I apologize I ran out of time to complete these like I wanted to. I am going to combine the college pitchers and hitters in order to post this before the draft. It should be easy as college pitching is a wasteland. This is honestly the worst group of college pitchers I can recall. There are a couple college hitters in the back half of the first round that would work. I wanted to go into scouting models but I just ran out of time for more of the discussion
As to what we are looking for from College Pitchers and College Hitters it is really similar to what we were looking for in High School players, just more consistency. There are a lot of college hitters at the back of the first round that have inconsistent swings that bother me.
Kumar Rocker - I am going to start with the elephant in the room. He is absolutely a first round talent. I say with the caveat that we don’t know what his shoulder surgery last year entailed. My gut says that it was a latissimus tear of some sort as he came back from it with little ill effect and his mechanics don't really decelerate well putting some strain on that muscle. Still was throwing a fastball at 99 mph that is lethal up in the zone and has a really absurd slider. He didn’t look in good shape in the Independent League videos, just adding to the risk. On stuff alone he is the best pitcher in the draft but there is so much baggage here to unpack.
Gabriel Hughes - This guy has ideal size for a pitcher at 6’-4" and 220 lbs. The fastball is really a solid offering that top ticks at 97 and sits at 94. The fastball has good armside run that he can generate across the plate. I am not sold on the slider. It isn’t a high spin rate pitch that feels loopy. It doesn’t look like he has a good feel for spinning the ball. I am actually more impressed with the change-up but it doesn’t look like he throws it that much. I am really apprehensive because of the lack of spin on the breaking ball, so he is a pass in my book.
Cade Horton - The more I watch his College World Series starts the more I am sold. It really depends on how comfortable you are with his Tommy John surgery. Personally I think we are getting better with arm care and are better at limiting repeat UCL damage than even 5 years ago. I like his size. The fastball looks like it is a high spin rate beast that doesn't run a lot but stays up in the zone. I would like to see a cut fastball added to the mix to get more horizontal movement at velocity. The slider is a high spin rate pitch with late biting action. The curve has late vertical action. I am higher on the change-up than most publications. I could see myself drafting him in the first round. His mechanic makes me feel like there is a high reliever risk here.
Justin Campbell - Currently not throwing anything hard enough. The fastball flashes a good pitch and I suspect it is when he is running up in the 93 mph range. It is one of those pitches that come out of the hand harder than the mechanics would suggest, but only occasionally so he needs to throw it harder. I thought his release points were off when I watched him the first time but it was more that his curveball hops out of his hand. He needs to throw it harder. Throws a great change-up with some armside fade. Normally I would say he would be a nice second round pick, but this is a down draft. I could see the Cardinals taking him as they have had success adding a couple ticks to pitches. If he just threw harder I would be in, but he is going to take some work.
Carson Whisenhunt - PED suspension cost him the year. Proceeded to get lit up in Cape Cod this summer. He has a plus change-up but he has a release point problem. Pass.
Blade Tidwell - This is my pick if you are going college pitcher in the first round.
Size: 6’-4" at 210 lbs and could add some weight to his frame. Perfect build for a pro pitcher.
Athleticism: Looks the part. Has pretty athletic mechanics. Appears to hold velocity deep into starts.
Fastball: Sits at 96 and touches 98 with a late darting armside run that looks like it is a high RPM pitch. Looks like he can generate that run across the plate. The fastball comes out of the hand harder than his mechanics suggest.
Off-Speed Pitches: Demonstrates a high-spin rate slider running in the 2800 RPM. I think the release point on it is just a hair to the armside. Not ideal but he looks to occasionally throw his fastball from that slot, so he might be able to move all his pitches to that slot. I am higher on the change-up than most scouts. It looks like it could be a plus pitch. The curve is a little soft but doesn’t pop out of his hand so he disguises it well. It will need some refinement.
Verdict: This is a great starter kit for a pro pitcher. Definitely one of these pitchers you could see adding a cut fastball and refining the curveball and becoming a #3. Some publications think he is a reliever, but I think the change-up could become a plus pitch giving him a lot more ceiling. He has had some shoulder soreness that limited his innings this spring so I would want the medical records.
Blade Tidwell - Video
Cooper Hjerpe - Too much funk for my taste. I really think the armslot makes it difficult to develop different pitches so you are stuck with a fringy slider. Pass.
