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2020 Draft Preview No. 1: Early Favourites, Arms Edition

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The draft is only four months away, everybody!

2019 Major League Baseball Draft Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

Ah, here we are again. It’s draft preview season, children; can you feel it in the air?

I was presented with an interesting conundrum this year, right off the bat, and that was the question of what to do about the annual origin issue bullshit that I usually kick these things off with. See, there is a weird bumper crop this year of draft-eligible sophomores, pretty much all on the pitching side, most of whom were reasonably high-profile names two years ago in the 2018 draft. That does, of course, make it easier to come up with returning names, rather than digging through both follow lists and memory banks to try and recall which of these guys I actually looked at and thought of three years ago, but it also creates the problem of overload, in that multiple players really fit into that category, including a couple guys I really, really like.

Ultimately, I decided to simply jump right into things this year with my favourites, and maybe I’ll circle back to a returning players/origin issues post later on. Maybe not, also. I’ll cover the guys one way or the other in all likelihood; the slightly dumb categorisations I use in these things are basically just a way to a) entertain myself and b) sort players into useful groups when I sit down to pluck out three to write about on a given day.

As always, these first posts are my favourites at this time, and things can change from here on. It’s early February, and while I’ve certainly looked at the players I’ll be writing up in this class between now and June, lots of guys have gotten only cursory glances, and given longer looks I may find things I like much better about them — or things I like less in retrospect about my initial crushes — before the draft itself gets here.

Enough of my prattling. You know how this works by now. Let’s talk about some players.

J.T. Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State

6’2”, 192 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 20th May 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

We start off with one of those draft-eligible sophomore pitchers I was talking about just a minute ago, and pretty comfortably the guy of that group I like most. In fact, Ginn is, at this moment, My Guy in this year’s draft, the way Walker Buehler was in 2015 (smart!), or Rob Kaminsky was in 2013 (less smart!). Ginn was a first round pick of the Dodgers in 2018, but they couldn’t quite get him budgeted in, and so he headed off to Mississippi State. Old for a high school draftee, he will turn 21 just before the draft this year, making him a little younger than the average college junior, but not extremely young.

With Ginn, the stuff is pretty much evident on first viewing. He’s a legit three pitch pitcher, but also only a three pitch pitcher, if that makes sense. He is well rounded without being complicated, and there is a chance those three pitches could make for an overwhelming arsenal down the road.

What Ginn brings is a sinking fastball, a slider, and a changeup, and on a given day any of those three pitches could look like his best offering. The change probably the least often of the three, but it still has its moments, and days. He has a chance for three 60+ grades on the card, in fact. His sinker is a real bowling ball job, sitting 92-95 an bumping 96 a few times an outing. The velocity is good, the movement is great. Hitters just don’t do much with Ginn’s sinker, when they can even get the bat on the ball. It is very interesting right now to see how much baseball is leaning away from the sinker, pushing hard toward high spin four-seam fastballs, but even in this environment Ginn’s sinker is of such quality I can’t see any team really trying to move him off it.

He leans on his slider as his primary putaway pitch, either in or out of the zone, and it’s a nasty weapon regardless. The changeup is Ginn’s least developed, least consistent pitch, but it will still flash 60 grade quality at times. It needs more work than his other two offerings, but the potential — and at least occasionally the results — is definitely there.

What’s really special about Ginn, though, and sets him apart from most other pitchers, for me at least, isn’t the fact he has three really good pitches. It’s his remarkable ability to tunnel all three, and the fact they are virtually indistinguishable coming out of his hand. The release point remains the same, the arm action remains the same, and the effect is incredible. Three pitches all moving in distinct ways that look the same right up until they aren’t.

Ginn’s delivery looks sound to me, although he did have some intermittent soreness in his arm down the stretch this past season, so it isn’t a 100% clean bill of health. Probably my biggest concern is simply that he won’t make it to the Cardinals at 21, even with the potential of an overslot bonus requirement due to him having some extra leverage as a sophomore. If he does, though, I feel like he would basically be a slam dunk for the Cards to draft, essentially a much better version of Dakota Hudson readymade out of the box.

via James Weisser:

Carson Montgomery, RHP, Windermere HS (FL)

6’2”, 200 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 13th August 2002

So, what’s so great about this guy?

