Big thanks to BigJawnMize for putting all this together! This post was originally published as a Fanpost and we wanted to promote it on the front page so everyone could see it. <3
I was asked to do a draft preview by numerous people on the site. I started out thinking that I would do one "Persons of Interest" style post similar to what the Baron did for the last prospect list prior to the draft. For everyone here I decided to do four in the next two weeks. These are going to be broken down into: high school pitchers, college pitchers, high school hitters, and college hitters. The format will be a discussion of a relevant scouting topic; a review of what I am looking for depending on the group of players that I am reviewing in the post; and then I will go bullet style through the top prospects in each group. So for each of the groups my goal is to get 10 to 15 deep and highlight 4 to 5 for more in depth breakdowns.
On Scouting Breaking Pitches
Scouting fastballs hasn't really changed in the invention of the radar gun. If you read a report today the fastball grading is going to be very similar to the report 30 years ago. The report will have a velocity. The report will use language like dive or dart to describe vertical movement and cut, run, or tail to describe horizontal action. With Perfect Game using major league parks for the showcases there has been more measurement of what that action is, but the overall instinctual grading of the pitches haven't really shifted. Breaking balls are a different story.
One of the main things I think to remember in scouting high school pitching is that you are drafting a pitcher not pitches. A scout might grade a high school pitcher with a plus curveball but by the time that kid makes it to the show he might not even throw a curveball. So for high school pitching the pitch grades and mixes you see on the reports are likely not the pitch mix a player throws when he actually makes it to the major leagues. People really should ignore scouting grades for breaking balls, they are kind of worthless. What we should be worried about is can the pitcher throw a breaking ball from the same arm slot and release point as his fastball and can he get enough RPMs on it to make it a major league pitch.
What are we looking for - High School Pitchers
Size - Contrary to Moneyball, I am scouting for underwear models. On a scouting report I want to see someone that is over 6'-1". I don't trust reports that say a kid is 6' on the dot. Long levers and fingers appear to be an advantage. High School pitchers need to be around 190 when drafted with the projection of adding 20-30 pounds to the frame. There is a correlation between weight and throwing hard that I will touch on in the college pitcher preview.
Athleticism - Baseball doesn't require the best athletes but pitching and staying healthy is easier for good athletes.
Fastball - 93 mph and above with horizontal movement.
Off Speed Pitches - Do they come out of the same arm slot and release point as the fastball? Do they have enough spin on them to be developed into a major league level pitch? Will this pitcher be able to tunnel these pitches with his fastball to create deception?
That is it for the most part. Mechanics have to be obviously bad for me to be concerned. If I hear something about a kid being a real asshole I might be concerned.
Persons of Interest - The bad news!
So the bad news this year is high school pitching is down and a lot of the top guys are injured. But I think there are a handful of pitchers here that are being undervalued. There are a group of pitchers that are in the 40-60 range that I think you could take in the first round and would be a steal in the 2nd. I am going to focus most of my time there. Without further ado:
Dylan Lesko - Top high school pitching talent in the draft. Has the size, athleticism, fastball and one of the nastiest change-ups you will ever see a high schooler throw. Also had Tommy John this spring. Might be available when the Cards pick at 22. I would be shocked if they took him.
Brock Porter - He has a great frame and fastball with a solid feel for secondary pitches. He will be off the board top 10.
Robby Snelling - Will likely be available at 22 and is our first actual exercise in looking at someone I wouldn't draft.
Size: Already a prototype major league pitching build at 6'-3" and 220. So not a lot of projection here.
Athleticism: High School football player. He also repeats the same mechanics over and over, which is a good sign of athletic ability.
Fastball: He doesn't throw hard enough. The reports have his fastball touching 95 but really this kid is throwing 91-92. I would be a little more lenient about his velocity if I thought there was more projection in his frame but I don't see it.
Off-Speed Pitches: Apparently throws a spike curveball. It actually has nice action but it is coming from a different release point. Look at the video below for the 79-80 mph pitches. That is the curveball and it is coming out of a lower release point than his fastball. It is really easy to see this one and the reason I picked him to write-up as a demonstration.
Verdict: Snelling is a hard pass. Way too many flags.
