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Rays 2022 MLB draft preview: High school pitchers

The Rays have been paired with high school pitchers in quite a few mock drafts this season.

MLB USA Baseball All-American Game
Brandon Barriera is one of the top pitching prospects in the draft
Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images

To wrap up the draft preview, we turn to high school pitchers. Drafting from this demographic early in the draft has fallen out of favor in recent years, but there’s a point where there’s value to be had. The Rays certainly thought so when they drafted Nick Bitsko No. 24 in 2020.

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

College pitchers preview
Up-the-middle bats preview
Corner bats preview

LHP Brandon Barriera, American Heritage School (6’2 180, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 22
Baseball America rank: 17
FanGraphs rank: 10 rank: 15

Given his public rankings, it seems unlikely that Barriera would be available to the Rays. Top high school lefties have fallen to the Rays in the draft before, and it could happen again.

The discrepancies in his listed size are interesting. I used the profile, but Baseball America lists him as 5’11 and 171 pounds. Given that every report references his build as a potential negative, maybe he’s closer to the latter.

That might be his only negative because he has great stuff. All of his pitches can be plus, even his fastball. He doesn’t need to add strength and velocity to a pitch that already sits in the low 90s and touches higher. He throws a pair of breaking balls and a changeup.

He is committed to Vanderbilt, but no one seems to believe signing him will be an issue.

Video is from Prospect Pipeline.

RHP Walter Ford, Pace High School (Florida) (6’3 198, 17 years old)

The Athletic rank: 29
Baseball America rank: 58
FanGraphs rank: 29 rank: 53

Ford reclassified to 2022, which is why he’s so young. It seems like players are doing that more often lately. He’s committed to Alabama, but I’d imagine players reclassify to go pro.

He’s pretty raw, and not just because of his age. He’s mainly a two-pitch pitcher, but those two are very good. He sits in the low 90s, touches higher, and could add more as he gets stronger. His slider could be a plus pitch.

His delivery is inconsistent, so his control is as well. He’s described as athletic though, so that should be something he can straighten out. He needs to throw his changeup more and develop the pitch.

RHP Jacob Miller, Liberty Union High School (6’2 180, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 42
Baseball America rank: 39
FanGraphs rank: not in top 69 rank: 37

Miller’s stock has risen over the last year, and the Louisville commit now looks like he’ll be one of the first high-school pitchers off the board. His stuff, particularly his velocity, has improved. He may not gain a lot more velocity, but he probably doesn’t need more.

He also has a pair of breaking balls, and report after report mention his pitches’ spin rates. His curveball is regarded as better than his slider, but both are graded pretty highly. His changeup is fine, but he hasn’t used it a lot.

Although there’s effort in his delivery, he doesn’t have a problem throwing strikes, and he is athletic.

RHP Cole Phillips, Boerne High School (6’3 200, 19 years old)

The Athletic rank: 63
Baseball America rank: 80
FanGraphs rank: not in top 69 rank: 62

Will teams be lining up to take a player who just had Tommy John surgery three months ago on the first day of the draft? Given the number of high-profile pitchers who had elbow surgery this spring, teams will have to consider it.

Prior to the surgery, he showed some of the best velocity in the class with a plus-plus fastball. He sat in the mid 90s with movement. He complemented it with an above-average breaking ball that could become a plus pitch. He showed improved control this spring thanks to his athleticism.

When he’s back, he’ll need to work on developing his changeup and continuing to improve his control. He’s committed to Arkansas and would be eligible for the draft again in two years.

LHP Tristan Smith, Boiling Springs High School (South Carolina) (6’2 200, 19 years old)

The Athletic rank: 73
Baseball America rank: 64
FanGraphs rank: 44 rank: 46

Smith is kind of the classic high school pitching prospect. He has good stuff, but he has a lot to work on too. He’s committed to Clemson.

His breaking ball — sometimes called a curveball, sometimes called a slider — may be his best pitch. Baseball America says he can throw it for called strikes and generate swings and misses with it. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches higher.

He has to throw strikes more consistently. His delivery reportedly has to be cleaned up, but he does have the athleticism for this to happen. He’ll also need to develop and use his changeup more often.

LHP Robby Snelling, McQueen High School (6’3 210, 18 years old)

The Athletic rank: 31
Baseball America rank: 21
FanGraphs rank: not in top 69 rank: 16

Armed with one of the best curveballs in the draft class, Snelling should go off the board in the first round despite a commitment to LSU.

His stock has been rising this spring due to an improved fastball. His velocity is up a couple ticks, and it’s now graded as an above-average pitch. He’s a big, physical pitcher who should be able to hold his velocity and handle a starter’s workload. He also throws plenty of strikes.

As is the case with many high school pitchers, he needs to develop his changeup more. Right now, it’s a below-average pitch.

Video is from Prospect Pipeline.