We are just getting into the fun part, projecting prep talent. I can understand why many don’t like the sifting through the dozens upon dozens of high school arms when almost all of them seem the same during a time when throwing 95 has become commonplace. I have taken great care to do that for you and believe that each of my favorite, under the radar high school pitchers are different in their way. I am not just going to list the hardest throwers or the most polished. This year’s arms have a lot of strengths and are a truly great group as I have before. There is something for everyone and a whole lot to dream on. I would guess that there is going to be real run on them during the compensatory rounds that are sandwiched between the first and the second. A problem that comes up commonly is that of signability. It pays off for a lot of these teens to bet on themselves and enroll in the draft in a few years to get the money they want. It is easier than a position player doing the same and health permitting. I will not disqualify those who are tough signs and instead will make a note of it. What I think you will be surprised with is how much I regard pitchability. I am of the belief that velocity can be taught better today than ever before and so, I put more of an emphasis on pitchers who are well-rounded outside of velocity. To be blunt, fastballs are just not that special anymore. Of course, good ones are welcomed but it’s been shown how hard it is to make a thrower a pitcher.
MLB.com rank: 34
Montgomery is good pitcher to start off this discussion. Scouts and writers seem to be divided on how good he actually is. I think he’s rather interesting because of his being a strike-thrower at such a young age, my first priority. His fastball is making gains, which is nice, and he’s done well when matched up against top high school hitters. Mostly, I actually like his delivery and do not know why it gives some pause. He’s relaxed on the mound, like a Florida guy, and has something of a slurve that he likes to drop in there. You can tell he’s an athlete by how well he repeats his mechanics and there is a whole lot to work with if he can keep it up. He’s not just throwing when he’s out there but pitching which is why I see a lot of Mike Clevinger in his game. Clevinger, who was far from highly touted, is a good pitcher for Montgomery to look at and learn from as he works on getting better, no matter where he is the next few couple years. Montgomery‘s pitches already move so that is promising for their development. It should be fascinating to see where he is taken and if that’s in the first round.
MLB.com rank: 53
It took me a little while to fully understand what I was seeing with Tanner, a big and tall Texas righty, but I knew I liked what I saw. Like Montgomery, his repertoire features a lot of 55s as opposed to 60s but this can change rapidly. He’s also quite the athlete, playing third base on the side, and is a tougher sign. If a team drafts him early enough and goes after him in negotiations, they will get someone finally throwing in the 90s regularly and has reached 95. He too has the start of a power curveball but throws his with more regularity and less speed as it clearly is his go-to pitch. Witt throws his offspeed with the same arm action as he does his fastball and his delivery has changed several times over the years but the most recent video of him I saw looks like the best he’s been. It’s seems more repeatable and to fit his frame well. As he gets more comfortable with his body and gains some pounds, he will be even harder to hit. I saw shades of Stephen Strasburg at the end of his deliveries, which should get anyone’s attention or at least notice what he can be with patience.
MLB.com rank: 54
On the contrast, I knew exactly what I saw in Masyn Winn. He has a god-given talent in the form of his fastball that I have no problem predicting will reach the triple digits. Wynn may be THE most athletic player in the entire draft as some teams like him more as a shortstop than pitcher. While I kind of see what they are saying, a future Jordan Hicks is hard for me to turn down. He does showcase good power hitting the baseball with his plus bat speed but his arm is just too quick for me to ask him to do anything else but pitch. If that is not enough, the makings of a plus slide and curveball are there and he is not afraid or hesitant to throw it for someone who throws as fast as he does. There are rumblings of personality issues but that can be dealt with as he is so young and probably learning as much about himself as he is baseball. I would not object to using him as a two-way player in minors so that he can continue both like he probably wants to but envision toeing the rubber when all is said and done. He’s on the shorter side so he has not been talked about too much nationally.
MLB.com rank: 55
Jones is another two-way talent but is not as talented as Wynn, although few are. He gets his edge a different way and is just as big a hassle to face. He can be seen in video almost taunting his opponents when they come to bat and screwing with them endlessly, changing his delivery, tempo and quickpitching. I loved it and enjoyed the Jared Jones experience. The closest thing I could compare him and his shenanigans to is Trevor Bauer, who has built himself a reputation for such things. He also changes his velocity well and is always thinking on the mound, engaging in a chess game of sorts. He comes from a family of athletes as both his parents were baseball players so the athletic factor is there. His pitches sink and tumble naturally and Jared is not much taller than Wynn. He makes up for it with his competitiveness and heart, not unlike another Californian in the draft, Max Rajcic, who beat him in a head to head pitching duel that was one of the best pitched games I’ve seen this year.
MLB rank: 56
I may be just a tad biased here but Alex is the best prospect to come out of New York City and the Bronx is a long time. While his fastball is not popping as much as Jones’ is of late, in time that will come. Santos’ frame bodes well for a velocity uptick that could take him into the next tier of pitching prospect if and when that happens. He is lanky with long legs and long arms so I suspect he may also not be done growing. His slider has bite and is a little on the slower side but it is likely to be his second best pitch long-term. There is more than a slight resemblance to Santos and another Bronx legend in Dellin Betances, which will be even more pronounced once he gets bigger and throws faster. He does not have the toughest commitment to sign away from in Maryland so there exists the possibility of an undershot deal if a team takes him earlier than he is expecting. Alex is working on perfecting his changeup and could look like a completely different person a year from now as he is entering a critical stage.
