I’ve been watching Letter Kenny and it’s starting to give the Sopranos a run for their money. I’m not one for primers, so let’s get cooking.
Khristian Curtis, RHP, Arizona State
Curtis’ heater isn’t good and is right in the dead zone but his secondaries are plus all together. His cutter at 87–91 is probably his best whiff/strike throwing pitch with 2" of glove side break and some lift, it’s a plus-pitch that gets plenty of whiffs. His CB at 79–84 doesn’t have a ton of depth like your traditional curve would but that’s what makes it good. He throws it hard with enough depth and sweep, the shape should be easier command as well as opposed to a loopier shape at 76–78 with more movement. It’s a plus-pitch though the feel for it is lacking. He cheats to create the movement on his CH by dropping his slot half-a-foot, but it’s performed well for whiffs and chases. He kills lift to nearly 0" and gets more than 20" of fade. All in all it’s a very ’23 pitching profile with a poor fastball shape the pro org staffs can develop meanwhile the secondaries will hold their own as each can get a whiff. It’s a great starter profile, he’s currently 92–95 and touching 96. Looking like a top-2 rounder with the stuff/projection.
Brody Hopkins, RHP, Winthrop
Hopkins is like Christopher Campos but on steroids. He’s a two-way with five pitches, all of them average or better. He has a sinker and four-seam, the sinker is thrown in the mid-90s and up to 97, and the four-seam has been up to 95. The sinker has depth with some run, the four-seam has around average carry but from a low release. He pitches off of his curve which flashes plus-plus. It’s a power-slurve at 86–89 with depth and some sweep. It’s gotten up to 91 when it’s firmer and more of a gyro-SL. He throws his breaker for more strikes than the fastballs. He kills lift, nearly below 0" on his change and he’s shown feel for it over a short sample. Could be a plus-pitch, but looks above-average for now. This profile has a ton of upside. He’s a plus athlete that already throws hard and hasn’t gone full-time on the mound. In terms of ceilings on the mound, his is probably third behind Skenes and Waldrep.
Hurston Waldrep, RHP, Florida
Has one of the better breakers in the country, a power-SL. It has some sweep with lift at 86–90. The shape can be inconsistent, and it’ll have a lot of depth with minimal sweep at 88–89, almost like a cutter or gyro-SL. It’s at its best around 85–87 with the right combination of sweep/velocity. His feel for the pitch is advanced and he shows strike with it. Threw it for more strikes than his four-seam and got more whiffs, less hard contact but threw it 20% less. It’s a 70-grade pitch, and his other breaker is good too. He didn’t use it much but flashed a 60 curve at 80–84 with 45" of drop and 6" of sweep, missed a lot of bats with it. His four-seam has gained efficiency, it’s a supination profile but he lingers around 85% efficiency from a vertical arm-slot, throws his heater from 12:15/12:30 and is able to create some lift on his heater which at 94–97 plays for whiffs. Has been up to 98 with it, solid 55-grade pitch. His splitter is legit, he kills lift to the point of a negative VB at times, it flashes plus, landed it a the bottom of zone often. Had a 64% whiff rate with it and threw it for strikes. Has the potential for three plus or better pitches, advanced supination profile. It’s the complete prospect; performance, plus stuff, and feel for four pitches.
Chase Dollander, RHP, Tennessee
Among college pitchers with at least 10 starts last year, he led the country in strike rate. If he had 50-grade stuff this wouldn’t matter, but he has plus stuff. He has plus command of his four-seamer, which is a 55-grade pitch. Its best aspect is the velocity and the other traits aren’t great but he has a low release from a three-quarter slot. He’s been up to 99 twice in the past and ranges from 93–98 in his long starts. His breaking balls are where he’s best. His slider was somewhat better in ’21 short-form and given the velocity jumps would’ve still been better shape-wise in ’22 as he had less lift and threw it 3 mph slower. He’s getting 10" of sweep now on a pitch that’s an easy 60-grade with some lift at 84–89, and sometimes into the 90s but when it gets that hard it tends to have 10–14" of lift with slight cut, in which case it’s a completely different shape/pitch. His curve has 16" of sweep with 53" of drop at 75–79, it’s a 55-grade pitch and he can land it in the zone. He’s able to get strikes out of the zone, and had a high chase rate this past spring and would almost definitely benefit from throwing less pitches in the zone, not intentionally, but by throwing more sliders, and especially more changeups. His CH, what could be a 60-grade pitch, he threw just 88 times last year. He’s shown he can command it, and the shape is legit with 17" of fade and the ability to kill lift and create depth with an 8–10 mph drop-off. He threw it for more strikes than both of his breaking balls and it missed more bats than the four-seamer. The best comparison for him so far appears to be Gerrit Cole, who rotates aggressively with a high arm at front foot strike.
Rhett Lowder, RHP, Wake Forest
Lowder has elite command for three pitches (potentially four, though I’m not sure) and his stuff is above-average. He’s always had a sinker, which flashes above-average with an average shape, but he’s tinkered with a four-seamer that isn’t terrible. It looks like he only uses it to elevate for whiffs, and it’s worked. But the pitch itself is less of a weapon and more of a different look that gets more carry and when he needs a whiff he has a better shot with the “four-seam” elevated then the sinker. His SL is tight with some glove side break, at 82–86 with plus feel, it’s above-average. He can get his CH’s vert into the negatives while getting fade and some late depth/run, it has SSW traits with low efficiency and some gyro-spin. It’s his best pitch in his arsenal. The makeup is also really good and he’s a performer. Wake Forest pitchers are one of the few groups to leave college and go to a lesser development situation more times than not. In terms of projection I’m not ultra high on Lowder but the current stuff/command is above-average, the upside is not great though.
Cade Kuehler, RHP, Campbell
Cade’s four-seam is a 70-grade pitch with plenty of ride in the mid-90s, he can get up to 98 and he hides the ball well in his delivery. It’s an electric pitch that misses plenty of bats. He also has two breaking balls with good-looking shapes that he throws for just as much strikes as his fastball. His cutter has lift with slight cut at 85–87, and his other breaker is a power-slurve in the low-80s with some depth. They’re both above-average, and he has a filthy splitter with late tumble and SSW traits, throws it 15 mph slower then his fastball. He doesn’t use it much though. He has the potential for four above-average pitches. It’s a great starter profile, he has average control though the command is below-average. With the quality of his stuff he should be able to get by with the middle of the zone being his target.
Paul Skenes, RHP, LSU
Skenes might have the best pitch in the draft, a 70-grade sweeper. It’s not the Yankee whirly bird type of squalor but he does get 14" at 85–89 while throwing it for a ton of strikes. He’s thrown two separate fastballs, the four-seam shape being fringy and the sinker being solid. He’ll end up being a primary sinker guy with feel for supination. His slider in ’22 was more of a depthy gyro-SL that could make a return if a team wants to make his current SL into a sweeping curve. That way he has a breaker to use against lefties and the sweeper is still a 70-grade pitch he can use in all counts against righties and occasionally against lefties. He’s been up to 99 and sits 96–98 for the length of his outings. His stuff isn’t fine tuned but at 96–99 with command there’s plenty to work with and he’s flashed the ability to shape his pitches.
Drew Conover, RHP, Rutgers
Conover uses his cutter as his best strike pitch, his sinker as the best soft contact pitch, and his sweeper as the swing and miss pitch. It’s a really good multi-inning relief profile with the upside of a starter if he can start showing all three pitches in the zone on the same day. He’s had trouble with doing that in college and it’s why there’s plenty of relief risk. His sinker is above-average with run and depth at 92–96. His cutter is a slutter at 86–89 with 6" of glove side break. His sweeper plays off of his cutter at 83–87 with double-digit inches of sweep. All three pitches are above-average or better, his cutter and sweeper both are plus pitches often.
Ty Floyd, RHP, LSU
Floyd is looking much better this year as a long reliever for LSU. He’s sporting four pitches, all of them average or better with the four-seamer being he’s best pitch. A 60-grade pitch with ride from a low launch at 93–97. He’s got two solid breakers, though he doesn’t throw them hard enough given the low efficiency shapes that should come with less movement but harder shapes. He throws a curve at 78–80 with depth and some sweep, and then a gyro-SL at 81–82. His CH can look nasty at times with tumble and some fade 12–14 mph off the heater. It’s a great starter profile, he’s been much better at commanding his pitches as well but he’ll need to throw the breakers harder.
Cory Wall, RHP, William & Mary
Wall will be 23-years-old in the summer and would be of interest only as a cost-effective sign at the end of day two. He was in the low-90s as a sophomore and then missed all of ’22 recovering from injury. He’s been up to 95.9 this spring with plus lift from a low release and also mixing in a tight SL at 83–86 with depth. He has a slower CB at 76–79 that he rarely uses but it has drop and sweep. His CH is inconsistent but runs away from lefties. He’s in the zone consistently and can sit black with his fastball or elevate it for whiffs where it plays well because of the shape. Hasn’t throw long enough outings, but has the stuff of a starter and holds his velocity well. His velocity has slowly trended up this spring as he’s getting fully healthy. If he can get into the mid-90s consistently it’s a really good profile even as a reliever with the slider as an above-average secondary.
Brett Banks, RHP, UNCW
Banks has started in the past but is mostly out of the pen this year. His control is below-average but he’s thrown his slider for plenty of strikes and they don’t use it often. The usage of his pitches is bad and will be cleaned up quickly in pro ball. He throws his slider hard at 84–87 and it’s shape is more of a cutter/slider hybrid with lift and some lateral break. His four-seam is also plus from a higher release where he can get plus carry from at 93–97. His stuff misses bats, it’s just the control hurting him. His change is below-average with some depth at 87–91 but zero fade. Love him as a relief prospect with two great pitches.
Breck Eichelberger, RHP, Abilene Christian
Power supinator, will be 23-years-old at the day of draft. Main attraction is velocity, touches 100, sits in upper-90s. Has a very generic four-seam ish shape right now with low efficiency that will eventually become a sinker when he gets into pro ball. His slider is already good at 86–90 with a gyro-heavy shape with depth, and he can land it. This isn’t a velo without command profile, he’s returning from an injury that limited his ’22 season to five starts. It’s a reliever profile now, but get him into the hands of a progressive org and there’s the makings of some serious starter upside. If he keeps throwing strikes he could end up going in the Landon Knack range as an older college pitcher with late blooming traits.
Riley Gowens, RHP, 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.
Cam Minacci, RHP, 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.
Zach Fruit, RHP, Troy
Fruit is old for the draft, would be a cost-effective sign as he’s 23 at the time of the draft. Works in the mid to upper 90s with lift on his heater and touching 99 with it from a somewhat high release. His slider is more of a hybrid between a cutter and slider with some sweep at times but typically a cutting shape at 83–87. His curve is hard at 78–81 and has depth with sweep, though the feel for it is fringy. Kills movement on change and gets some late depth/fade with 10–14 mph off of the heater. Four-seam is plus, curve shape is plus, if he can land it then it’s a plus-pitch. Looks like a starter profile stuff-wise but the control may not be good enough.
TJ Nichols, RHP, Arizona
Nichols’ heater is something his future club will have to develop. He throws from a low launch and is sitting 94–97 an touching 97.4. You can work on the shape later because he has two decent secondaries. He doesn’t have much feel for the CH but the shape is really good with depth/fade. His slider is the headliner, he throws it hard at 83–87 with depth and occasional sweep though it’s usually a gyro-SL. He’s throwing much more strikes and has two above-average or better pitches. I’m iffy on whether or not it’s a starter or relief profile but he’ll have big league level stuff.
Eriq Swan, RHP, Middle Tennessee State
Swan’s heater has improve in college. What was once a pretty generic pitch even at 95–98, it’s now got some life and looks firm in the upper-90s. He’s hit triple-digits and sits around 97–99 as a starter. He’s throwing his slider for way more strikes. Doesn’t throw it very hard given the gyro-heavy shape but it plays at 82–87 with depth and some movement to his glove side. His CH plays really well off of the fastball, feel for it isn’t good. Probably a reliever but he’s showing upside out of the gate for Middle Tennessee State as a starter.
