2020 MLB Draft Preview: The Pitchers
today at 7:38 am
One of the main reasons the Cubs have a new VP of Scouting is their lackluster track record of drafting and developing MLB pitchers under the current front office regime. Chicago fans are away of this. The Cubs can’t develop pitching jabs are almost as prevalent nowadays as the ones regarding the Bears inability to develop QBs.
Dan Kantrovitz comes over from the A’s looking to change that. While I do believe there were some positive strides taken by the Cubs in the last two drafts already, the hope is for the new models being put in place under his oversight will further accelerate the process.
Unfortunately for Kantrovitz the challenges facing him this year are staggering. Most of the top prep arms were unable to pitch this year, and several of the collegiate arms expected to be available in the middle of the 1st round were only just beginning to establish themselves as full-time starters.
Questions surround all of them. Drafting pitchers is never easy, developing them into big leaguers even more so, and doing some under the circumstances this season is mindboggling.
You won’t see much in the way of my personal observations below. I just don’t feel comfortable being able to give an in depth opinion on any of the arms this year based on the limiting viewings I’ve had of them.
The Top Four
Top college pitchers: Asa Lacy, Emerson Hancock, Reid Detmers, Max Meyer
Four collegiate pitchers have separated themselves from the pack heading into the draft. Texas A&M lefty Asa Lacy is the presumptive favorite to go off the board first, and is likely gone inside the top three picks. He looked great this spring before the shutdown.
Minnesota righty Max Meyer and Georgia righty Emerson Hancock are expected to go soon after. Meyer had the better spring, featuring upper-90s heat and a wipeout slider, but Hancock entered the year as the presumptive favorite to be the first pitcher chosen before a handful of less than dominant starts took a bit of the bloom off the rose. Louisville lefty Reid Detmers is the probably the most polished arm of the group, but offers less upside. He appears to be the final top ten lock.
The Best of the Rest
To start off, we’ll stick with the collegiate arms as we explore the options who could be available to the Cubs at 16 on Wednesday night.
Oklahoma RHP Cade Cavalli
Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 226 | B-T: R-R
A former two-way player with a classic starter’s frame, Cavalli moved to the mound full time just this spring. He sat mid-90s and touched higher while showing two distinct breaking balls and a projectable change.
Oklahoma RHP Cade Cavalli has been excellent. FB sitting 95-97 mph consistently, SL anywhere from 84-89, can manipulate it and land it, viciously plus at times, CH firm 89-91 w/ great tumble. High-end #MLBDraft target. Here’s 96 on the inner black for a K. pic.twitter.com/3fciiEN3sT
— Brian Sakowski (@B_Sakowski_PG) February 28, 2020
For all the positive attributes he brings to the table, there are some concerns. His delivery is clean, but there is a concern hitters get a really good look at the ball out of his hand. Cavalli has given up more hard contact than others at the top of the draft. Some of that could be chalked up to inexperience, but the lack of deception and sometimes spotty command along with a shorter overall track record make him a greater risk than others.
Cavalli does happen to be a workout partner with current Cubs prospect Kohl Franklin.
Tennessee LHP Garrett Crochet
Ht: 6-6 | Wt: 218 | B-T: L-L
I love the idea of pairing another big, intimidating lefty presence with the Cubs current top pitching prospect Brailyn Marquez. Crochet certainly offers that. The 6’6″ lefty can touch 99, his slider is considered plus-plus and he’s even developed his changeup into a solid offering as well despite splitting his time between the rotation and bullpen for the Vols. He was set to take over as a full-time starter this year but missed the first few weeks and managed to make only one unannounced 3.1 inning appearance this spring which few scouts saw in person.
Could LHP @GarrettCrochet make a debut as soon as…2020?!@ProspectJesus seems to think so as he and @B_Sakowski_PG broke down one of the most talented lefties in the draft. https://t.co/l4eRIAVK7d pic.twitter.com/crSR1Kt23d
— Prospects Live (@ProspectsLive) May 24, 2020
He adds deception with his cross-body delivery and there is no doubt his stuff will play. The question is can he consistently repeat his delivery and throw enough strikes to be a starter. If he can, you might have the next Chris Sale. If not, you may be drafting a closer or lefty reliever at 16th overall.
Georgia RHP Cole Wilcox
Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 232 | B-T: R-R
Emerson’s rotation mate is an intimidating presence and offers plus stuff on the mound. Mid-90s, a plus slider and the makeup of a solid change offer plenty of upside. Walks have been an issue in the past. He was trending in the right direction though, taking over as the Saturday Night starter for the Bulldogs this spring, while showing better control (4 BB/32 K in 23 IP).
— Prospects 365 ⚾️ (@Prospects365) February 14, 2020
Mississippi State RHP J.T. Ginn
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 192 | B-T: R-R
A 1st round pick of the Dodgers just two years ago, Ginn offers an excellent three-pitch mix. His fastball/slider combo matches up with anyone in the class and his changeup is more advanced than others. He appeared a prime candidate to go top 15 heading into 2020.
