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Rays 2021 MLB draft preview: High school pitchers

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Will the Rays go back to the high school rankings for more pitching this year?

USA v Cuba - WBSC U-15 World Cup Super Round
Josh Hartle was once a member of USA Baseball’s U-15 team
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images

The 2021 MLB draft begins on July 11. With that date rapidly approaching, it’s time to start previewing some players who will hear their names called next month.

The draft is 20 rounds this year, which is a lot closer to the normal length of the draft compared to 2020’s five rounds. In addition to their pick near the end of every round, the Rays have the fourth pick in the first competitive-balance round, No. 34 overall.

Some of these players have been connected to the Rays in mock drafts, but some were just picked out by us to write about.

We’ll have a few other preview posts in the next couple weeks.

RHP Eric Hammond, Keller High School (6’4 175, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: not in top 100
Baseball America rank: 98
FanGraphs rank: not in top 71
MLB.com rank: 73

Hammond is viewed by many as the top high school pitcher in Texas, typically a highly sought after demographic. However, his ranking among public sources suggests he’s a second- or third-round pick.

His velocity has improved in recent seasons, although he reportedly doesn’t hold his higher velocity later in starts. Given his frame and the potential to add more strength, he could eventually pitch with a plus fastball consistently.

He throws two solid breaking balls, and evaluators seem to be split on whether his curveball or slider is the better pitch. His changeup shows potential as well. He’s able to throw strikes with all of his pitches.

LHP Josh Hartle, Reagan High School (North Carolina) (6’5 215, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 42
Baseball America rank: 35
FanGraphs rank: 55
MLB.com rank: 45

With an above-average breaking ball and changeup and good command, Hartle has traits that not every high school pitcher has.

What he’s missing is present stuff. Perhaps due to an appendectomy this spring, his velocity hasn’t taken a step forward, so his fastball is a so-so pitch right now. Due to his size and arm slot, the pitch does reportedly play up a bit, but teams would like to see more velocity in the future. He should be able to add some as he gets stronger.

If he is able to add to his fastball, he could have three above-average pitches, all of which he’s able to locate well. He may not be a first rounder, but it’s unlikely he’s still on the board for the Rays’ third pick of the draft at No. 63.

RHP Michael Morales, East Pennsboro High School (6’2 205, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 34
Baseball America rank: 109
FanGraphs rank: not in top 71
MLB.com rank: 105

Morales’ spot on public rankings varies pretty significantly. Perhaps it’s a product of the type of pitcher he is right now.

According to many reports, his top attributes are his athleticism and polish, not his stuff. His delivery allows him to throw strikes with all of his pitches.

At the moment, that stuff is just average. His fastball sits in the low 90s. His curveball is a potential plus pitch, and his changeup shows room for growth. A team that believes he’ll get stronger and add velocity will value him higher, and he should hear his named called on the first day.

Video is from 2080 Baseball.

LHP Frank Mozzicato, East Catholic High School (6’3 175, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 53
Baseball America rank: 41
FanGraphs rank: 28
MLB.com rank: 39

Mozzicato gained prominence this spring for throwing four straight no-hitters, but he’s more than a product of weak competition — he could be a first-round pick next month.

His stock has increased due to improved stuff this season. His fastball velocity is up, and he could still gain more in the future. That goes nicely with his curveball, which is described as plus in seemingly every scouting report. He also throws a lot of strikes.

Like most high school pitchers, he’ll need to improve his changeup, but it’s believed he has the ability to do so.

RHP Chase Petty, Mainland Regional High School (6’2 190, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 32
Baseball America rank: 29
FanGraphs rank: 49
MLB.com rank: 25

Other pitchers in this preview need to add strength for a better, more consistent fastball. Petty is already there.

He may have the best fastball in the class. It sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and has touched triple digits. It’s not just velocity — the pitch has movement. He backs it up with a potential plus slider and a promising changeup.

There are concerns. There is effort in his delivery, and there are control problems. He could end up in the bullpen, but with his potential, a team will take a chance on him, perhaps late in the first round.

Video is from Baseball America.

LHP Anthony Solometo, Bishop Eustace Prep (6’5 218, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 21
Baseball America rank: 28
FanGraphs rank: 32
MLB.com rank: 20

Many reports compared Solometo’s delivery to Madison Bumgarner’s. If he ends up having that kind of career, he would obviously be a steal late in the first round.

His best pitch is probably his potential plus slider. His fastball’s velocity is only average now, but he has touched the mid 90s. His changeup needs a lot of work.

His stuff plays up due to his delivery and arm slot. Most importantly, he can already command his pitches. With his strike throwing, deception, and stuff, he’s one of the top high school pitchers in the class.

Video is from 2080 Baseball.