curve comes out of his hand closer to his fastball, but the slider is actually a better pitch. A pro coaching staff is going to have to help him make that decision, and it will probably go a long way toward determining how his future turns out. Regardless, Campbell has a solid 55-60 grade fastball, fills up the strike zone with ruthless aggression, and at least a couple offspeed options to work with. The elbow issues are worrisome, certainly, as bone spurs often indicate the joint is compromised in some way, but Campbell has been healthy each of the past two seasons, and this year he’s performing at an elite level in the SEC. This is exactly the sort of pitcher the Cardinals used to make their money on in the early rounds of the draft, and while they’ve gone for a more athletic, often high-ceiling oriented strategy the past couple years, Isaiah Campbell would slot in to the pitching pipeline immediately in much the same way Luke Weaver or Dakota Hudson did upon being drafted.

via 2080 Baseball:

Drew Parrish, LHP, Florida State

5’11”, 180 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 8 December 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Speaking of college performers that resemble other pitchers the Cardinals have had success picking in the past, Drew Parrish has a bit of both Marco Gonzales and Austin Gomber in him. He’s an undersized lefty without premium stuff but plus athleticism who has seen success pitching backward for a premium program much like Gonzales, but whereas the Gonzaga product earned his draft day bonus with a changeup so deceptive it looked like a magic trick at times, Parrish’s go-to pitch is a big, looping curveball hitters have a tough time waiting on.

If this scouting report had been written at this time last year, Parrish would almost certainly have been a lock for the first round, as he was absolutely dominant in his sophomore season. A 2.52 ERA and a near-4:1 strikeout to walk ratio in the ACC will tend to grab some attention, and Parrish’s 128 Ks in 107 innings showed what kind of swing and miss punch he packed into his game. Unfortunately for Parrish, this scouting report is being written in 2019, he will be drafted in 2019, and what he did in 2018 has had time to settle behind the curtain of an up and down junior season that has barely resembled his brilliance of a year ago.

To his credit, Parrish is currently pitching as well as he ever has right now, and has turned his season around over the past about six weeks. However, those early season struggles still happened, and I think Parrish would be a good second round target. If he’s still hanging around in the third, I would jump at the chance to snag him. But the first round? I feel there are more premium arms in this draft, not to mention a remarkable amount of hitting talent, that I would take ten times out of ten over Parrish that early.

Parrish’s best pitch, as I mentioned, is his curveball, and he leans heavily on the pitch. He’ll add and subtract from the pitch, as well, and is perfectly comfortable throwing it in any count for a strike. He would seem to me to be an ideal candidate for one of these teams preaching an offspeed-heavy approach to their pitchers, as he can legitimately pitch off the curve, utilising his fastball as a secondary weapon or at the very least an equal option to the curveball.

As for the fastball itself, Parrish doesn’t have elite velocity, working around 90-91, but the pitch is a little sneaky, both because he has a little bit of deception in his delivery and because he throws the heater seldom enough hitters end up looking offspeed and trying (usually failing), to catch up when he goes to the fastball. His changeup is a functional pitch, occasionally a little better, but could use some work still. He sells it well, but the pitch comes in too flat too often, making me think he should maybe experiment with different grips to see if he could generate a little more movement, either horizontal or vertical.

Parrish is actually striking out batters at the highest rate of his career this spring, but has been more hittable — and much more vulnerable to the home run — at the same time. At the moment, though, he seems to have figured something out from his earlier struggles, and has been on fire since early April. As I said, the first round is too early for him, I think, but there’s a chance he could be one of the fastest movers from this year’s draft, and grabbing him with a second round pick wouldn’t seem at all out of the question to me. The stuff isn’t huge, but Parrish still manages to get a lot of swings and misses by being smart and working to his strengths.

via Gregory Gerard:

Seth Johnson, RHP, Campbell University

6’1”, 196 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 19 September 1998

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Our first two pitchers today have been cut from a rather traditional sort of cloth. College pitchers are supposed to be the safe picks, the guys who know their craft, who perform, and who should be able to move quickly through a farm system after being drafted. Polish and performance, performance and polish. Isaiah Campbell is a big, physical kid with a nose for locating a solid fastball. Drew Parrish is undersized but wily, a lefty’s lefty, capable of tying hitters into knots with offspeed stuff, fantastic control, and a feel for sequencing.

Seth Johnson is a very, very, very different animal.

Right now, Seth Johnson has nearly as much in common with the draft-day version of Trevor Rosenthal as he does either of the established college performers covered above. He spent two years at a junior college in North Carolina playing shortstop and only occasionally making the odd relief appearance. He transferred to Campbell for the 2018-2019 school year, converted to the mount full time, and now looks like as natural a pitching talent as any you’re going to find in this or pretty much any other draft class.

Watching Seth Johnson pitch is like watching a fish swim. His delivery is simple, unhurried, and the ball comes out of his hand like a bullet. He’s been up to 98 mph with his fastball this spring (though he tends to work more at 93-95), and the pitch has good movement, though not always the same good movement. There’s a little bit of accidental cutter syndrome happening with Johnson occasionally, as he doesn’t seem to have his release entirely ironed out just yet. Most of the time his fastball has a nice little bit of armside run, but every so often he’ll throw one that’s dead straight, and you can see it right out of his hand. More reps will likely solve that issue, and the best path forward is probably to just teach him how to throw a cutter to complement his fastball.

Velocity isn’t all Johnson has going for him, as he’s shown an ability to spin a breaking ball, and has tinkered with both a slider and curve this year. The slider is probably a little ahead of the curve for now, but he could really go either way. He throws a changeup, as well, and it’s not too bad considering how inexperienced Johnson is.

Here’s the thing: Seth Johnson, at this point, is barely a pitcher. His entire career as a pitcher so far consists of a handful of relief innings in junior college and a little over 50 innings this season for Campbell. He’s one of the youngest college players eligible for the draft this year and won’t turn 21 until the middle of September. He is undeniably talented, but has nowhere near the level of experience and polish you would typically be looking for in a college pitcher. That makes his draft position incredibly hard to guess. Some team with a good track record for developing pitchers might very well pop him late in the first round (Cleveland, I’m looking at you), and turn him into an absolute beast. The youth and natural arm talent make him difficult to resist, but whether he would be a good selection at nineteen is a little tougher for me to say. There may not be another pitcher in this draft class with a higher ceiling, but also maybe not another pitcher with a larger gap between floor and ceiling.

via Perfect Game Baseball: