When it comes to the draft, every player is unique and plenty of variables impact how a player’s career tuns out. Many of these variables aren’t quantifiable, but drastically change how a player pans out. Random variance plays a big role into how an amateur prospects career plays out.
In the world we live in, Spencer Strider is a top-5 pitcher in baseball. If you play out his career 99 more times, perhaps 50 of them he’s drafted by another team and doesn’t make it past Double-A. The one that actually happened is likely a 100 percentile outcome. Similar to how we measure exit velocities (50th percentile, 75th, 90th, 100th, etc), this is how a lot of analytically-minded people view a prospect. Some players have very high 25th percentile outcomes, which would essentially be their “floor” while others may have very low 25th percentile outcomes. Generally, pitchers will have low 25th percentile outcomes due to the volatility of the position, but some teams — whether it be knowingly or unknowingly — are more concerned with 70th, 75th, 80th percentile outcomes (upside, ceilings, etc) leading to them taking a pitcher in the top-5. While two pitchers may have identical skills, identical track records, age, etc, their careers can turn out completely differently.
When looking at a prospect like Bryce Miller, if you were a fan of his “type.” You likely had guys like: Gavin Williams, Griff McGarry, Bryce McGowan, Mason Miller, Dominic Hamel, Tanner Kohlepp, Chayce McDermott, Connor Cooke, and Richard Fitts higher than others. All of these pitchers won’t pan out, and that’s just the variance of an amateur prospect, but if you look for guys with these profiles, you’re going to land big league pitchers more times than not. My process is big on these guys. Pitchers who didn’t necessarily have great back of the card stats, like ERA, WHIP or BAA, but they threw enough strikes and had intriguing pitch traits or great stuff.
The ‘21 draft is unlike any we’ll see for awhile. Because of the pandemic, there was an influx of talented fourth-year arms, and that led to the historically good ’21 college arm pool. But that doesn’t mean we’re without any of these “types” and I’ll be looking at a few of them below. I’m completely ignoring performance-based numbers and looking purely at their pitch traits while factoring in locations only to the extent of them throwing ‘enough’ strikes. They can be sophomores, juniors or 24-years-old, it really doesn’t matter much.
Brett Banks, UNC Wilmington
Banks is my favorite comparison to Bryce Miller. He’s 94–98 out of the bullpen with plus ride and what would appear to be a 70-grade heater. He throws his slider for more strikes, and it’s also nasty at 84–87 with tight lateral break and some late depth. He doesn’t use the pitch much despite feel for it and a great shape. He’s being used as a reliever but the profile seems like a starter. Both pitches are plus or better, I don’t think adding a third pitch will be difficult for a pro club. He’s a high upside guy.
Alejandro Rosario, Miami
Rosario’s usage has been a mess this year at Miami, it’s a Griff McGarry profile with a track record of dominance every so often but the overall product has always been inconsistent. His sinker is above-average but performs below-average because of usage, he has a low launch with run and sits 94–99, touching 100. His slider is above-average to plus with sweep, his curve has more depth and similar sweep to the slider but at 77–82 instead of 84–89. He’s also used a cutter, but it backs up a ton and has backwards movement. He’s an elite athlete and I’d bet on him to figure it out with competent pitch calling.
Brody Hopkins, Winthrop
Brody is every progressive organization’s best kept secret right now and most teams probably hope he continues to struggle and drop to the 7th round. He already has four pitches, and all of them have 55+ shapes. His four-seam has above-average carry from a low release, his sinker has an even lower release with average run but he kills lift and gets sink. His slider is his best pitch, it’s more of a power-slurve in the mid-80s with plenty of depth and some sweep, he throws it for the most strikes of any pitch and it could be a 70-grade pitch in the future. His lack of feel for the change makes it average but the shape is really good and he can get into the negatives for IVB. He’s a great athlete, touches 98 and sits in the low to mid 90s. He has one of the highest 90th percentile outcomes in the draft.
Zach Fruit, Troy
Fruit would get compared to Mason Miller for me, he’s averaging about 18" of carry on his four-seam and sits in the mid-90s getting up to 99 from a higher release. He has a firm slider in the 82–87 range that has slight sweep and he also has a curve in the upper-70s that has depth and slightly more sweep compared to the slider. He doesn’t throw his secondaries for strikes but he fills up the zone with his fastball. There’s the potential for three 55+ pitches in the FF, SL and CB.
Sam Knowlton, South Alabama
Knowlton’s secondaries are bad, but he touches 102 and its 96–101 with plus ride at his velocity and he doesn’t have an issue controlling the pitch. His slider is fine at 84–88 but he can’t land it for strikes and the curve is too big of a shape for him to command, it’s in the upper-70s with heavy drop and sweep. He’s probably not a starter but the fastball could be an 80-grade pitch.
Andrew Morones, Cal State Fullerton
Morones is 22-years-old and struggling this year, but he’s actually throwing a decent amount of strikes despite the high walk rate. His four-seam is above-average with some carry from a very low release. He misses a ton of bats with it while throwing it in hitter counts often. He has two breakers, the slider he can command. It’s 83–86 with 5" of sweep, his curve is the better shape though with 19" of sweep at 77–80 and an extra 17" of drop from the slider. He can’t land the curve for a strike but that’s a plus-pitch if he does. I’d give him a shot on day 3 all day. He was solid this summer.
