MLB Draft Preview: High School Pitchers

Grant Holmes - Reid Compton-USA TODAY Sports

The Blue Jays love their high school pitchers. So much so, that it's only logical to preview the draft by looking at the top rated high school pitchers in the country.

Scouting high school pitchers is tricky business. Stats don't mean anything at the high school level, and a radar gun only tells you so much. Furthermore, the guys who light up the radar guns the most might be the guys who have thrown too hard too early, and are heading for Tommy John surgery or worse at some point. Since I'm no expert, I'll leave the ranking stuff to those who are, and in this article I'll use the rankings provided by Baseball America, Perfect Game, Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com and Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball to produce an aggregate ranking of these young hurlers, confining myself to those guys who reach at least the top 100 on one of those lists. Size and weight taken from MLB.com, those figures may or may not be somewhat inaccurate, as I've seen different website list different values. Rankings are BA-McDaniel-Garrioch-PG, followed by the average position.

#1 Brady Aiken, LHP (1-1-1-1, avg:1)

Aiken's the consensus number one, not just high school pitcher, but overall pick on all four boards. Amazing. While the Astros might not take Aiken with their first pick, there seems to be very, very little chance he'd make it to #9. With so many high school pitchers to write up, and so much info available on Aiken, I think I'll pass on writing all that much about him.

#2 Tyler Kolek, RHP (2-3-2-3, avg: 2.5)

Kolek's battling Carlos Rodon for second place overall, but is clearly the nation's second highest-rated high school pitcher. His specialty is that he throws really, really hard. With the talk of "Tommy John epidemic", teams might shy away from a young fireballer like Kolek, but I do believe dreaming about Kolek dropping to 9 is still a waste of a dream at this point.

#3 Grant Holmes, RHP (16-11-5-8, avg: 10)

Despite getting better rankings than Toussaint and having a longer track record, as well as a solid delivery without any red flags, Holmes (6'2, 190) has been dropping in mocks and has not been linked to the Blue Jays. Holmes does not seem to have any projection left, but fans of his pitching will argue that his stuff good enough right now. With 92-97 mph recorded on the fastball, and a curve thrown harder than 80 mph, Holmes is a real power pitcher in the mold of A.J. Burnett and Kyle Drabek.

#4 Touki Toussaint, RHP (13-15-8-18, avg: 13.5)

Touki (6'2, 185) is being mocked to the Blue Jays constantly, so I did this mechanics piece on him earlier, and jays182 did a profile on him that can be found here. Scouts seem to love him, and on the plus side he hasn't thrown a lot of innings, so he does have a relatively fresh arm. Downside is that it's hard to tell whether Touki will throw his pitches for strikes enough to even survive in the lower minors. Touki is very athetic and has reportedly already hit 98, but is more often in the 90-94 mph range with his heater.

#5 Sean Reid-Foley, RHP (20-18-23-22, avg: 20.8)

Reid-Foley (6'2, 210) has been mentioned in the same breath as the Blue Jays, but more as "outside chance" kind of guy. I thought Reid-Foley was mighty impressive at the Perfect Game All-American Game, and i like that he throws multiple pitches for strikes, but there's one big red flag: high pitching arm elbow in his delivery. Not as bad as Mark Prior had it, but still something I'd probably stay away from if I'm the Blue Jays. Has plenty of zip on the fastball at 92-94 mph.

#6 Kodi Medeiros, LHP (35-36-21-32. avg: 31)

Kodi Medeiros (6'0, 185) is best known for his low arm slot, which has some slapping the reliever tag on him, and dominant performances, like in the PG All-American game. I dare you to watch that video and not fall in love with Medeiros' stuff, with a fastball ranging 90-94 mph and at least one insane breaking pitch. The injury concerns could be legitimate, but I'd still cheer loudly if the Blue Jays somehow "reach" and grab Medeiros as high as 11.

#7 Luis Ortiz, RHP (37-37-15-35, avg: 31)

it's hard to write something about Ortiz (6'2, 190), because he hasn't got wacky mechanics, signability issues or other strange aspects to his game. He's just really solid with at least a good hard fastball (92-95 mph) and slider. Forearm issues that kept Ortiz sidelined for a few weeks might be a concern for some. Unlikely to drop to the second round.

