The MLB draft starts today at 4 PM PST. In this final week, we’re going to throw some names out who might be available when the Mariners pick with numbers 17, 55, 93, and 123. (NB: there are big gaps between their first and second choices and second and third choices because that’s when the competitive balance picks are. The Mariners don’t have any picks in those rounds, but the good news is the Astros get one because the stupid Cardinals hacked their database. Stupid Cardinals.) We’ve sorted players into two tiers—projected first/second rounders and projected third/fourth rounders. Because the pitching class is so big, we’re going to cover them in a couple different installments, starting with the top tier, first or second-rounder types. Also, you might be interested in revisiting the series I did on Division II pitchers, who will probably start popping up in the later rounds of the draft, but some (like Garretts King and Cave) might go much earlier. Yesterday we covered players listed in MLB’s top 30; today we will do the next chunk of arms.
Hans Crouse, RHP, Dana Hills HS - Crouse might be the hardest-throwing high school prospect, with a fastball that regularly sits 94 mph. Matched up with his mid-70s breaking ball and 6’5” frame, plus his high-energy delivery, he’s a nightmare for opposing batters. He has a great whiplike arm action but can struggle a little to locate his stuff, and he’s still on the skinny side, but his ceiling is that of a front-of-rotation pitcher.
Corbin Martin, RHP, Texas A&M - Martin is a tricky one, having worked both as a starter and out of the bullpen. His fastball sits in the low 90s as a starter, but can bump up to 98 as a reliever. He features a solid fastball and a very good curveball, though, and is working on a change-up, and has solid middle-of-the-rotation potential.
Nate Pearson, RHP, Central Florida JC - The 6’6” Pearson might be the hardest-throwing junior college prospect, with a fastball he can command that regularly touches 97. However, his secondary stuff is underdeveloped and inconsistent, which might spell a bullpen role for any team that wants to develop him quickly.
Brendon Little, LHP, State JC of Florida - Another hard thrower out of a Florida junior college, Little also has a fastball that can touch 97, but with less consistent command than Pearson. He does have a solid, sharp-breaking curveball, however, and he’s left-handed, which puts him ahead of Pearson for me.
Tanner Burns, RHP, Decatur HS - Burns sits in the low to mid 90s with his fastball and isn’t a great big guy, but he’s more advanced than the average high school hurler, with an advanced feel for his curveball and changeup. His command is excellent on the fastball and he can throw it to both sides of the plate for strikes. With his clean mechanics and compact delivery, he reminds me of high school Andrew Moore; he seems to pitch older than he is.
Will Crowe, RHP, South Carolina - Crowe is a big boy at 6’2” and 250, and he sat for all of 2016 after having TJ surgery in 2015. He throws in the low to mid-90s and complements his fastball with a power curve and a nasty slider.
Jacob Heatherly, LHP, Cullman HS - Heatherly might be the top lefty prep prospect taken, although his stuff isn’t overwhelming, with a fastball in the low 90s that plays up thanks to arm angle and location. His secondary pitches are very raw, and he might be well-served to follow through on his commitment to Alabama to continue developing them.
Steven Jennings, RHP, Dekalb HS - Jennings is your pitcher Patrick Kivlehan, a football star who tore his ACL and decided to stick to baseball instead. His fastball currently sits in the low 90s but he has a projectable frame and may be able to add a few ticks to that as he develops. He has a good, hard slider and is developing a curveball and changeup that both show potential.
Clarke Schmidt, RHP, South Carolina - Schmidt hurt his elbow after 9 starts this year and had to have TJ surgery, so any team that drafts him will have to wait a while to see what they got. His velocity was up to 92-96 this year before he got hurt, but as he’d never posted numbers that high before it’s a bit of a question mark about whether he’ll be able to return to that after recovering. Luckily, Schmidt’s fastball has lots of sink to it so the velocity isn’t a major concern anyway.
Alex Scherff, RHP, like five different high schools? - I don’t know why Scherff has attended so many different schools (he was touring the renowned Texas school system?), but he sure can pitch, and he knows it. After dropping forty pounds, his fastball jumped into the 90s, and he’s also got a pretty nasty changeup. Unlike many other prep arms, Scherff seems to understand the difference between being a thrower and being a pitcher.
Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford - Beck turned in a strong freshman season that had scouts salivating to see what he’d do as a draft-eligible sophomore. Unfortunately, they—and everyone else—will have to wait, as a stress fracture in his back has sidelined Beck all year. There might be a team impressed enough with what they saw last year to take a gamble, although it will take some money to enchant him away from the Cardinal. John Sickels over at Minor League Ball reports there are rumors Beck has a pre-draft deal with a team picking early.
Blaine Knight, RHP, Arkansas - At just 165 pounds on his 6’3” frame, the draft-eligible sophomore has some physical developing yet to do. His low-90s fastball, though, plus a serviceable slider/cutter, has scouts willing to look past his skinny frame. Knight’s fastball can touch 97 and he might be a good candidate for a Devinski-style reliever, especially if he stays on the skinny side. This press conference makes it sound like he’s staying at Arkansas for another year, though.
Phew. Okay. That’s the pitching group in the next set of 30 on the MLB prospect list. We’ve definitely moved into some third-round territory here and the draft is today, so I think I’ll cap this at this point. I’m bummed not to have gotten to DII prospects Garrets King and Cave, or OSU’s Jake Thompson, or 6’7”/265 Bryce Montes de Oca, which is my favorite name/size combination ever. Oh well. There’s always next year.