Carlson Reed, West Virginia
Reed is extremely young for a college junior and has been a reliever in college, but his stuff is electric and he gets a ton of swing and misses. He has below-average command and an average fastball due to a generic shape that lacks ride and run, will likely be turned into a sinker at the next level but it’s worked in college due to the velocity. He sits 92–97, and hits 98. His sweeper is firm at 82–87 with 15" of sweep, it can be the best pitch in the country at times and hitters whiff on every other slider they swing at. His change can also flash average at times but the slider is what you’re drafting. It’s a relief profile with feel for supination. Matthew Brash profile.
Chris Kean, Louisiana Monroe
Kean sits in the mid-90s and gets up to 98 with plus ride from a generic release and misses bat with his plus four-seam, he has a low-80s generic gyroball but he hasn’t been developed much and I love the four-seam. He’s out for the year after tearing his UCL and could be a great project for somebody on day 3. He might have 60-grade control but he hasn’t pitched much. He rarely uses his change, although it’s just two pitches, I wouln’t say he’s a reliever just yet. Really love his profile.
Drew Conover, Rutgers
Conover has three pitches and they’re all optimized already with a solid shape paired with command. He gets average run but kills lift below 6" and sits 91–95 with it, up to 96. His cutter in the mid-80s is filthy with 4" of cut and slight lift, his sweeper in the low-80s is firm with 12–18" of glove side break. He’s been pitching better of late but the actual profile hasn’t changed, it’s mostly been the random variance of college baseball.
Craig Yoho, Indiana
Yoho is 91–95 with plenty of run on his sinker from a lowish release angle. He fills up the zone with his sinker. His secondaries are where he gets his best strikes. His breaker is a sweeping curve — they call a slider — that gets 22" of sweep with heavy drop at 74–78. It’s rarely barreled up and has a 65% whiff rate. Flashes plus and I think a pro team will try to either turn it into a low-80 sweeper and give him two separate breakers or add some sort of cutter and go cutter/sweeper instead of a sweeping slider/sweeping curve pairing. His change is filthy and has depth, lade fade, and plays off the sinker well while getting landed in the zone often. He has three average or better pitches, his change and sweeper are plus at times. It could end up being a starter profile.
Cam Minacci, Wake Forest
Minacci has the current profile of a reliever but I think there’s starter upside. His four-seam is a borderline 70-grade pitch with plus ride, a somewhat low launch and velocity ranging from 94 to 99 in short-stints. He also throws a banger at 84–87 with depth and sharp lateral movement. He’s rarely used the CH, but he has to cheat to get a true CH shape with it and his feel for it is fringy at best. It does have low efficiency and can tumble late but it’s inconsistent. Wake is using him as a bullpen guy, which is where he likely ends up in pro ball but I wouldn’t rule out him being a three-pitch guy with two bangers.
Jake Bloss, Georgetown
Bloss is an interesting fourth year arm with an above-average four-seam that has ride and misses plenty of bats at 91–96. He’s been up to 97.4 and has feel for his slider. Fills up the zone with his heater. He has an above-average slider at 80–85 with sweep and some depth, it can be generic later in outings when it’s 80–81. His curve is slow, but has drop and sweep in the mid-70s, he can’t land it for strikes so it’s not a strike stealing pitch, below-average pitch. His change is a pretty generic pitch with no feel. It’s a starter profile. I think he’ll start throwing his CB or CH for strikes eventually and have three 50+ pitches.
Riley Gowens, Illinois
Gowens is another older college guy, he’ll be 23 1/2 years old at the time of the draft. The stuff is really good though, his four-seam is a plus-pitch and his SL is tight with depth, slight lateral break at 83–86. His CH shape is actually really good and he’s able to reverse the four-seam movement profile on it but the feel for it hasn’t been great. His four-seam has an extremely low release and he’s up to 96 from it while sitting 92–95. He can carry the ball real well from the slot and it’s played for whiffs. It’s a relief profile but he’s starting in college and has two great pitches.
Carson Hobbs, Samford
Hobbs has barely pitched this year, but he touched 98 and sits 92–96 with consistent ride on his heater. His vert is in the 20s and missed a lot of bats. His breaker is a hammer at 78–82 with drop and 12" of sweep. He has a change too, but his FF/CB are the attraction and if he’s capable of supinating that well on a low-80s curve, he’ll likely be able to throw a firm slider as well. He has the shot to be a starter in pro ball.
Tyler Bradt, East Carolina
Bradt has been terrible for most of his college career but he looks great if you catch him on the right day. His four-seamer could end up being a 70-grade pitch one day but it’s a 60 as it stands with elite carry (in the 20s consistently with college ball) and sitting 94–97 as a reliever. His breaker is firm and looks good. He just lacks feel for his pitches. It’s tough to teach or develop a four-seamer like that, I’d try to work around it.
Josh Mollerus, Oregon
This profile is probably in the realm of a Landon Knack one. He’s 23 1/2 years old this summer, but the fastball is 92–95 with plus carry and his slider is a plus-pitch in the upper-80s with some baby sweeper traits. He throws it firm, lands both of the pitches for strikes. Love this profile on the end of day 2. It’ll be a relief profile but both pitches could be plus or better at the next level.