In the first draft preview, Scott examined some of the best pitching prospects in the 2013 MLB draft who were characterized by their high floor and modest ceiling. The second group of pitching prospects, those who are high risk and high reward, is the larger subset and, for the sake of readability, was broken into two parts (parts 2 and 3). In this article, I will highlight several more high upside pitchers thought to be available in the first few rounds.
College pitchers who should be available in this range generally have a significant flaw, such as an injury, a bad delivery, or the lack of a third pitch.
Injury Risks or Bad Deliveries:
Bobby Wahl, Mississippi (RHP, 6'3, 210 lbs.)
When he is at his best, Wahl features an effective three pitch mix: a 90-97 mph fastball, a plus slider, and an average change-up. However, he battled arm soreness last summer, and his fastball speed has dropped a few ticks. Even with reduced velocity, Wahl has maintained effectiveness, sporting a 1.22 ERA through his first ten starts. Rated the 36th best draft prospect by Baseball America and 66th by Keith Law, Wahl could be available for the Rays' first three picks.
Ryan Eades, LSU (RHP, 6'3, 193 lbs.)
In his three years at LSU, Eades has been injury-free. On the mound, he is very athletic. However, Eades suffered an injury in high school that required labrum surgery, and for two straight years, Eades has faded down the stretch. Early in the spring, he looked like a mid-first round draft pick, hurling a 90-95 mph fastball with a plus change-up and a strong but inconsistent curveball. Most publications seem to agree that Eades will be taken in the 20-40 range.
Trey Masek, Texas Tech (RHP, 6'1, 195 lbs.)
ESPN's Keith Law sums up Trey Masek well with this statement: "Masek is an undersized right-hander with a starter's arsenal but a delivery and a lack of plane that probably push him into the pen." In addition to his small stature, Masek battled rotator-cuff tendinitis that sidelined him for a month. The value of his strong four pitch arsenal and ability to throw strikes should prompt a team to pick him in the second round.
Jason Hursh, Oklahoma State (RHP, 6'1, 197 lbs.)
One of the more interesting college arms, Hursh displays an elite fastball, a rawness rare in college pitchers, and an injury history. Hursh sat out last year while rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, and Keith Law expressed concern over his arm action. His change-up and slider both show promise but are underdeveloped at this point. These issues lead many to believe his future is in relief. Where Hursch grades out as elite is in the fastball department; his fastball moves and sits in the mid to high 90s, occasionally bumping triple digits. A team could draft him and fast track him as a reliever, or they could give him time to work out his flaws as a starter.
Lack of a well-rounded arsenal:
Aaron Blair, Marshall (RHP, 6'5, 220 lbs.)
With his massive frame, heavy 88-95 mph fastball, and swing-and-miss fading change-up, Aaron Blair has the key components of a work-horse middle of the rotation starter. What he lacks is a reliable breaking ball, with neither his curveball nor his slider earning positive reviews. He is expected to be picked before the end of the second round.
Alex Balog, San Francisco (RHP, 6'5, 210 lbs.)
Just like Blair, Balog combines a durable frame with low to mid 90s fastball velocity. He uses a fastball, curveball, slider, and change-up, each flashing above-average ability. Balog's downfall is his inconsistency; he rarely has all of his off-speed pitches working at the same time. With more consistency, there is no reason he cannot develop into a mid-rotation starter.
Tom Windle, Minnesota (LHP, 6'4, 215 lbs.)
A reliever his first two college seasons, Windle transitioned smoothly into the rotation, even throwing a no hitter on March 8. He works primarily off of two pitches, a 90-94 mph fastball and an above average slider. His change-up lags behind the other two pitches; if he can throw an average change-up, he profiles as a third or fourth starter.
Andrew Mitchell, Texas Christian (RHP, 6'3, 225 lbs.)
In a move that highlights some of the bizarreness of college baseball, Andrew Michell, probably TCU's best pitcher, began the season in the bullpen. Much to the gratitude of scouts though, he soon was placed back in the rotation. As a starter, Mitchell works around 91-95, though he can peak in the upper 90s. His best offspeed pitch is a wicked slider that is un-hittable at times. However, he shows little feel for his change-up, and both his delivery and pitching mentality are better suited for relief, where he could turn into a dominant closer.
High School Pitchers
Just as with college pitchers, most of the prep arms contain a risk factor. Unlike college pitchers, who are further along the developmental line, high school pitchers are less refined. In other words, there is more of a hit or miss situation. Some of the pitchers are projectable and still filling out while others offer less projection but more present stuff. Below are a few pitchers that fit the two different profiles:
Devin Williams, Missouri H.S. (RHP, 6'3, 172 lbs.)
Despite already throwing in the low 90s, scouts feel that as Williams fills out, he will add even more velocity. Williams also throws a slider and a change-up, both of which need significant work. There are a few issues with his delivery that need to be ironed out in pro ball as well.
Jacob Brentz, Missouri H.S. (LHP, 6'2, 195 lbs.)
With one of the best left handed arms in the high school ranks, Brentz offers present velocity without much polish. His fastball sits in the 90-95 range early in starts, peaking around 97-100 mph. However, the velocity quickly tails off, settling into the 88-92 mph range. His breaking ball is promising but needs work. Surprisingly enough, he throws a solid change-up that can be an above average pitch in time. As a pitcher, Brentz is incredibly raw and any team that selects him will have to wait a while before receiving a return.
Blake Taylor, California H.S. (LHP, 6'3, 195 lbs.)
By increasing his fastball velocity to the point where it hovers around 90-92 and touches 95 mph, Taylor has worked his way into first round consideration. With his projectable frame, he could sit in the mid-90s in a couple of years. His best attribute is his ability to spin a promising breaking, but his change-up is a non factor at this point (as is the case for many prep pitchers).
Kyle Serrano, Tennessee H.S. (RHP, 6'0, 185 lbs.)
Arguably the most polished high school pitcher, Serrano works at 90-94 with his fastball. His curveball is one of the best among high school pitchers in the draft (future 70 pitch), and his change-up is comfortably above average while flashing plus. If it all comes together, Serrano may have three plus pitches as well as a good feel for pitching. It is highly unlikely that Serrano makes it to the Rays second pick.
Connor Jones, Virginia H.S. (RHP, 6'3, 205 lbs.)
Considered a tough sign, Jones has the makings of a third starter and should go late in the first round. While his fastball is "only" around 90-93 mph, it features terrific life that makes it difficult to square up. His slider flashes plus while his change-up flashes average.
Sources for the scouting reports and information include Baseball America, ESPN, and minorleagueball.com.