#8 Spencer Adams, RHP (24-33-30-41, avg: 32)

Adams (6'4, 180) would be a prototypical Blue Jays pick if he wasn't projected to go quite a bit before the Jays second round pick, which is at 49. With his athleticism (three-sport star in high school) and projectability he's easy to dream on, but he's also got some mechanical work to do, probably. Myself, I think his arm is quite late but I think the delivery is still better than many other high schoolers. The radar guns say 89-95 mph, for now.

#9 Foster Griffin, LHP (28-28-64-31, avg: 37.8)

Matt Garrioch taking the contrarian view towards Griffin (6'5, 210) knocks his avreage ranking down quite a bit, but there still seems little chance he slips to the Blue Jays. If he did, Griffin is one of those big but still projectable pitchers the Jays love to pick up, although the Jays seems to like pitchers with advanced breaking balls more than those with advance changeups like Griffin. Griffin's got a great delivery, but he's very old for the draft class. Fastball is usually 88-92 mph.

#10 Scott Blewett, RHP (48-44-44-42, avg: 44.5)

Scott Blewett (6'6, 210) hasn't pitched much, coming from the cold weather state of New York, and also experiencing shoulder problems. For teams looking at his delivery it should be easy to find that Blewett's arm gets in the ready position too late and is at risk for repeated injury troubles. There's plenty of stuff (89-95 mph on the fastball) and projection to dream on, so I'm not doubting Blewett's quality, just his health.

#11 Michael Kopech, RHP (39-43-55-48, avg: 46.3)

Kopech (6'4, 195) uses his whole body in his delivery in a way that's reminiscent of Tim Lincecum. However, Kopech is still very far removed from pitching like Lincecum, and any team drafting him is looking for upside rather than immediate stuff and current command. Committed to Arizona, but probably still signable in the second round. His fastball velocity has bee clocked as high as 98 but as low as 88 mph, its range in game is more likely 88-93.

#12 Mac Marshall, LHP (53-48-33-53, avg: 46.8)

Mac Marshall (6'2, 180) has been followed as a pitching prospect for quite a while now, so he's unlikely to have escaped any team's attention. His stock has dropped a little bit, but 88-94 mph from the lefts side, with two good offspeed pitches (curve and change) is nothing to sneeze at. I'd be surprised if he drops to the Blue Jays' second round pick, and even more surprised if he goes to LSU, though that commitment does mean Marshall won't come cheap.

#13 Justus Sheffield, LHP (49-49-52-39, avg: 47.3)

While most pitchers on this list seem to be praised for their projectability, Sheffield (6'1, 180) is not. For Sheffield, it's 90-94 mph from the left side with an impressive mix of four pitches and good command of them. With his brother Jordan already at Vanderbilt, it might be tough to sign Sheffield away from teaming up with his brother in college.

#14 Jacob Bukauskas, RHP (32-27-95-36, avg: 47.5)

While Bukauskas (5'11, 180) is ranked quite highly by all except Matt Garrioch, there's a decent chance he might be available in the second round. The reason for that, however, is that it's highly questionable that Bukauska is signable,  as he's sent out a letter that he wants to go to college (UNC, to be precise). Bukauskas had been rising up boards this season thanks to an impressive increase in stuff (FB now at 93-98 mph), but the "inverted W" would scare me away.

#15 Alex Verdugo, LHP (52-40-53-59, avg: 51)

Verdugo (6'1, 190) is one of those rare two-way talents, he's also an outfielder. But right now, it seems his future is on the mound, as a guy who pitches at 88-92 mph with a solid breaking ball, and a changeup which could also become solid. Doesn't seem likely to fulfill his commitment to Arizona State.

#16 Cameron Varga, RHP (59-55-62-57, avg: 58.3)

Cam Varga (6'3, 205) is a really old dude, for a HS pitcher. In fact, he is more than two years older than both Bukauskas and Blewett. College pitcher Matt Imhof is less than a year older than Varga. Anyway, enough about his age, because the stuff is pretty good: 92-95 with an inconsistent but potentially plus slider. I wouldn't roll the dice on him but some team likely will, and that'll keep him away from UNC I think.

#17 Keaton McKinney, RHP (78-38-38-82, avg: 59)

McKinney (6'5, 220) has an insanely good changeup and fastball at 88-93. The downside, though, is that McKinney features a high elbow in his strange delivery, which seems to be one of the worst in the draft from an injury perspective. I think there will be much better options available to the Blue Jays, who don't seem to like changeup specialists early in the draft anyway.

#18 Jack Flaherty, RHP (38-60-60-87, avg: 61.3)

If a team is as high on Flaherty (6'3, 190) as Baseball America, then he won't be there for the Jays in either second or third round. The projectable right-hander used to be a two-way prospect but scouts seem to like him more as a pitcher right now. With a commitment to UNC in hand, Flaherty might be a bit of a tough sign for a guy with solid stuff but no "wow" pitches. Velocity is 87-92 mph.

#19 Cody Reed, LHP (44-77-57-81, avg: 64.8)

Cody Reed (6'3, 260) is a big guy. But when you throw 92-97 mph from the left side with solid offspeed pitches, maybe you don't need to have any projection left to be highly rated. Remember that I said high school stats should not be trusted? Well, Cody Reed's 216 Ks in 88 innings is highly impressive regardless. Reed's a Vanderbilt commit so he won't come cheap, but he's expected to be signable in the second round.

#20 Garrett Fulenchek, RHP (51-104-61-52, avg: 67)

Fulenchek's (6'4, 185) relatively low position on this list might be because he didn't go to much of the showcase circuit, and is from a very small town in Texas. There's plenty to like about Fulenchek, who already throws 90-94 with the possibility to add more. His slider has been described by Perfect Game as "one of the best" in the HS pitcher class of 2014. I'd be somewhat surprised if he doesn't go much higher than 67th.

#20 Joe Gatto, RHP (43-90-63-72, avg: 67)

Gatto (6'5, 215) is a rare New Jersey pitching talent, with a fastball in the 89-94 mph range. He's very old for the draft class, but also projectable and quite raw. He apparently needs to repeat his delivery better and refine his offspeed stuff. Commitment to UNC (man these guys recruit a lot of potential stars) means that Gatto will have to be picked quite early to keep him away from college.

#22 Dylan Cease, RHP (77-75-79-64, avg: 73.8)

Cease (6'2, 175) hurt himself and his draft stock this season when his elbow ceased to function, and now it's looking likely that he'll attend Vanderbilt. Cease is one of the hardest throwers in the high school class, having been clocked at 100 mph and pitching usually in the 92-96 range. I can't see even the Jays, who love their pitchers injured, pulling the trigger on this one.

#23 Carson Sands, LHP (50-59-93-99, avg: 75.3)

Carson Sands (6'3, 200) is one of the many solid high school lefties in the class. He sits 88-92 mph with solid mechanics and a good changeup. May or may not be overlooked in the deep pile of Florida prep pitchers. Committed to FSU, but possibly still signable in the third round (I believe there will be better options for the Jays in the second).

#24 Bryce Montes de Oca, RHP (76-81-84-76, avg: 79.3)

There's big pitchers, and then there's Bryce Montes de Oca (6'7, 265). As a Tommy John survivor who just recently made his way back to the mound, Montes de Oca is a real wildcard. What we know is that the kid throws gas, as he's been recorded 91-97 mph. Could I see the Blue Jays rolling the dice on a Tommy John survivor? Most certainly. Not sure he's the best pick at #49 though.

#25 Mitch Keller, RHP (102-63-76-90, avg: 82.8)

Keller (6'3, 200) seems to be a late riser with a 89-93 mph fastball, though he has hit 95. Also features a nice curve, apparently. Is committed to, you guessed it, UNC. Looks like he has a pretty good delivery.

#26 Keith Weisenberg, RHP (68-118-74-74, avg: 83.5)

The thing that stands out with Weisenberg (6'4, 185) is how poorly he uses his lower body to generate velocity. Some team that thinks he'll keep his command and have increased velocity after they rework Weisenberg's delivery will pop him much earlier than a team scared to mess with a pitcher's mechanics. They'll have to give him money, though, as Weisenberg's got a Stanford commitment in his back pocket. 89-95 mph on the fastball.

