The effects of a truncated, 5-round draft in 2020 has certainly had effects on the 2021 MLB Draft. In any normal year, big arms like Tommy Mace, Matt Mikulski and Bryce Miller wouldn’t be available in two separate drafts. They’d have been snatched up and rostered by big league organizations with more picks and bigger bonus pools to spend. That has certainly helped the health of the 2021 MLB Draft talent pool.
Georgia southpaw Ryan Webb is another carry-over from the 2020 MLB Draft who finds himself eligible again in 2021.
Let’s make one thing clear. Webb is not available this year because he wasn’t good enough to get selected in a five round draft. There were teams who had second round grades on him last year. Ultimately, Webb bet on himself. He (and his advisor) positioned himself with a higher signing bonus demand. In a draft where teams had to get creative with their bonus pools, Webb did not hear his name called.
Ultimately, that is going to end up being a good thing for his pocketbook.
One of the bigger reasons teams didn’t take the plunge on Webb and pay him the figure he wanted was his track record. After all, pitching in Athens, Georgia with Emerson Hancock, Cole Wilcox, Tim Elliott and CJ Smith can make it difficult to get many starts, especially in a 16-game season. In three seasons from 2018 to 2020, Webb logged just 7 starts in 44 games. All of those starts came as an 18-year-old in 2018.
You may recognize a couple of those names if you’re a Mariners fan. Indeed, Seattle selected Elliott in the 4th round in 2019 and Hancock 6th overall in 2020. Could Webb scratch that itch for Jerry Dipoto and Scott Hunter in 2021?
Webb has gotten better and better every year with the Bulldogs. In 2021, he’s amassed a 3.42 ERA with 70 strikeouts over 47.1 innings. In that stretch, he’s walked 17 batters and allowed just 34 hits. He’s had a little trouble giving up the long ball, surrendering 8 dingers in 9 starts, though four of those came at the hands of South Carolina this month.
It’s not a particularly strong year for college lefties, but Webb represents one of the better bets to not only succeed, but stick in a big league rotation thanks to a full arsenal, good command, and proven ability to throw long innings.
Tools (Future Value)
Webb is certainly a fastball-heavy arm, throwing the heater 49-percent of the time. It’s not a dominant fastball by any means, not quite a weapon by pro standards, but it is a formidable offering that he generally commands well to both sides of the plate. Webb’s fastball averages 91.4 mph but has been up to 93.4 mph this season.
It’s a fastball with plenty of hop, averaging north of 18.7 inches of induced vertical break with a little arm-side run that Webb has shown a particularly good feel for spotting to all four quadrants, but especially glove-side.
Webb’s longer arm action provides some natural deception to hitters, but his feel and command for his secondary pitches allows the fastball to eat a little more than its velocity suggests it probably should.
Webb has a strong, sound lower half and really drives his shoulders to the plate, so provided a Gas Camp™ or two, it’s not hard to foresee Webb chucking 93-94 consistently once he’s fully developed. He threw a bit harder out of the bullpen in 2020, reaching north of 94 at times. After all, he’s only been stretched out as a starter for one year. His arm talent is still pretty unrealized.
Webb’s best secondary is the big breaking ball, and it’s certainly a good one. It’s a high-70s, high-spin bender averaging north of 2800 rpm. The result is a sharp-breaking 11-5 shape with huge depth. Webb tries to deploy a 12-6 bender, but given his arm slot and release, it sometimes melts in slurve.
Given the vertical, riding fastball, Webb’s curveball tunnels really nicely and provides a good bit of deception with huge vertical separation.
Numbers entirely side, it’s Webb’s feel to command the pitch that makes his curveball so tough to square up. Spotting the bender low, glove-side, back-footing righties has been a focus for Webb in 2021 and he’s punched out a lot of bodies doing so.
A big reason the fastball and curveball are so successful is the separation Webb creates on all four of his pitches. Every pitch has distinct velocity and each pitch shows a little different wrinkle. It’s tough for hitters to sit on any sort of plane or cadence and it makes squaring up Webb especially difficult.
Ironically enough, Webb’s slider is his forth option in his bag of bullets, electing to throw it just 12 percent of the time. The pitch has real promise at the next level though. It might not be a premier swing-and-miss offering against pro batters, but it tunnels well off his fastball and changeup, provides a unique look, and should act as a catalyst to induce ground balls to both left and right-handed batters in the big leagues.
Webb’s slider generally sits 81 to 84 mph but has been up to 85 mph this season. It’s another reasonably high-spin pitch north of 2500 rpms and has gyro cutter-ish tendencies with solid depth and less sweep than his curveball.
Kansas State lefty Jordan Wicks’ changeup gets all the headlines as potentially the best cambio in the class, but Webb has a sneaky case as well. Wicks has elite feel for the pitch, but Webb has every bit the shape Wicks has. Webb generates less spin, induces more arm-side fading action, and nearly mirrors the depth that Wicks gets on his changeup. All that said, Wicks averages 81.7 mph on his changeup where Webb sits closer to 84. The separation Wicks gets is far superior to Webb for the time being.
There’s reason to believe Webb’s changeup is going to be a really good offering in the big leagues. He commands the pitch really well and has shown the ability to deploy is against righties almost exclusively. His ability to create a little more separation, as well as keeping it at the knees arm-side will be critical in defining its future role in his arsenal.
If you’re a believer in the changeup, and the potential that Webb could add a tick or two to the fastball, it’s pretty easy to make the argument he’s the best college lefty in the class. Both of his breaking balls are far-superior to Wicks’ and the changeup isn’t that far behind.
The Mariners, specifically, really liked Webb in 2020 but it wasn’t meant to be. Under Dipoto, the team has had pretty big success pulling talent out of the state of Georgia (Hancock, Elliott, Kyle Lewis, as well as farm-favorite Keegan McGovern) thanks to area scout John Wiedenbauer. Don’t be surprised if they fancy themselves another peach with pick no. 47.