— Prospects 365 (@Prospects365) February 14, 2020
It is almost impossible to get a read on where the talented righty will be chosen however, as he is a draft eligible sophomore, giving him plenty of leverage in the tricky negotiations this year, but there is also the factor that Ginn blew out his elbow this spring and underwent TJS. Drafting Ginn is perhaps the biggest risk/reward proposition among the collegiate class.
Duke RHP Bryce Jarvis
Ht: 6-2 | Wt: 195 | B-T: L-R
A riser this spring, Jarvis went from being considered a mid-round pick to a potential 1st round pick thanks to extensive work at Driveleine and Cressey Sports Performance which greatly improved his velocity. Formerly topping out in the low-90s over his first two years at Duke, Jarvis returned this spring touching the upper-90s while holding mid-90s deep into outings. His slider and changeup are also considered above average offerings.
2020 PitchingNinja Award for Most Dominant Performance by a College Pitcher.
Winner: Bryce Jarvis. [94 pitch, 15K Perfect Game] pic.twitter.com/imHIOyVD2z
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) April 10, 2020
But it is difficult to gauge just how real his breakout was with just four spring starts to judge. Can he sustain that velo over the course of a season? Jarvis wasn’t a full-time starter last year and didn’t pitch on the Cape so there just isn’t much track record of him performing multiple times through an order against top competition.
Have I mentioned scouting this draft class is really difficult?
Others: South Carolina RHP Carmen Mlodzinksi (dominated on the Cape last summer led to top half of the 1st round rankings prior to season, but was less impressive in first four starts this year), Auburn RHP Tanner Burns (A solid, high floor starter with a an SEC track record)
There simply wasn’t enough time this spring for the prep pitchers to show their stuff in game action. In some cases there was none. With the leverage prep players have to go to college and re-enter the draft down the road, taking a prep righty makes a risky proposition even riskier.
RHP Mick Abel
Ht: 6-5 | Wt: 198 | B-T: R-R
Three months ago the notion of Mick Abel being available with the 16th pick was almost laughable. But when the presumptive top prep arm doesn’t get to pitch at all leading up to the draft, who knows. Abel has been on the radar for a while, and despite touching 97 and sitting low-90s last summer to go along with advanced feel for his slider and changeup, there was still the hope for more to come this year as teams hoped he’d continue filling out his 6’5″ frame.
Coming out of a non-traditional prep environment in Oregon there are surely some teams that wanted to see more out of Abel to consider him a lock for the top ten. He wasn’t able to build on the momentum he had last summer and now there has to be some concern he’ll go the college route and re-enter the draft down the road under more favorable circumstances.
2020 RHP Mick Abel (OR) is a name you need to know for the ‘20 #MLBDraft. Fast arm, plenty of projection & sat 95-96 in first inning; slider showed + up to 86, flashed 86-88 CH in warm ups. #OregonState commit. pic.twitter.com/lsTWeM9sbD
— Jheremy Brown (@JBrownPG) June 12, 2019
I still expect he goes prior to 16, but I’ve seen mocks placing Abel with the Cubs or Red Sox in the middle of the 1st round. It might take an overslot deal at that point, but a big market team might be willing to roll those dice.
RHP Nick Bitsko
Ht: 6-4 | Wt: 220 | B-T: R-R
While Abel was considered the top prep arm in the 2020 class heading into the year, Nick Bitsko was expected to challenge for that role in the 2021 class according to most. That was until he graduated early and reclassified himself for the 2020 Draft. But then, like Abel, Bitsko did not get to throw a single pitch this spring so… have I mentioned scouting this draft class is really difficult?
Prep righty Nick Bitsko up to 98.5 mph in a bullpen today per his Instagram https://t.co/9eobneQfv6 buzz in today’s mock that he could go in the top half of the first round https://t.co/fxOA5jwbHV pic.twitter.com/9qqASBhWMB
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) May 26, 2020
He’s already packed on plenty of muscle mass to his 6’4″ frame and there’s plenty of track record of him throwing in the mid-90s. He’s posted video of him hitting upper-90s in training sessions leading up to the draft but it is difficult to assess if that is sustainable in game action or not. What distinguishes Bitsko most is his curveball. He generates power and spin on the pitch and most scouts project it to be a plus or better offering.
RHP Jared Kelley
Ht: 6-3 | Wt: 215 | B-T: R-R
It wouldn’t be a 1st round of the MLB Draft without a big arm coming out of the Texas prep ranks. This year, Jared Kelley has built up the most momentum thanks to easy mid-to-upper-90s velocity that he pairs with one of the best changeups among the teenage crop. There is concern regarding his ability to spin a breaking ball, but Kelley did get to perform a bit this spring, and his slider did look better according to scouts who saw him.
Video of our top-ranked prep prospect, RHP Jared Kelley. Through two starts this season Kelley has thrown 7 innings with 20 strikeouts & just one walk. Most recent outing he was up to 98-99: #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/N3yfWAnykL
— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) March 4, 2020