#27 Trey Supak, RHP (99-95-69-83, avg: 86.5)

Supak (6'5, 210) is apparently at 88-92 mph now but projects for more and is young for the draft class. Like fellow Texan Fulenchek, Supak hasn't been on scouts' radars for long, and he's made a lot of improvements recently. Could rise late and go higher than 80ish, but would be a typical Blue Jays pick at #83.

#28 Grant Hockin, RHP (111-79-72-89, avg: 87.8)

Hockin (6'3, 195) pitches at 88-90 mph, so slower than most highly rate righties in this draft class. Some think he makes up for it with command, others probably think he ends up at UCLA where he could improve his stock drastically given a few years time.

#29 Cobi Johnson, RHP (71-124-77-112, avg: 96)

Johnson (6'4, 170) has very interesting bloodlines: he's the son of the Blue Jays' roving pitching instructor Dane Johnson. This connection, Johnson's projectability, and the fact that Johnson's stock has dropped quite a bit, makes him a quite intriguing option for the Blue Jays. A Florida State commitment is nothing to be sneezed at, however, and it seems like there's a decent chance Johnson does go to college. His 90-93 mph fastball, solid secondary pitches and command should make him a great pitcher there if he doesn't go pro.

#30 Jake Godfrey, RHP (129-101-47-124, avg: 100.3)

Godfrey (6'3, 215) is a pitcher from Illinois, not usually a hotbed for pitching talent. He's hit 94 already but pitches in the low-90s more often. Has at least one impressive breaking ball.

#31 Turner Larkins, RHP (200-69-51-125, avg: 111.3)

BA doesn't seem to be very high on Larkins (6'3, 210) despite a low-90s fastball and solid curve. Garrioch and McDaniel seem to like him a lot, but there's a good chance Larkins doesn't get picked high enough to be signed away from Texas A&M.

#32 Ryan Castellani, RHP (98-97-83-169, avg: 111.8)

At 6'4, 195, Castellani is pretty projectable, but he probably needs the extra velo to add to his 88-91 mph fastball. I really dislike his delivery, as his arm is very late.

#33 Jacob Nix, RHP (105-147-92-118, avg: 115.5)

Jacob Nix (6'4, 205) pitches in the low-90s but has underdeveloped secondaries. Likely ends up at UCLA, unless there's a team that wants to really dream on Nix's potential.

#34 Bryan Dobzanski, RHP (140-146-67-133, avg: 121.5)

Dobzanksi (6'4, 225) is apparently a two-time state wrestling champion. I am unsure how that relates to pitching, but he's apparently hit 94 with a slow curve as main secondary pitch. Louisville probably isn't the strongest commitment ever, so perhaps the Jays take a chance to sign him over slot after the 10th round.

#35 Blake Bivens, RHP (123-91-140-151, avg: 126.3)

Bivens (6'2, 205) has three solid-average pitches but doesn't project well to add velocity to his low-90s fastball. Not a typical Blue Jays pick until later rounds, because Bivens could be pretty signable. Old for the class.

#36 Justin Steele, LHP (120-171-175-68, avg: 133.5)

Rarely does Perfect Game seem to rank a high school pitcher much higher than the others, but Steele (6'2, 165) is the exception. Steele's fastball ranges from 84 to 93 and his offspeed pitches are likewise inconsistent. Could go quite high if teams feel he has recently showed more consistent velocity, and should be signable away from Southern Miss. Old for the draft class.

#37 David Peterson, LHP (95-110-113-223, avg: 135.3)

Big lefty (6'6, 230) from Colorado, pitches at 87-90 mph, could be some projection left. Perfect Game's ranking drives his average ranking down a lot. Old for the class. Hard to find info on this guy.

Left off: Mitch Hart, Patrick Mahomes

Hart (6'4, 190) was as high as 87th on Matt Garrioch's list but didn't make BA's top 200. There's plenty of things to like about the right-hander, though, as Hart is projectable, young for the draft and features good command. Committed to Southern Carolina, so possibly signable later on.

Mahomes (6'2, 185) was just one spot below Hart on Garrioch's list but also didn't make BA's top 200. The right-handed pitcher is committed to play football and baseball at Texas Tech. Has hit 95 mph and could definitely be an overslot surprise pick by the Blue Jays.

Phew. that was quite a list. The 2014 draft class is truly rich on talented high school pitchers, just the kind that the Blue Jays love. Only a week left until the draft!

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