Robby Snelling - Video
Brandon Barriera - Really great fastball and slider. Too small.
Jacob Miller - I actually really love this kid's fastball. His breaking pitches check off all the boxes. I worry that he is smaller framed, but I would be good with the Cardinals taking him. Personally he is just a soft pass because of his size. I would encourage you to check out his videos.
Jackson Ferris - This kid is a must see on YouTube. He is throwing laser beams and cue balls. Some of the best stuff in the draft. The worst mechanics in the draft. I wouldn't touch him with a 10' pole, but man I love watching this kid throw. It is great!
Walter Ford - I have to be a little judicious with my write-ups as there are 4 or so kids that are showing up in the 40-60 range of the prospect rankings that I like. I am going to write Ford up as he is my favorite.
Size: He is an ideal size for a high school prospect at 6'-2" and 195 lbs. One of the youngest players in the draft so it is easy to project a little height and solid weight gain as he matures.
Athleticism: Looks to be a solid athlete that is a two way college prospect.
Fastball: Fastball sets in the 92-93 range and touches 95 many times a start. Fastball has a nice amount of arm-side run. If you watch the video posted, notice how the ball explodes out of his hand like it is going much faster than his arm speed would suggest. It is a sign of efficient mechanics where the velocity is not totally reliant on arm speed.
Off-Speed Pitches: He throws a low 80s slider from the same arm slot of his fastball. That spins at a 2700 RPM range. The fastball and slider already tunnel well together. His arm talent and mechanics suggest that there is a good chance to develop a solid change-up.
Verdict: This is my favorite high school pitcher in this draft. This is a top 10 talent so why is he being ranked in the 50 range on most boards? Consistency. Everything I have described above has only been shown in flashes. But he is only 17. He likely has only thrown at these speeds for a little over a year. How consistent do you expect a 17 year old with one year of experience to be? I would be thrilled to have him in the first round. He is an absolute steal anywhere in the 2nd.
Walter Ford - Video
Jackson Cox - One of these guys in the 40-60 range that I think would be a steal in the second round. Decent build; excellent fastball; really demonstrates an advanced feel for spinning pitches with a curveball that runs over 3000 RPM.
Noah Schultz - I have seen Noah pitch a couple times. He is considered the best prep pitcher in Chicagoland. He is left handed, 6'-9", and throws from a low ¾ slot so he obviously gets compared to Randy Johnson. Maybe one of the best sliders in the draft. Personally I am not sure about his athleticism. They have had to cut his mechanics down so much that he only throws from the stretch. I am suspicious but I think he has a high floor as a lights out reliever. As scouts say, high reliever risk.
Owen Murphy - I have seen Owen pitch live as well. He is considered the 2nd best prep pitcher in Chicagoland. I really like the fastball and he shows a variety of breaking pitches that demonstrate being able to develop a professional repertoire. He is one of these guys that will throw a completely different pitch mix if he makes it to the show. I am not enamored with his size.
Ian Richie - I love Richie's fastball. It looks like he can pump it up to 98 but sits more in the 92 range most of the time. I think getting an extra couple ticks should come naturally as he matures. He is 6'-1" and a bit slight, but he is already 19 so it will be a stretch for him to add much height. I don't like the curveball, but the slider and change both show good feel. I can't find any spin data on him.
Tristan Smith - This is the end of the group showing up in the 40-60 range on the boards. Smith, a long lefty, is my 2nd favorite.
Size: I have heard he has grown a couple inches from last year's showcases. That would put him in the 6'-3" 200lb range. Ideal size.
Athleticism: I don't have a ton of info on this but from his videos he looks the part of a good athlete.
Fastball: Word is that he was throwing 93-94 this spring. Laser beam. Comes out of his hand hard. Inconsistent on its movement so it is likely hard to command, but flashes nice glove side run on some pitches and some dive on others. He likely cant control this action currently. He will need to clean this up.
Off-Speed Pitches: Already tunnels a nice slider with his fastball. Sounds like the spin numbers ticked up for him this year a little. Probably needs to throw the slider a tick or two harder as he progresses. Some of the videos look like the ball pops out of his hand. I dont think this is a curveball more than him missing the release point on a slider. Again something that needs to be cleaned up.