MLB.com rank: 57
No one illustrates a makeover or change from one year to the next better than Justin. Just 12 months ago, he did not look like an athlete or someone who picked up a weight in his life. Today, he is bulked up and throwing much harder than any other high schooler when his velocity used to hover in the low nineties. Lange has reached 102 MPH in bullpens and is unrecognizable from pictures of him back then. This shows a commitment to his career that all teams should give him points for, on top of, of course, his having the best fastball in the US. The concern is he is kind of a blank slate at the moment as far as other pitches go but the flip side is a positive one: he’s moldable clay and can turn into any shape a team wants him to once they get their hands on him to work with him. I would compare him to another Texan in last year’s draft, Josh Wolf, who was paid overslot money to sign with the Mets and teamed with Matt Allan. Both throw effortless cheddar cheese, and have to be developed from the top down.
MLB.com rank: 68
Ryan is unlike the other pitchers before him as the Tennessee native does not need a fastball boost to be effective. He looks like he’s a college pitcher already with his height and weight as well as mentality while pitching. His secondary pitches are far along and have been developed in a way that is unusual for someone who could turn 18 years old on the day he is drafted. His delivery is unusual but suits him and reminds me of Jake Odorizzi’s and Kyle Hendrick, two smart pitchers who have excelled with average stuff and an above average feel for pitching. Another pitcher who is slated by MLB.com to go five slots before him, Kyle Harrison, is the same way but from the left side. When I was watching the top prep hitters in All Star Games, it was like all of them had a hard time cracking him. Kyle has a worse fastball but also throws the ball where he wants it to. Both can exceed and surpass draft expectations. Hagenow, on his part, keeps the ball low and leverages his 6’5” height to do so.
MLB.com rank: 72
Hernandez is similar to Hagenow in the sense that he knows exactly the pitcher he wants to be. High schoolers who face his changeup, which is the best high school change I have scouted in a while, are in for a rude awakening and have almost no chance against it. Most of all, I just like him as a person. Having read some of his life story, he is a player I would have no reservations of drafting and paying because of his trying to use his gift to make a better life for his family. He has the perspective of someone much older and is ready to become a professional on day one. The changeup also helps to make his fastball faster than it is, confusing hitters even more. The potential for more velocity down the line is not gone and could happen. As much as I love Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo for their free coverage, I do not understand how he is a 45 FV when all of his parts are over that. He may not have effortless velocity but he does have effortless pitching and makes it look a whole lot easier than it is for someone with his physical profile.
MLB.com rank: 84
Hence does not just have the best name in the draft, he has one of its best deliveries too. Like Winn, he has a supremely fast arm and the velocity will catch up to it. He is taller but does not use his body to its maximum strength. Once he begins to, Hence will likely be a top 100 prospect in baseball and considered close to untouchable for his team. At 17, he’s younger than most prepsters and will benefit as much as anyone from coaching and learning to be more finesse. Hence does a number of things positively like using his athleticism and having above average mechanics already so all signs point to things only going up from here for the Arkansas commit. Another potential Razorback and high school pitcher in the state, Nick Griffin, is a tall lefty who is the same age and exhibits a better ability to spin the baseball. I like his arm slot and think it has elements of Cliff Lee, with a lethal, snappy curve. If a team pairs the two of them, it will be something to watch as they come up together.
MLB.com rank: 92
Aside from his long locks, Ricky is hard to miss on the mound. Another two-way player, Tiedemann’s home is undoubtedly on the mound where he is a treat to watch. He is lanky and finds ways to throw strikes despite the moving parts. He’s fluid in his delivery and should be able to get to another gear velocity wise relatively soon. Once he does, he will look more and more like another lefty from around the area, David Price, who is hard to take your eyes off even now. It is fair to say I cannot picture him matriculating to San Diego State, unless something goes terribly wrong. He should be allowed to start his pro career right away and deserves to have at least one team high on him. I would take him and any of the prep arms mentioned somewhere in the second round, along with my first honorable mention, Victor Mederos, who I regard highly.
Honorable mentions: Of these five, it’s Mederos and then everyone else. Like another Cuban turned Florida hero, Mederos fled and defected as a child. His personality is beloved as is his confidence and it’s no secret who might be inspiring him. I am willing to wage that Mederos watched a whole lot of José Fernandez growing up as he wears the #16 and comes with Jose’s body type. The delivery shows it too as it is physical and hints of durability with his slider that goes nicely with a power fastball, much like Fernandez’s did not long ago. Carter Baumler, the top pitcher from Iowa, is a TCU commit so he might be difficult to sign but is worth trying to because of the work he’s putting in and on YouTube. His delivery is aided by his fit 6’2 frame and clean motion. He could get bigger to look more like Jake Arrieta and already pitches like the TCU great. I would tell TJ Nichols, who is wild as a pitcher, to sign and trust a good team to bring him along like the Giants and Mets did with an equally wiry Zack Wheeler. Jacob Misiorowski is 6’6” and has trouble finishing his otherwise stellar delivery just as Max Scherzer did when he struggled to get on top of the baseball with the Diamondbacks. His limbs cause this and he could be helped by teams too. Of the part-time football players and QBs, Hunter Barnhart is my preference as he is more polished than Cade Horton or Nolan McLean.