The high school pitching crop in this year’s draft class feels, to me, like a pretty thin crop. There are a few standouts, of course, but overall it just feels like a down year for prep pitching. Maybe that will change by the time the draft rolls around, maybe not.

One high school arm I do feel very strongly about, in a positive way specifically, is Carson Montgomery, There’s a kid from Texas who throws harder (because there always is), and a kid from Oregon who throws more pitches and has crazy projection, but of all the high school arms I’ve seen so far from this year’s class, Montgomery is the one who gives me that feeling when I’m watching him, that feeling that it’s going to work out for him. I can’t really explain what that exact feeling is; it’s something like seeing a familiar face or recognising a song from far off by just the bass line.

Anyway, the stuff for Montgomery can be electric at times, as he pushes 95 with his fastball pretty consistently at seventeen years old and adds in a very exciting, if still pretty inconsistent, slurvy breaking ball that could really go either way, but probably ends up a slider if I had to guess. Maybe my favourite pitch of Montgomery’s is actually his changeup, which is nowhere near a finished product, but has dynamic potential over the long haul, I think. It’s got great depth, with splitter type action, dropping almost straight down at times. With above-average movement on his fastball, a chance for two above-average offspeed pitches, and a good feel already for the strike zone, I think Montgomery could be a steal if he’s still on the board toward the end of the first round. The delivery needs some work, as he occasionally loses his balance point and never really gets off his back foot, but that’s really my biggest issue with him right now, and that’s a very minor thing for a pitcher this young. He won’t make it to Florida State, I don’t believe, and I feel a real Dan Haren vibe long term with Montgomery.

via Perfect Game Baseball:

Ian Bedell, RHP, University of Missouri

6’2”, 198 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 5th September 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

This final spot was a tough one for me to fill. There is a lot of quality pitching in this draft class, and several guys in particular I was considering heavily to put in this favourites post. Asa Lacy, the big lefty from Texas A&M, was going to be in this slot for quite a while, but in the end I decided to go a little off the beaten path and pick a guy who won’t be nearly so highly thought of by most, I think, at least not right now. I do, however, think Bedell is going to rise significantly this spring, and may push into late first round or supplemental pick consideration.

The reason Bedell isn’t higher on boards is largely because he’s pitched out of the bullpen his first two seasons at Mizzou, and he struggled as a freshman before taking off in 2019. He’ll start for the Tigers this spring (well, as far as I know, anyway), and I think he’s going to have some real helium as the college season goes on. The leap he made from freshman to sophomore was huge, and he has the stuff and acumen for another of those big jumps, I believe.

Bedell is, admittedly, not a huge stuff guy. He throws both a four- and two-seam fastball, and while both are solid offerings neither one lights up the radar gun the way some other pitchers can. He tops out about 94 with the four-seamer, and works 90-92 with the two-seam. Neither pitch is even close to straight, though, and Bedell is very good at keeping the ball off the barrel. What he lacks in pure stuff he makes up for in variety and smarts, as he throws a cutter, curveball, and changeup to complement his two fastballs. The cutter is solid enough but tends to catch too much of the plate, needing some fine tuning in terms of location. The curve and changeup are both above-average pitches, though, and give Bedell five legitimate pitches he can pull out when he needs to.

What’s interesting is that there are times watching Bedell when it seems like he has entirely too many choices to make, too many pitches to choose from, and he’s just going with a strictly kitchen sink approach. He experiments. He pitches backward. He throws all five of his pitches, oftentimes in a relatively brief relief appearance. Part of the maturation process for Bedell will likely be not dropping pitches, but sorting through them on a given day and figuring out what to emphasise and what to leave on the shelf a bit more. He throws strikes and works with purpose, but still tends to nibble and works harder than he probably needs to at times, simply because that’s how very talented but not fully formed 20 year olds pitch. He really likes his curveball, and goes to it more often than I really think is ideal, even as good as it is.

Bedell doesn’t have one single pitch that makes him unhittable, but he does have a combination of pitches that could get him to the big leagues, and the acumen for the craft that could make him a very good starter when he gets there. As I said, he’s a little under the radar right now, but I think he takes off the spring.

via Erik Carlson: