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2020 Draft Preview No. 7: College Hurlers Ahoy!

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Because the Cardinals may not love college righties as much as the internet thinks, but they do still love them.

Houston Astros v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

Bobby Miller, RHP, Louisville

6’5”, 220 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 5th April 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

The Louisville Cardinals had a monster one-two punch in their starting rotation this year. Reid Detmers, already covered in these electronic pages, is a likely top 10-12 pick, representing solid stuff and more polish than almost any other pitcher in the draft. Far from being the Cardinals’ only weapon in the rotation, though, Detmers was joined by a far less polished but arguably just as intriguing arm in the person of Bobby Miller.

Miller is a pure power pitcher, going right after hitters with an assortment of hard and harder stuff. He works at 95-97 with his fastball, and it has some sinking action to it that makes Miller extremely difficult to elevate. His primary offspeed pitch is a hard slider that’s almost a cutter, and yes if this sounds a whole lot like Dakota Hudson you’ve been paying attention. The downside there is that, also like Hudson, Miller has never really shown elite bat-missing ability. Actually, that’s not entirely true; he posted big strikeout numbers this spring before the shutdown, but that was non-conference play and a very limited sample. So, grains of salt and all that.

Miller actually does something unusual, in that he throws two distinct offspeed pitches, one a splitter or forkball and one a traditional changeup. Neither one is all that great, and I personally think he would be better scrapping one or the other and focusing on developing one pitch rather than two. I like the forkball, but it’s really six of one and half a dozen of the other.

At his best, Miller can be overpowering, as he was in a start against Valparaiso this February. His fastball-cutter combo alone could make him a dynamic reliever, and even a 45 grade third pitch should keep him in a starting capacity long term. His arm swing is long in the back and makes him a little easy to track, I think, but the overall quality of his stuff is undeniable. He definitely wouldn’t be my first pick amongst college pitcher this June (more on that in a moment), but he would be a very intriguing arm to add to a system without a doubt.

via D1Baseball.com:

Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina

6’2”, 230 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 19th February 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

You know that thing I said a minute ago about Bobby Miller not being my first choice of college pitchers? Well, here’s where we get back to that, because Carmen Mlodzinski just might be. Of all the pitchers who lost out due to this spring’s events playing out the way they did, Mlodzinski may be the one who missed out the most.

I scouted Mlodzinski in high school, and at the time he was a high fastball/curveball guy capable of touching 94 but lacking much in the way of polish. He served as a swingman his freshman year at South Carolina, then missed most of his sophomore season due to a broken foot. He was okay when he was on the mound, but didn’t really excel, and didn’t have that many opportunities to do so, either.

Along the way, Mlodzinski dropped the curveball, probably his best pitch, and replaced it with a short slider and worked to develop a really solid circle change. Coming into the spring I liked him well enough, but he was just another college arm with good, not great, stuff and a lack of a true out pitch.

This spring, though, he brought back the curveball, and his fastball suddenly had way more movement than I remember. I only saw him twice, but the stuff he showed was electric. Now he’s a mid-90s two seam fastball guy with a potential 60 curveball, a solid changeup, and a pretty decent cutter/slider that he can throw in off the plate to lefties. In other words, he looked a whole lot like Chris Carpenter in the limited looks I got this spring, and I’m kind of in love with the potential I saw there.

The downside with Mlodzinski? Well, other than having to type his name correctly, that is? The downside is that Mlodzinski has not, strictly speaking, been a very good pitcher up until this point. The stuff has him rated as high as the early 20s on the board (MLB.com), and as low as 37th (FanGraphs), but his performance has never really matched those rankings or his stuff. Even this spring, when he suddenly rolled out this killer curveball and looked like a guy ready to take a huge jump, he struck out less than a batter per inning and allowed almost one hit per inning. For a guy with elite stuff, those are not good numbers.

So with Mlodzinski, you’re betting that the better days are ahead, and he’s going to put all that talent together in a way that produces high-end performance. It’s completely fair to view him as an old-school Jeff Luhnow college pitcher draft pick, though, cut from the same cloth as Adam Ottavino, representing that rather inexplicable draft demographic of the raw college hurler. There are much safer picks if a team wants to go the college pitcher route, but I’m of the belief that Mlodzinski, had he pitched all spring, would have had some serious helium by now.

via Gutter Towers:

Max Meyer, RHP, Minnesota

6’0”, 185 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 12th March 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Max Meyer might have the most potent one-two combo of pitches in college baseball this year. As good as Emerson Hancock’s repertoire is, as good as Asa Lacy’s three-pitch attack is, there is no other pitcher in college baseball who can match the sheer overpoweringness of Meyer’s fastball-slider combination.

Meyer closed for Minnesota his freshman season, but for now at least it looks like his future is as a starter. Certainly any club willing to take him in the top half of the first round will believe he can start long term, which is why I might not be the guy taking him in the top half of the first round. He could probably get to the big leagues as a bullpen piece by 2021, but the potential payoff of developing him as a starter will likely just be too tempting to pass up.

The fastball is a little straight, but it also comes in at 94-97 and has topped out at 100 mph. Movement is great, but 100 is pretty tough to beat. Even better than the heater, though, is Meyer’s slider, a true 70-75 grade breaking ball that he can throw either in the zone or buried down out of it, and hitters tend to just flail at helplessly. It’s probably the best breaking ball in the draft this year, full stop.

Meyer showed the makings of a decent changeup this spring, but it’s a distant third pitch for now and would need a lot of development work if he is to remain a starter for the long haul. Of bigger concern for me, though, is a delivery that features an arm action I don’t love and Meyer stepping toward first base as he releases the ball, similar to Greg Holland. I feel like it tends to hamper his command, although he’s never really had any issues with walks up until now.

Actually, Greg Holland might not be a bad overall comparison point for Meyer, if a club wanted to push him through the system and try to get him into either a relief or swingman role relatively quickly. I know Holland haunts the nightmares of many a Cardinal fan, but the version of Holland who closed out games for the Royals in 2010-’12 was a force to be reckoned with, and that’s the sort of upside Meyer could have even in fairly short order. He’s not big, a concern which I tend to think is overstated in the scouting community, but his arm action is a little risky to my eye as well, so I do wonder about his long-term durability. Still, it’s impossible to watch Meyer throw and not dream on the kind of dominance his stuff could produce, even if it came in shorter bursts.

via Baseball America: