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2021 Draft Preview No. 6: Some More College Righties

More arms to consider come draft day.

Boston Red Sox v New York Yankees
Former college righty, and former college righty draft pick of the Cardinals, Adam Ottavino.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

More college right-handed pitchers, all with something about them to like. A couple somethings, in most cases. Enough with the intro, on to the players.

Sam Bachman, RHP, Miami (Ohio)

6’1”, 235 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 30th September 1999

So, what’s so great about this guy?

In the current game, we hear a lot about spin rate, and a lot of that relates to four-seam fastballs. Everybody wants to throw it high, and get a bunch of swings and misses, it seems. No one likes a good old fashioned sinker anymore, it seems. Well, except for the Cardinals, that is, who don’t necessarily prefer sinkers the way they did in the Dave Duncan era, but still show plenty of appreciation for two-seamers and the on-the-ground contact they are designed to create.

You know who has a good sinker? Sam Bachman.

Actually, scratch that. You know who has one of the most incredible sinkers you’re ever going to see in your life? Sam Bachman. Oh, and he also has one of the best sliders in the draft this year, too, just for good measure.

There is nothing subtle about the way Sam Bachman pitches. He is going to throw a bowling ball at you, and let’s see if you can do anything about it. His sinker sits comfortably in the 94-97 range, and he’s hit 101 multiple times, though the pitch is really better when he’s cruising back down in the mid-90s, I think. The pitch drops like an anvil and runs like frisbee. Hitters have basically no chance when they swing at the sinker, and so long as Bachman keeps it in the zone he’s golden. That ‘in the zone’ part hasn’t always been easy for Bachman; in the past he occasionally struggled to land his pitches for strikes, losing the sinker to the armside, mostly. This spring, though, he cut his walk rate to just about two and a half per nine innings, and the results more than speak for themselves.

As for the slider, it’s hard, in the mid- to upper-80s, and neither left- nor right-handed hitters have much luck with it. It’s extremely sharp, with solid depth and excellent power, and it might grab a few 70 grades if one were to see Bachman on just the right day. He has a solid changeup, as well, though it’s more of an average offering currently, well behind his bread and butter combo of the sinker and slider. Still, there’s enough of a third pitch to keep one from worrying he’s destined for the bullpen, and with a little more work you could see a 75/70/55 repertoire from Bachman. In other words, his stuff is as good as any pitcher’s in the draft this year, so long as you’re not too hung up on the fact that he throws a sinker instead of a high four-seamer.

The delivery is interesting. Bachman’s arm action is short and his release point low; he looks a bit like he’s skipping stones on a pond when he throws. It’s a fairly low-stress delivery, though, I believe, and I think he’s built for durability both in terms of arm action and a big, strong frame that does not need any more filling out. He does have some arm recoil at the end of the delivery that I worry about slightly, but not enough to ding him too much in my book. This is Derek Lowe or Brandon Webb even, only with a turbocharged sinker that has an extra five miles per hour on it. Bachman is one of my top guys for the Cardinals at eighteen.

via 2080 Baseball:

Tommy Mace, RHP, Florida

6’6”, 230 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 11th November 1998

So, what’s so great about this guy?

Tommy Mace has been a going concern in the draft for a long, long time it seems. I remember looking at him as a high school senior back in 2017, though I don’t think I actually wrote him up as a person of interest. He ended up getting drafted in the twelfth round that year by the Reds as a tall, super-projectable beanpole who decided to honour his Florida commitment rather than sign. He was in the draft as a college junior last year, a second- or third-round talent with a 93-94 mph two-seam fastball and a pair of solid complementary pitches.

Mace ended up going undrafted last year, though, following the pandemic-shortened season. Clubs didn’t like the measurables on his stuff (see my above notes about Sam Bachman not fitting the current high-spin four-seam paradigm of major league baseball), and he ended up telling teams not to bother in the abbreviated draft. He spent the winter working with the Driveline guys and remaking his repertoire, and now he looks like a good bet to sneak into the bottom third of the first round. The interesting thing here is that he’s already 22 years old and a fourth-year college guy, so his leverage is a little less than it might otherwise be. A team looking for a below-slot pick at, say, eighteen, if they think there will be opportunities later in the draft to go over slot for some falling talent might very well find Mace’s combination of performance, stuff, and a slightly disadvantaged negotiating position to be very exciting.

So let’s talk about that stuff. Mace now throws five pitches, two of them fastballs. Part of that Driveline-driven repertoire overhaul included the addition of the now-popular four-seam fastball, and he’s been up as high as 97 with the pitch. He still has a very good sinker, as well, sitting around 94, allowing him to work both up and down with fastballs. I’ve always liked pitchers who throws both varieties of fastball, and Mace most definitely checks that box now. His curveball is better now than it was in the past, as he throws it harder and with better spin (though a little less depth), giving him a legitimate swing and miss breaking ball. He throws a slider, as well, though I’m not overly fond of it and would probably push him to tighten it up into a cutter for lefties if I were his pitching coach. He’s got an average changeup, as well, just to complete the arsenal, making him a very well-rounded pitcher.

Mace has always had good control, and that continued in 2021. He’s added some real strikeout punch, too, with his four-seam/curveball combo, and I think he could move quickly through someone’s minor league system. He wouldn’t be my first choice of college pitcher at eighteen; in fact, he would feel like a little bit of a reach there, to be honest. But, if the Cardinals were to have their eye on a couple players later in the draft they might like to spend extra on, I could certainly see a guy with mid-rotation upside and plenty of polish (not to mention a potentially depressed price tag), being very attractive to them.

via Keanan Lamb:

Dylan Smith, RHP, Alabama

6’2”, 180 lbs

Bats/Throws: Right/Right

DOB: 28th May 2000

So, what’s so great about this guy?

First off, Dylan Smith is one of the younger college pitchers in the draft this year, meaning that teams which value youth relative to draft demographic will bump him up a little in their rankings, one would think. For comparison, Sam Bachman above and Smith are both college juniors, but Smith is about eight months younger than Bachman. Eight months may not sound like much, and really, by the time you’re into your twenties there isn’t a ton of difference physically between a May and a September of the previous year birthday, but that’s still eight months of growth and maturity and development that Bachman has over Smith, and there is a solid body of evidence that those age differences do tend to make a difference in terms of outcomes. Now, I’m not saying Dylan Smith is a better prospect than Sam Bachman — he is most definitely not — I’m just saying that Smith does have that age versus class aspect on his side.

Beyond the age thing, though, Smith actually looks to be a bit of a late bloomer, and has only this year really started to show premium stuff. He’s still on the thin side, but has filled out considerably since high school, when he looked vaguely Triston McKenzie-ish in his baggy uniform pants. He struggled badly his freshman season with control out of the Alabama bullpen, then got on the field only for a limited number of innings before the shutdown last spring. Luckily for Smith, he has broken out in a big way this year, moving to the rotation and showing significantly better stuff than he has in the past.

Smith’s best pitch is his slider, which he can land for strikes, bury in the dirt, and change the shape of seemingly at will. He leans on the pitch a little more than I would prefer to see, but he gets results. His fastball took a big step forward this spring, and he now sits around 92-93 consistently, with an extra tick in the tank when he needs it. He’s got a curveball that isn’t quite as good as the slider, but it’s still usable, and he mostly keeps the two breakers separate, even when varying the slider speed or break. There’s a changeup that looks to me like a splitter, but I don’t know what sort of grip he’s using. Still, it’s got good depth and really drops at the plate, and I think as he improves his feel and command of the pitch it could end up a plus offering. He pitches backward quite often, using the slider in the zone and then going back to it late in counts if he can’t get a hitter to chase a fastball. It’s not the way I would teach it, but again, he’s gotten good results this spring, and has improved miles from where he was in 2019.

The best part of Smith’s game is his ability to attack the strike zone with at least two and sometimes three or even four pitches; he amassed a 113:20 strikeout to walk ratio this season in 98 innings, largely against SEC competition. The stuff isn’t dominant, but he’s always around the zone and has a good game plan most of the time. Professional hitters may force him to vary his repertoire more, rather than sticking with the slider as much as he does, but I think he has the feel and head for pitching that shouldn’t be an issue. He won’t be an ace, but there’s definitely a major league starter in here, one who should stick in the middle or back of a rotation through his ability to throw strikes with a kitchen sink approach. The first round is definitely too early for Smith, but if he were still on the board at pick 70 I think he would be a very solid value play.

via Wheels: