The Tampa Bay Rays concluded their second day of the 2021 MLB Draft by selecting RHP Austin Vernon.
A towering presence at 6’ 8” 265lbs, “Mount” Vernon featured prominently in the Cape Code league for the Chatham Anglers, and threw a no-hitter last May:
Vernon is the tallest (and second heaviest) right handed pitching prospect in the draft. Baseball America profiled Vernon on July 4th of this year:
Vernon ranked No. 285 on the 2020 BA 500 despite not throwing a pitch during the shortened season. A non-Tommy John arm surgery kept him off the field, but scouts loved what they saw from him during the summer in the Cape Cod League in 2019, when he struck out 31 batters and walked nine over 20.2 innings of work.
Listed at 6-foot-8, 265 pounds, Vernon is one of the biggest pitchers in the 2021 draft class and he has a big fastball to match. He’s run it up to 98 mph but more typically sits in the 90-94 mph range. Vernon also has feel to spin two breaking balls: a low-80s slider that he uses more frequently than a curveball in the mid-to-upper 70s. Vernon has also thrown a low-80s changeup that he throws consistently to his glove side.
This spring with North Carolina Central, Vernon posted a career-best 2.55 ERA over 70.2 innings and 12 starts, with 109 strikeouts (13.9 K/9) and 31 walks (3.9 BB/9). It was his first season as a full-time starter with the team, but scouts think he’s a reliever at the next level because of his strike throwing and a high-maintenance, high-effort delivery that features plenty of length in his arm action and head whack and recoil through his finish.
A team that likes physical pitchers with loud pure stuff could still take him in the back of the top-10 rounds.
Vernon’s current delivery is an improvement over his erratic former approach.