We arrive finally at high school pitching, which is the strength of this draft class with some very good depth, which could stand to benefit the Blue Jays if and when names start sliding, not only lower in the first round but into the second round (like what happened with Sean Reid-Foley in 2014). High school pitchers are really risky, and teams can get cold feet as draft day approaches. At the top are a pair of well-known names in Jason Groome and Riley Pint who will (almost) certainly not make to the Blue Jays at the 21st overall pick and so consequently will not discussed further.
After that, there's another tier of five pitchers who are ranked as elite draft picks, but a notch below the pair at the top (that's not to say that they'll all be picked afterwards, what with pricetags and deals). The chance of any single one of then dropping to the Jays is probably less than 50%, but a couple will likely be available at 21. After that, there's another gap to the next tier of four pitchers who figure more into the back of the first round or sandwich round. Though again, it would not be surprising for any of them to go higher to a team that really liked them and cut a bit of a deal. Equally, they could slide to the second round potentially.
We start with the usual table of back information, taken from MLB.com profiles as well as rankings from Perfect Game, MLB.com and Baseball America to give some sense of where opinion stands:
Geographically, it's an interesting mix, with a couple of cold weather pitchers, a couple from the south, a couple from Texas and then three Californians, interestingly tiled to Northern California as opposed to the typical SoCal lean. Age wise, the average for top pitching prospects is about 18 years, 6 months with a standard deviation of 5 months, with all these prospects falling well within the norm.
Solid First Rounders
Braxton Garrett (video)
There is growing buzz that the Marlins are planning on taking Garrett with the 7th overall pick, and it was always unlikely the Vandy commit would fall to the Jays anyway (and they would likely have needed to save money elsewhere to buy him out of that commitment).
Garrett has what is considered the best curveball of all high school pitchers, the type of innate feel that can't be taught. He doesn't have the top shelf fastball velocity of a Jason Groome, but it's still very good for a lefty in low-90s with room to add a little more as he fills out. He's also got some of the most advanced command of the high school pitching. He has more work to do on his changeup, but it has potential to be an average or better pitch (Perfect Game ranks it as one of the top changeups), giving him the profile of a frontline pitcher.
Ian Anderson (video)
Anderson is also a Vandy commit, which usually comes with the price tag that makes him a bit of a wild card. On top of that, the season in New York starts late, so teams haven't been able to see him as much this spring compared to most other draft picks. He's also one of the more projectible pitchers who figure to go in the first round, with plenty of filling out to do.
His fastball has touched 96 in 2016, after working more in the high 80s to low 90s and touching 94 last year. He has good feel for a changeup which some project to be a plus pitch, and a breaking ball that is variously described as a slider and curveball.
Matt Manning (video)
Manning was touched on last week in the review of mock drafts, and for what little it's worth he's one of my favourite prospects in the draft. He also apparently has a big bonus demand in excess of $4-million, so it'll be interesting to see what happens.
Manning is a very athletic player who has split his time playing basketball, and has plenty of projection remaining. He has one of the top fastballs, not only in terms of velocity in the low/mid 90s and touching 96-97, but also due t the movement generated by throwing from a low three quarters arm slot (there's also some thinking that lower arm slots result in less stress on the arm and fewer injuries). However, because of his fastball's dominance and the fact that he hasn't focused on baseball, his secondary pitches are further behind. He also shows good feel for a curveball that ends up more slurvy due to the low arm angle.
Everything's bigger in Texas, including the pitchers, and Whitley certainly fits that mantra. In his second mock, Keith Law linked him to the Jays, and it totally fits their history and tendencies, having taken physical Texan high school pitchers in the early rounds consistently (Noah Syndergaard 2010, Jeremy Gabryszwski 2011, Tyler Gonzales 2012, Justin Maese 2015).
He's consistently had some of the biggest fastball velocity in the class, but had trouble commanding it and repeating his delivery before this year due to his size at 250 pounds. He's since dropped some weight, with improved his delivery and had his velocity touched as high as 97 with much improved command. Beyond that, he's got a four pitch mix, with two different breaking balls. Perfect Game rates his slider as the second best among high schoolers, but MLB.com gives his power curveball a higher future grade. His changeup has potential as a third pitch, which gives him the frontline rotation ceiling, a potential ace in a perfect scenario.
Joey Wentz (video)
Wentz is part of a banner year for Kansas, in most years he'd easily be the top prospect but this year is not even the top regarded high school pitcher, playing second fiddle to Pint. He is committed to the University of Virginia where he could be a two way player, and there's some signability questions and rumours of a big price tag which make him a bit of a wild card, especially with a lot of the team that could save money at the very top having lower picks where they could go overslot.
Later First/Sandwich Rounders
Kyle Muller (video)
In his latest mock draft last week, Keith Law had Muller going to the Jays at 21, though it sounded more like a placeholder for the general profile than conviction that he was their guy. He burst upon the scene a couple summers ago, sitting in mid/high 80s, but stalled out ntil this spring when he further rose into the low 90s, touching 93/94. He's not the most elite fastball, but he's also features a sweeping curveball and feel for a changeup. Scouts love his frame, athleticism, and easy delivery, with his present command ranking near the top of the class. On the flip side, he doesn't have the same projection as some of the others.
Jared Horn (video)
Horn is a Northern California pitcher whose velocity spiked this spring and which has shot him up the draft board. He was also a three sport athlete in high school (including quarterbacking), so he has less mileage on his arm but also less polish. He's one of the youngest pitchers in the draft, and one of the more projectible since he has alot of filling out to do. He should be on the board when the Blue Jays pick, and in a lot of ways feels a lot like their profile.
After his fastball touched 93 but sat in the high 80s at the Area Code Games last summer, he's been in the mid-90s this spring and touch into the high-90s. His best secondary pitch is currently a big, sweeping curveball; with a decent changeup that could be a third average pitch and apparently also a slider that is inconsistent but can get swings and misses.
Kevin Gowdy (video)
Gowdy's best pitch is his breaking ball, which he tightened from more of a downer curveball to a tighter slider with horizontal tilt, and that Perfect Game ranks as the best slider of all high school pitchers. His fastball is not as elite as some of the others pitchers here, but it's still very good sitting in the low 90s. He also has one of the better current changeups, which gives him three pitches which have good chances to be average or better. Scouts also love his delivery and rank his command very highly. He's committed to UCLA, so signability could bean issue if he slips.
Alex Speas (video)
Speas has some of the best fastball velocity and life due to excellent arm speed, but is also one of the least refined top 100 pitchers. Law compared him to Stetson Allie, who was drafted 52nd overall in 2010 because he could hit 100, but had no clue where it was going and never found the control. His best secondary is a power slider. He can struggle to repeat his delivery, but it's an electric arm for a team that wants a high-ceiling project.