Will Sanders, RHP, South Carolina
Sanders’ stuff is somewhat similar to Ty Madden’s out of Texas. He has a high release but gets above-average carry with velo. The issue is it’s not getting good results and rarely misses bats. Even at 92–96 it performs like a generic four-seamer. Now, he’s shown feel for pronation with his changeup (which was aided by cheating his release lower and to the side a good amount) and I think he could end up being one of those high release sinker guys that creates a steep angle on hitters while sitting in the mid-90s. His fastball is the worst of his four pitches though and it’s why I love him as a starter. He has a upper-80s gyro-SL that has depth and cut with plus command and a bat-missing shape. Easy plus, maybe plus-plus pitch with his feel for it. He has a slurvy breaker in the 82–85 range with more glove side break and much more depth. It also gets landed in the zone a good amount. His CH is filthy from his release and he has feel for it, flashing plus with an axis an hour clockwise from his heater. This is sort of like a toned down version of Waldrep. Supination-driven profile with a heater that plays down from the velocity but three really good secondaries that they can throw for a strike or whiff in any count.
Juaron Watts-Brown, RHP, Oklahoma State
Juaron fills up the zone with four pitches, all of them good-looking shapes. His heater is my favorite of the bunch, at just 91–95 it plays because of the carry. I also think he’s gonna gain some velocity and get into that 93–98 range in a few years because of the athleticism. His operation is really good with a tight rotation, heavy shoulder layback and closed off pelvis when his front foot lands. His SL at 83–87 is above-average with downward tilt, and his curve is a low efficiency slurve of sorts with some sweep and depth at 80–83. His CH looks solid with fade, but he uses it the least of his pitches. None of the pitches is great, but the four as a unit are above-average and I think he has a velo jump coming.
Jaden Hamm, RHP, Middle Tennessee State
Really like Hamm’s secondaries, but I’m not sure about his four-seam. It looks good numerically, but the results haven’t been good and it’s not missing bats. At just 91–95 with above-average carry, it’s probably just a fringe 50 in pro ball. He has room to add another breaker or cutter of sorts, his current breaker is a low efficiency curve with downward tilt in the low-80s. The pitch itself is great and flashes above-average. His CH is also above-average and he can land both the CB and CH for strikes/whiffs. It’s a low-end rotation profile in need of some velo gains in order for the four-seamer to make a jump. His stuff will 100% get tweaked within a month of pro ball. Fortunately for a drafting org, his command is above-average.
Sam Knowlton, RHP, South Alabama
Knowlton was a draftee out of high school, and it makes sense. He’s massive and comes at hitters from the tip of Mount Everest with the slider coming out of Khumbutse. He has 30-grade command but 45-grade control. He lacks feel for a secondary but flashes a 55 gyro-SL that’s hard and tight. It’s a reliever profile and there’s not much else to rave about outside of his four-seamer which touches 101, sits 98–100, and has plus carry from a vertical slot. His fastball is a plus-pitch and is performing great despite the entire park knowing it’s coming (he’s thrown it 95% of the time). He’ll turn 23-years-old right around the draft and is coming back from an injury.
Christian Little, RHP, LSU
Little sits in the mid-90s out of the bullpen and is one of the youngest players in the draft. A junior that early enrolled into Vanderbilt, he’s in his first year at LSU now and was a high-end prospect out of high school but he’s struggled a bit. His four-seam gets up to 98 and sits 93–97, but the pitch plays down from it because of the shape, it’s an average pitch from a high release. His cutter is a plus-pitch with command and a great shape at 86–91. He might have 70-grade command of the pitch, and he can go in on lefties with while throwing it anywhere in the zone against righties. His breaker is a sweeper with depth at 76–79, solid but not great pitch. He’s a tough profile because the stuff is solid and if you can tweak the pitches outside of his cutter, maybe you land yourself a starter who’s sitting 95–97 in a few years.
Case Matter, RHP, Washington
Matter’s stuff is golden though the control and command of it hasn’t been great. He’s been 92–96 with his four-seamer and can get up to 97, it’s around average with some carry with a low release but the shape is inconsistent. He has a nasty slider in the mid-80s that ranges from 86–88 with depth, and then a power-curve in the upper-70s that ranges from 78–82 with a ton of drop and some sweep. Both of the breakers and especially the curve flash plus but he can’t throw either of the two for a strike which has been the issue for him his last two springs. He has to throw a ton of fastballs because of it, which makes the pitch play worse than it should as it’s rarely used in pitcher’s counts and always used when behind. It’s an intriguing profile, though a work-in-progress still.
Tate Kuehner, LHP, Louisville
Kuehner was eligible last year but didn’t sign. He was sitting in the upper-80s last year, he’s been 92–95 so far this year with more run on his heater from a gorgeous low-slot that can play the VAA game while functioning down for GBs. He has an absolute whammer of a breaker in the low-80s, it gets on hitters with drop and plus sweep. He really hasn’t thrown his secondaries for strikes at Louisville and it’s a relief profile because of that. Really like some of his traits and think he could be a tough funky lefty out of the pen for an inning. He’ll be 22-years-old in the summer.
Will Christophersen, RHP, Iowa
Christophersen is a strange “prospect” as he’ll be nearly 24 at the time of the draft, so he’s not really a prospect. But he has one of the best pitches in the draft, a true 70-grade sweeper. He pitches off of it (as opposed to his heater) and it performs like Philip Marlowe at the scene of a crime. It gets 16–20" of sweep at 83–87 with lift and plus feel. His strike rate with it is in the 96th percentile among college breakers. His heater is bad, which isn’t surprising given the supination profile. It’s been 89–93 this year, a 30-grade pitch that only has value intrinsically. I’d love to see some team take him late to save money and see if they can fast track him in the minor leagues after adding a cutter or changeup to use as a platoon pitch.
Tyler Bradt, RHP, East Carolina
Bradt’s a transfer from VMI and he’s never really been in the zone much but it’s been better this year and his stuff is still real. His four-seam flashes plus with heavy ride at 93–96. His slider has a wide variation of shapes kinda like the Avenger’s multiverse, it’s best look comes at 87–89 with sharp lateral break and late depth. Some of them get into the low-90s with a cutter shape, some are power-slurves in the mid-80s, and some take off away from righties for whiffs. It’s part of the reason why he can’t command the pitch, he doesn’t know where to set his target for and adjust for movement. His CH is below-average with drop and limited fade as well as no feel. I really like his heater and slider shapes. As a reliever he’s intriguing, he could end banging the change and going with a slurvy-breaker to pair with his gyro one.
Niko Mazza, RHP, Southern Miss
Niko has a deep scap retraction and gets into hip hinge helping him lower his release. He’s also short. His heater is a dead zoner, so even at his low launch and 92–96 it hasn’t played well at the college level. His front foot lands with his shoulder late and that’s where his issues start in terms of fastball shape. His secondaries are what I’m a fan of though. He fills up the zone with a slutter in the mid-80s, and he mixes in a sweeping curve (can’t tell if it’s intentional or not) at 78–82. His CH is absolutely filthy thanks to the gyro-heavy traits his heater has, it gets late break and has SSW traits in the low-80s to pair with good enough feel. It’s not a high-end profile but I think the right org could get four average or better pitches and turn the sweeper into a weapon. Love the cutter as a pitch he can steal strikes with in hitter counts.
Tyler Morgan, RHP, Abilene Christian
Morgan is a cost-effective option for clubs. He’s in his fourth year and will be 22 and a half years old in the summer. His stuff and command for it are the best they’ve been in college for him and he now has feel for what appears to be four pitches (the second breaker could just be an inconsistent shape). He’s pitched off of his slider which looks above-average this spring, ranging from 82–86, it has some sweep at times but typically a short lateral break. He’s mixed in some upper-70 sweeping curves with depth and 15" of sweep. He throws his CH hard, but it can miss bats and he kills lift on it. His heater flashes above-average at times, but it’s probably a 50. He’s been up to 95 this spring and sits between 90–94, it can carry and because of his usage it’s playing really well. His coaching staff is helping him out a ton in terms of usage, not much left to be optimized in terms of that. Could be a late day two guy unless he has velocity jumps.