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2020 Draft Preview No. 9: More College Pitching

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Cardinals like college pitchers, the draft has lots of college pitchers, seems like a match made in heaven.

2011 World Series Game 3 - Texas Rangers v St Louis Cardinals Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

More players to consider from what is almost certainly this year’s richest demographic.

Bryce Jarvis, RHP, Duke

6’2”, 195 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Right

DOB: 26th December 1997

So, what’s so great about this guy?

If you were to draft this year based entirely on who was the most dominant player in the tiny samples afforded by this spring’s weird, sad baseball season, Bryce Jarvis would have to be near the very top of the list. In fact, he might very well be the first pitcher off the board, because it was basically a neck-and-neck race between he and Asa Lacy for the title of most dominant pitcher in college baseball. (The trophy says ‘over the course of like 25 innings’ in tiny little letters at the bottom.)

Prior to this spring — actually, scratch that; fall ball is where Jarvis really took off, but let’s not be overly pedantic, shall we? — Jarvis was a good, but not great, college pitcher. He threw mostly in the upper 80s, featured a really nice changeup, and tended to nibble around the edges of the strike zone. He was always capable of running up pretty good strikeout totals due to his willingness to pitch away from contact, but the stuff was a little underwhelming.

Then came the summer of 2019, and something clicked for Bryce Jarvis. He came back in the fall with a remade body, 15-20 pounds heavier than he had been, and seriously upgraded stuff. The fastball ticked up to 92-95, and he showed a newfound ability to spin a breaking ball, likely thanks to improved arm speed. The changeup is even better now playing off a plus fastball, and the results were startling. Jarvis threw a perfect game this spring against Cornell, struck out a dozen against a very good Florida State lineup, and overall posted a 0.67 ERA and 40:2 strikeout to walk ratio over 27 innings.

As it stands now, Jarvis features four distinct pitches, all of which could garner 55 or better grades. The fastball-change combo is still his bread and butter, but both his curveball and slider have real utility now. I think the slider is a little stronger than the curve, but he does a good job of keeping them separate, and both have their moments. Add in above-average command, and you have a complete package that could make Jarvis a number two starter down the road.

There are a couple black marks against Jarvis, to be fair. He’s older than most of his contemporaries, having been draft-eligible as a sophomore last year, and while the stuff he showcased this spring was incredible, we really have never seen him hold up over the course of a full season with anywhere near this level of dominance. For two years he looked like a mid-round control/command guy, then suddenly he shows up like post-draft James Kaprelian, but only gets to show it off for about two dozen innings. At this point Jarvis is right in line with Carmen Mlodzinski for pitchers I hope the Cardinals take at 21, with both of them representing guys who I believe would have moved way up draft boards had the season not gone the way of the dodo.

via Kevin Jarvis:

Seth Lonsway, LHP, Ohio State

6’3”, 200 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 7th October 1998

So, what’s so great about this guy?

You like curveballs? Of course you do. Everybody likes curveballs. Curveballs are fun. So let me tell you about the purveyor of one of the best curveballs in the draft this year. His name is Seth Lonsway, and, well, he has a really good curveball. I mean, I assume you saw that coming, since I sort of telegraphed it. This bit is less clever than I was hoping.

Lonsway’s curveball is his bread and butter, and it’s a very strong offering, a pretty easy 60-65 grade breaker with both large, waterfall break and pretty good power when he stays on top of it. He’ll go to the curve in just about any count, and in fact locates it significantly better than he does any of his other pitches, including his fastball. He hasn’t yet gone full-on Rich Hill, using the curve as essentially his main pitch, but it’s definitely the one Lonsway goes to whenever he needs a strike, or a swing and miss, or is trying to induce weak contact somewhere.

As for the rest of the repertoire, Lonsway has good stuff, but it’s less usable than one would hope. He can push his fastball up to 95 at times, though he tends to cruise more at 90-93. He throws a cutter and changeup, both in the mid-80s, and each one shows promise of being at least an average pitch down the road. There are times when he can work a high fastball/curve combo and look unhittable; Lonsway led all of Division I baseball this year with a 21.0 K/9 rate, and when he can get hitters to chase the heater up he can dominate. The problem is those days are not the norm, by any means; he also walked a batter per inning this spring after posting a walk rate of nearly six hitters per nine innings in 2019.

A club taking Lonsway in the top 50 picks would be betting that the control and command will come with time and refinement, making it possible for his stuff to play to its full potential. And if that happens, Lonsway could have as high a ceiling as nearly any college pitcher taken this June. It’s worth noting that control leap doesn’t always happen, though, and Seth Lonsway is definitely riskier than many of the other players from his demographic teams could select.

via D1Baseball.com:

Jared Shuster, LHP, Wake Forest

6’3”, 210 lbs

Bats/Throws: Left/Left

DOB: 3rd August 1998

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Hey, you like changeups? Of course you— oh, screw it. Bit wasn’t good enough the first time to try and make into a running gag.

This time last year, Jared Shuster (whose name I constantly want to stick a ‘c’ in, much like ‘Shildt’), looked a lot like Marco Gonzales, only with a little less polish. Upper 80s fastball that topped out around 92, outstanding changeup, fringy breaking ball. This spring, though, Shuster showed up in better shape, and his stuff took a big step forward. The best college prospects tend to take a step forward their sophomore seasons, but then an even bigger step during their junior campaigns, and that’s exactly the pattern it appears Shuster was following. (It’s also the reason a junior year being wiped out is so tough for college players, but that’s a more general issue not focused on anyone in particular.)

Before the season was nixed, Shuster was working 91-95 with his fastball, showing improved feel to spin the ball (though his slider still tends to get slurvy and kind of lazy, and is very much his third pitch), and the changeup was even more devastating with hitters being forced to deal with a much tougher fastball. In other words, he went from Marco Gonzales with less polish to Johan Santana. (With less polish, yes.)

I’m not making that Santana comp based just on the changeup and lefthandedness, either; Shuster’s delivery features a similar arm action (which concerns me). Shuster is actually even more of a short-armer than Santana was, which I worry could lead to injury issues, but does seem to add some extra deception as he hides the ball very well. I do think he improved his overall delivery this year, utilising his legs much better than in the past, but I still think it’s a risky arm action. Now, would that keep me from drafting Shuster at 63 or 70? Probably not, because I like him too much for that. It is, however, something that concerns me over the long term.

Shuster took a big leap this spring, even in limited time. A club that believes what they saw from him was real could take him in the top 50, though I tend to think he fits better a little lower than that, given how brief the look at his best stuff was. He’s definitely a player I would take the plunge on with one of that group of picks the Cardinals have between 54 and 70.

via James Weisser: