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2019 Draft Preview No. 9: Rising High School Arms

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St Louis Cardinals v Atlanta Braves Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Morning, everyone. I’m in a hurry this morning, so I’ll try to keep this one brief. We’re only a couple weeks out from the draft at this point, and that means that pretty much like always I’m going to be sprinting to the finish, trying to cram in as many of these scouting reports as I can.

Today we have three high school pitchers, all of whom have seen their respective stocks rise significantly this spring.

Josh Wolf, RHP, St. Thomas High School (TX)

6’2”, 165 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 1 September 2000

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Wolf is a perfect example of the type of jump in stuff you often see in pitchers from age 16 to 18. He was a middling-stuff college bound pitcher this time last year, but since that time he’s started to fill out (though he has room for another 20 pounds easy, maybe more), his delivery has smoothed out a bit, and his stuff has taken off. Now he’s a solid top-two round guy, and likely won’t make it to campus.

Wolf currently features an intimidating one-two punch of a fastball he can push up to 96 but parks more at 92-93 with tremendous movement and a wicked slurve that he doesn’t have full control of yet but is pretty much unhittable at its best. He works from a slightly lower arm slot that gives him extra chase on the fastball, and it has good sinking action when he stays on top of it as well. He popped some big numbers on the radar gun early this spring, and some of that new bump in velocity has stayed, but is hasn’t been entirely consistent. Again, though, we’re talking about an eighteen year old kid who still looks every bit of 165 pounds. He’ll get bigger and stronger still, and while I wouldn’t project his peak velocity to jump any more, the average probably will. As it stands now, though, Wolf at 92 with his movement is more than enough to get hitters out.

The curveball/slurve is an interesting pitch, in that it has outstanding depth and power, with Wolf’s increased arm speed serving to spin the ball very well, but he has basically no idea where the pitch is going as of yet. That’s not really unusual for a high school pitcher, nor is it a problem yet, but it’s definitely notable. Hitters have basically no chance of hitting the breaker when he throws a good one, but his good ones are pretty much always bouncing at the plate. He does get a called third strike on a curve in the video below, but it’s also telegraphed because he eases up on it, comes in a couple miles per hour slower than most of the others, and would not fool a professional hitter, even in the lower minors.

As for a third pitch, Wolf has a changeup, and it’s not bad. It’s not good, but it’s not bad. I think there is a potentially plus change in his future, one that tracks his fastball well, but that’s down the road a ways. For now, he throws a good-for-high-school offspeed pitch that you can see coming, but has pretty good movement and sink.

The raw material with Wolf is very good, as there could be a 60+ fastball, 55-60 slurve, and 55 changeup pitcher in there if everything goes well in his development. His command kind of sucks, but that isn’t all that unusual for a pitcher with exceptional natural movement. He’s going to need some time to dial all that in together so that his pitches move where and how he wants, rather than just going wherever they feel like. I think he could improve his delivery, particularly out front, if he worked on finishing down and through the ball, rather than cutting his delivery off at least some of the time.

via The Prospect Pipeline:

Quinn Priester, RHP, Cary-Grove High School (IL)

6’3”, 200 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 15 May 2000

So, what’s so great about this guy?

If Josh Wolf is a bit off kilter as a movement-first power pitcher with an odd, in-between breaking ball, then Quinn Priester is cut from a much more traditional mold. He’s got a big fastball, up to 97 mph at times, and a power curve that comes in in the low 80s. If Josh Wolf has a little bit of a Jake Peavy kind of vibe, Quinn Priester is closer to Josh Beckett. Priester should really be the one from Texas, in fact; he’s basically an archetype, if only he were from Fort Worth instead of Illinois.

Priester is one of the older high school pitchers in the early part of the drat this year, and sports a little extra polish compared to some of the other arms in his demographic. He’s not a finished product, obviously, but he commands his fastball reasonably well for a high schooler, and can spot the curve either for a strike or put it in the dirt when he wants a late-count swing and miss.

As for the rest of the repertoire, Priester does throw an occasional two-seam fastball, and it’s intriguing. I’ve always been a fan of pitchers who throw both types of fastball, and Priester’s two-seamer has enough movement that it would be worth developing, I think. I don’t believe I’ve seen him throw a changeup other than in warmups, but he at least has some feel for the grip and all. There’s not cutter or anything else to add a little extra wrinkle, and I feel like expanding what he does a bit would be good for Priester’s long-term development.

Personally, I’m a bit lukewarm on Priester. I don’t love the delivery, and while I think the stuff is quite good, I think the fastball also tends to be a bit straight and he hasn’t really shown much feel for incorporating pitches beyond his bread and butter offerings. That said, it’s still premium velocity and a strong breaking ball, so Priester will likely hear his name called sometime in the first round in June.

via Perfect Game Baseball:

Blake Walston, LHP, New Hanover High School (NC)

6’4”, 170 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 28 June 2001

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Of the three pitchers I’m covering here today, Walston is pretty easily the most raw. He might also be my favourite.

Up to this point, Walston has been a very successful two-sport athlete, playing quarterback for his high school team as well as pulling mound duties for the baseball program. Whether he signs out of the draft or heads off to NC State, though, he’ll be strictly a baseball player from now on, and the delta between what he is now and what he could be focusing on one sport as he grows is why Walston is creating a decent amount of buzz this spring.

Here’s the thing about Blake Walston: he is seventeen years old, will not turn eighteen until almost a month after the draft, could easily be 30+ pounds heavier at maturity than he is now, and will show four distinct pitches at times. Now, I will not tell you he actually throws four pitches; he basically throws fastball-curve in games, mixing in the occasional changeup. However, if you catch him on the right day, you might see a fastball, slider, curve, and changeup, all of which have a chance to be at least average pitches down the road.

Walston’s fastball generally sits around 90-91, and he’s got both some movement on the pitch and a little funk in his delivery, so it plays a little better than that raw velocity. There’s a little more oomph in the tank when he needs it, as well, as he can push the heater to 93 or 94, but big velocity is not really his calling card at this point in time. The velocity is also inconsistent, as there are days when he’ll come out with a much messier delivery, get offline to the plate, and struggle to find his stuff. That’s not uncommon with two-sport athletes; the lack of time dedicated to one specific sport tends to leave those players a bit behind their more advanced single-sport peers. (There are benefits to playing multiple sports, though, I believe, which long term outweigh that downside.)

Beyond the fastball, Walston’s curve is his most polished present pitch, a big low-70s bender he can locate pretty well but could use a little more power behind it. For my money, though, his slider is going to end up his better breaking ball down the road, and the changeup might be the best pitch in his arsenal. Nothing Walston throws right now is particularly polished, and his command is very much that of a two-sport athlete who brings tons of athleticism but not a ton of experience to the mound. Still, if you’re dreaming on a guy who could do it all down the road a ways when he fills out and focuses on pitching, it’s hard to beat what Walston brings to the table. He would be a fantastic second round pick for an organisation with a history of developing pitchers.

via WWAY News: