The 2021 MLB Draft is going to be an exercise in risk and reward. College players may arguably be at a bit of a disadvantage this July. After all, they hardly played in 2020 at all. High schoolers still had most of their 2020 summer showcase circuit to lean on.
Friendswood, Texas shortstop Izaac Pacheco may be one of the beneficiaries come draft time. He’s a powder-keg at the plate with a surprising amount of fluidity in the field.
At 6-foot-4, 210 pounds, Pacheco certainly fills out a uniform. He’s gotten stronger and stronger over the past calendar year and now looks every bit the body of a big leaguer. The softness seen a year ago is turning to lean muscle, and the physical attributes are showing out loud on the field because of it. He’s lost a little bit of weight over the past six months, and it’s showing in his athleticism and burst on the diamond.
Pacheco is a really sturdy built kid with a lot of strength in his lower-half. His upper body is beginning to catch up with his legs as his shoulders are broadening out and he’s developing some more muscle in his upper and lower arms.
Pacheco has worked hard this past winter and he’s solidified himself a first round value by some area scouts in the area. Cross-checkers and scouting directors have begun flocking to his Houston suburb to get a second and third pair of eyes on the talented infielder leading up to July.
Pacheco has a shot at sticking at shortstop, but he’ll most likely be a third baseman at the next level. We’ll get into that in a bit.
Prep sluggers with a very legitimate chance to stick on the left side of the infield with Pacheco’s size don’t come around very often. The upside here is pretty substantial. I liken this kid’s offensive ceiling to what Matt Carpenter was in his heyday. The difference is, Pacheco is a definitive asset on the dirt, whereas Carpenter was always fringy at best on defense. Pacheco gets a full-grade nod in the athleticism department.
Tools (Future Value)
Pacheco immediately gets bonus points for being a left-handed hitter, and it’s a pretty sweet lefty cut. He employs a reasonably upright stance, square to the pitcher. Pacheco has a pretty mild leg kick while keeping his head on-plane. His hands have a minor hitch into his load, but not to the detriment of his ability to get to pitches.
The first thing that stands out in Pacheco’s swing is just how well his hands work in adjusting to pitches on different planes. He has no problem getting to pitches at the very top of the zone. Not only can he get to pitches at the top of the zone, his bat speed and attack angle really excel on pitches at the letters. He’s got a naturally steep bat angle too, so blistering balls at the bottom of the zone comes easy too.
Pacheco does a good job of using his levers to manipulate the barrel on pitches scattered about the zone. He can handle the pitches high-and-tight, as well as drive pitches low and away into the opposite-field gap.
While Pacheco has a quiet, even-keel approach at the plate, his waggle and leg kick timing have been given him issues in the past, causing issues barreling up the baseball. The swing has a tendency to lengthen a bit on breaking balls and off-speed pitches. That said, when he squares up a fastball, the result is incredibly loud. The hitch and the swing can lead to streaks where infield fly balls and rollover ground balls to second base come more often than one would hope to see. The hit tool isn’t Pacheco’s carrying tool, but it figures to be at least average at the next level, probably a tick above.
Pacheco’s carrying tool is the power and it is outstanding. Given Pacheco’s frame and size, driving the baseball comes pretty easy. There are times his bat speed can be overwhelming.
Two barrels in Pacheco’s first two ABs with a long double to the pull side and then another single. Excellent size, bat speed; some of the best power in the prep class. #PGDraft #MLBDraft @Texas_PG pic.twitter.com/C6yWoCyyjU— Perfect Game Scout (@PG_Scouting) March 10, 2021
As a pro, syncing up his weight transfer and timing mechanism will be a focal point. Once the body is able to stay back on the slow stuff, Pacheco could become a force. The bat speed on the first-pitch fastball above is just insane.
Given the athleticism in the body and the maturing strength, there might be even more power to come. I’ve had several evaluators throw a plus grade on the raw juice, while two others have called it double-plus, 70-grade pop.
Pacheco’s attack angle and vertical bat angle will both aid in his ability to put backspin on the ball as a pro hitter. Pacheco looks every bit the profile of a guy who should hit 30+ homers per year at his peak. I’m genuinely mesmerized by the bat speed and ease of violence in this kid’s swing. If the hit tool can keep up, watch out.
Assuming Pacheco is forced over to third base, he’s certainly going to be an above average defender at the position.
For a guy his size, Pacheco is remarkably light on his feet. He has no issue tracking and smothering balls to his left and right, as well as charging pitches on the grass.
Here’s a look at I/O from top #PGDraft prospect Izaac Pacheco (2021 TX). He’s been on fire to start the year and we’ll get a solid look at him tonight. #Aggies commit. @Texas_PG #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/hujKr22Lti— Perfect Game Scout (@PG_Scouting) March 10, 2021
Pacheco has reliable hands on the dirt, a quick transfer, and an accurate arm that’s proven it can handle just about any throw necessary at shortstop. Again, the athleticism really comes through in his game.
The fundamentals of playing on the dirt are also there. Pacheco rounds into ground balls well and throws on-time and under control. He’s a really strong defender and I think his game will translate beautifully to the hot corner.
Given the trajectory of his body right now, I’d be against him out-growing the position and being forced to first base.
Pacheco has a good, snappy arm that generates significant velocity across the infield and carry. He’s shown he can handle the throws necessary from the left side of the infield.
If there’s one criticism or area to work on, Pacheco has been shown to short-arm balls on rollers he has to charge.
Regardless, there’s not much to worry about on this front. Pacheco is a good athlete who can pick it.
Given the body and the archetype, Pacheco probably won’t ever be anything better than an average runner, maybe a tick below by the time he debuts. That said, he’s gotten himself into really good shape and he’s still adding muscle. The physical trajectory is still going in the right direction, so it’s not out of the question he makes himself into a solid-average runner by the time he’s selected in July.
I do think his play-weight probably ends up in the 215-220 pound range. That, plus the insistence on adding strength with a move to third base, probably leaks him into the average category, maybe fringe-average. Still, the athleticism and speed were never going to be hallmarks of his game. The bat is going to do the heavy lifting.
I don’t know much about Pacheco’s personality, attitude or temperament, but the physical tools are absolutely tantalizing. I do think he has one of the higher ceilings in this entire draft class.
Seattle is in the market for infielders, though prep infielders might not be the mold they’re specifically targeting. Jerry Dipoto and Scott Hunter have to really love a prep profile to buy in in the first round. I do think Pacheco is a viable value at pick no. 12. Whether or not he fits the profile they’re looking for remains the question.
Pacheco is likely a day-one selection come July, so Seattle will likely get one crack at the Texas A&M commit before he’s off the board.