Landon Sims - Tommy John victim. If you are willing to draft Dylan Lesko in the first round you should be willing to draft Landon Sims. He has a great fastball that comes out of the hand harder than his mechanics suggest, true laser. He has a slider that looks like it comes out of hand slower than his mechanics suggest. There is a potential plus change-up. I think he would be the top college starter this year if he was throwing.
Connor Prielipp - Tommy John victim that has only thrown bullpens this spring. Like Sims above would be considered a top 15 pick if he had thrown this year. I love the fastball. I love the slider. I think the change-up is underrated and could be developed into a killer pitch. He is a lefty. If he had been throwing this spring I probably would have ranked him as my top college arm.
Peyton Pallette - Tommy John victim. You see a theme here right? He has a filthy high spin curveball; great fastball; and a solid change-up. Personally I think he is too small so I would pass.
Jake Bennet - Skip Johnson from Oklahoma must be a hell of a pitching coach. He appears to make some good pitchers out of starter kit high schoolers. Bennet has an above average fastball and uses his slider across the plate. He also appears to command a good change up. He has good size. There are other pitchers I like more on the board.
Jonathan Cannon - He is the last guy I want to write-up because of the 80 grade name for a pitcher. I wrote all the rest of this to get to him, as I really like the potential here. He grades out as having average to above average stuff across the board, but this is where having average stuff might not matter. He is getting both types of deception where the ball is a different speed than his arm speed on both of his fastballs and change. Then he tunnels these pitches well with a slider and cutter. This guy might not be a star at the next level but looks like a sure bet to me to throw in the show. Personally I think you draft for ceiling in the 2nd round but if you want to draft for floor I think this is your guy.
I am going to stop here and hop onto hitting. For brevity sake I am going to skip a couple of the bats right at the top of the draft. Out of the top college bats: Parada is obviously the best overall player I would really consider for 1st overall. I am not sold on Lee hitting for much power at the next level. Berry looks like a hitter without a position. Cross’s swing can get long and rely on extension but flashes some quick hands.
Daniel Susac - Likely not going to make it to the Cardinals pick. Hard pass from me because he is starting his swing too soon, looks awful on breaking pitches.
Zach Neto - There is a lot of swing here that will need to be cut down to succeed at the next level. He looks to be a little out in front on breaking balls but handles inside heat well by pulling his hands in and turning his body on it. He has the arm and instincts to stick at short. I am not sold on the swing and his size. More of a soft pass here for me.
Chase DeLauter - His swing looks a little inconsistent. He gets into a good hitting position on inside fastballs but it looks like he is inside-outing these pitches to the opposite field. Otherwise he needs a fastball outer third to extend his hands and generate power. He is showing a lot of good things here but might take more time in the minors to develop more swing consistency.
Drew Gilbert - Pass, too small. Twitchy athlete that is fun to watch play.
Jacob Melton - I don’t have any good videos so my opinion is limited. Looks to be a good athlete.
Dylan Beavers - I wanted to like this kid because he has been pick by the Cardinals in a couple mock drafts. Swing looks to be wildly inconsistent, to the point he will totally need to rebuild it. Great athlete. Hard pass.
Sterling Thompson - Finally a guy I don’t think needs a swing rebuild. Thompson looks like a good hitter that will maximize his power potential. Good size with a frame that can add 20 lbs. Looks like he might be able to play infield. Of all the late first round college hitters I like this guy the best.
Alright that is the end of the first round hitters. So after going through this exercise who do I like. Overall this looks like a bad draft. High school pitching is down but there are some decent kids there. There are some really top of the line high school hitters but they are going to be gone by the time the Cardinals pick. I think the team will reach on college arm or hitter that they like but might not be rated 1st round. I would think Sterlin Thompson or Blade Tidwell would be on the radar. Then the team might pop ceiling in the 2nd round with a high school arm like Jackson Cox or Tristan Smith. Or you could gamble on one of the high ceiling Tommy John college pitchers in the 2nd. Me personally I think I am popping ceiling first round and going Walter Ford and then come back in the 2nd round with some floor player like Johnathon Cannon. I will try to write-up a fanpost of the first few picks. JP and I are going to chat about the draft this week so look for that discussion next weekend.