Verdict: Again a high schooler where scouts are concerned with consistency. I guess this is a theme with me as I don't really care about a high school pitcher being consistent, even then I noted that there are things that need to be cleaned up. That is the reason he is a 2nd or 3rd rounder and not a 1st. I like the kid in the 2nd round. He had this really great outing where he threw 2 perfect innings at a Perfect Game event. I have to link it and pour one out for the left handed hitters.
Tristan Smith - Video
Cutter Coffey - Great Name. There are probably a few teams looking at this kid as a pitcher. I like him better as a pitcher than as a shortstop. Either way I think this kid is a college player.
Caden Dana - Proof that spin isnt the end all be all. He has a high spin curveball but it is an ugly pitch. The curve has a nice shape but is so loopy out of hand it makes for a tough pitch to pair with his fastball for tunneling. Check out the videos. I personally think he is easy to read out of hand.
Jaden Noot - Pass. College reliever if that.
Cole Phillips - Needs to clean up his release point on his slider. Big fastball. I love this kid so much about this kid aside from the Tommy John surgery. He is going to get drafted somewhere in rounds 5-10. He needs to go to college and come back as a top 10 pick.
Chase Shores - MLB.com has this kid in the 120s on the board. He is a bit of a sleeper in that range. 6'-8" tall with room to put a little weight on. There is potential here but I don't like the low arm slot, makes it harder to develop a range of pitches even though he seems to pair the fastball / slider combo well.
Nazier Mule - Big two way athlete. Huge risk but huge reward. Just 17 and so raw but I gotta write him up.
Size: 6'-3" and 220lbs, he has freakishly long arms I have to assume he has long fingers.
Athleticism: Two way athlete. Pretty solid shortstop prospect. Oozing athleticism.
Fastball: He has touched triple digits. So yeah he can bring the heat. The pitch is a little straight at that velocity and looks to have more shape in the 93-94 range with decent run.
Off-speed pitches: This is where this is so frustrating. Most of the sliders he throws in the videos are crap. The sliders in the Perfect Game videos are soft. But, I am going to link a video from a high school game where he is throwing curveballs. Is the curveball good? No. But I think he only needs to throw it harder. It is totally something that can be developed.
Verdict - My gut says not to dream on this kid. He hasn't thrown much during the spring due to arm issues. But man he is fun to watch. He looks like he is tinkering on the mound trying to find the right mix of stuff and I like that. If a team is comfortable with the medicals, then he should go in the first three rounds. I am not sure he is a great value in the first 150 picks.
Nazier Mule - Video
Sam Horn - Get to know the name, he is the future quarterback of the University of Missouri. If he is picked in the 3rd to 4th round then he is going to college. There is a lot to like here as a professional pitcher, but that isn't going to be the path.
Jacob Zibin - The Canuck, but as all things baseball he moved to Florida to play the game year round. Again will be one of the youngest guys in the draft.
Size: Coming in at 6-3" weighing around 200lbs. Perfect size for a pitcher and so young it is not hard to see him adding an inch and 30 lbs.
Athleticism: I don't have a lot to go on here. He looks the part though.
Fastball: The video I am going to link shows him throwing fastballs with a ton of armside run. He can sit it in the 93-94 range. There is a lot to like here.
Off-speed pitches: I have some concerns. He throws one of the nicest change-ups in the draft. It is really a plus pitch. I can't find anything that suggests he can throw a decent breaking pitch. There isn't a ton of videos on the web. When I asked a friend about his breaking ball, I got an answer that his change-up was plus. Yeah that isn't a good sign.
Verdict: Yeah I would take a flyer and see if I can teach him an average slider. I am thinking rounds 4-5 on him. He could go earlier the fastball / change-up combination is that good.
Jacob Zibin - Video
AJ Izzi - Another local Chicagoland kid I have seen. Should go to college. Not meant to be a slight just that he could improve and improve his standing at school.
Austin Charles - This kid is a project. He has great size and is a great athlete but doesn't look like he has ever played baseball consistently and besides that I think he has a legit shot. There is nothing consistent about his mechanics and it is causing him to not show his potential. He flashed a plus fastball and plus curveball. If he is on the board after 5 rounds I would take a flyer, but he might go a bit earlier.