This is the first piece in our “Early Draft Preview” series. To get things kicked off, we’ll take a look at some of our favorite college pitching prospects in this year’s player pool.
Early 2018 MLB Draft Preview Series
Brady Singer, RHP, Florida
6’5″ 200 lbs
I know I just said ‘no particular order’ but if there is one player that is “The Guy” at 6 months out, it’s Singer. A lean, 6’5” righty features a mid 90s heater, a nasty slider, and a developing change-up. He’s a former 2nd round pick that passed on the Blue Jays offer to sign with the pitching factory that is the University of Florida. Singer skipped out on playing this summer after logging plenty of innings during his college season that culminated in a College World Series Championship.
It’s not likely that Singer falls to the Royals at 18, but we’ve seen Florida pitchers slotted to go first overall to end up going later in the first. In 2016, AJ Puk was projected to go number 1 to fall to number 6 (Oakland). Last year, Alex Faedo somehow fell all the way to number 18 (Detroit).
Jackson Kowar, RHP, Florida
6’4″ 170 lbs
Another stud from Florida, Kowar clearly lacks the polish of Singer, but he’s definitely got some electric stuff. Typically sitting in the mid-90s, he was hitting 97 mph last season. He has a solid curve ball, but his bread and butter pitch is a filthy change-up. If you have a few minutes follow this link (Jackson Kowar vs. TCU) to watch the first couple of innings he works during a College World Series start. His 2 seam fast ball sits 92-94 with good arm side run, and the change-up is devastating. Kowar strikes out seven of the first eight batters he faces.
If he can gain consistency, he may be the first pitcher selected in June. If he can’t put it all together in the rotation, there’s always the chance he moves to the bullpen.
Shane McClanahan, LHP, South Florida
6’1″ 156 lbs
Last season was McClanahan’s first season back, post Tommy John. He definitely did not disappoint with a 3.20 ERA and 104 K in 76 IP. While not the biggest guy in the class (6’1” 175 lbs) he sat in the mid-90s in his most recent inter-squad scrimmage and even touched 97 mph. He’s got a plus change and a solid slider. An athletic frame and easily repeated delivery suggest that he’ll stick in the rotation barring any further arm troubles.
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
6’3″ 190 lbs
Mize is almost the complete package. Almost. A strong build, 3 above average pitches, and a track record of success in the SEC. Over the past two seasons at Auburn he’s sporting a 2.71 ERA with 168 K and 27 BB in 153 IP. Last year alone he posted a 0.9 WHIP, 109 strike outs and only 9 walks. Yes, the stuff matches the stats. A fastball that sits in the mid 90s and a nasty splitter that drops off the table in the mid-80s. The mid-80s slider is his third pitch that gets plenty of positive reviews as a plus -itch. So what is holding Mize back?
It seems due to his workload over the past two seasons, Mize has dealt with fatigue and soreness in his pitching arm. If issues persist, durability questions will arise. Without the arm issues, he probably has the highest floor in this entire draft.
Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson
6’5″ 195 lbs
Gilbert is a big bodied, right-hander from Stetson that has had success at every stop he’s made since going undrafted out of high school. Gilbert is another mid-90s guy that features a curve, slider and a change.
Logan has kept college hitters baffled, posting a 2.28 ERA over two season and averaging 9.78 K per 9 IP. Perhaps even more impressive is his work in the Cape over the summer. Gilbert had one of the best summer seasons of any player in this draft with a 1.72 ERA and 31K:4BB in 31 IP. This goes to show he’s not just dominating competition at a smaller school, but he can also cut through the best hitters the college ranks have to offer.
Tim Cate, LHP, Connecticut
6’0″ 187 lbs
Cate isn’t really like anyone else on this list. He doesn’t have a great frame (6’0″ 187 lbs). He doesn’t have a big fastball (high-80s, low-90s). He doesn’t have multiple pitches that grade out as above average. So what makes this lefty so intriguing? The hammer curve. It’s right up there with Carter Stewart as the best curve in the draft.
Cate also has a repeatable delivery and smooth actions. He’ll likely be a starter in pro ball, maybe higher odds than anyone on this list. He may night have the highest ceiling in this draft but certainly a low-risk, high floor arm. For a full write-up, check out what Alex had to say about him.
Ryan Rolison, LHP, Ole Miss
6’2″ 195 lbs
Rolison is a draft eligible sophomore from Ole Miss. Drafted out of the high school ranks in the 37th round in 2016, Rolison opted to honor his commitment to Mississippi. He had a solid freshman campaign followed by an outstanding stint in the Cape (1.93 ERA, 35K/10BB in 28 IP).
Rolison is an athletic lefty that features a four pitch mix including a plus-curveball and a low-90s heater (95 when he needs it).
Tristan Beck, RHP, Stanford
6’4″ 165 lbs
Finally we come to Beck, who is actually my favorite pick to sky-rocket up boards following the 2018 college season. Last year, Beck was a draft eligible sophomore many saw going in the first round. Unfortunately, due to a stress fracture in his back the entire season was lost. Although he was still selected in the 29th round by the New York Yankees, Beck has decided to return to Stanford for his junior season.
The righty mixes 3 pitches; a low-90s fastball, a big curve and a changeup. He has above average command and room to fill out, perhaps hinting at an uptick in velocity once he adds some weight. The back injury should not play a significant role long-term, so it will be interesting to see how Beck performs and where he ultimately falls in the draft.
Others to watch: Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State; Sean Hjelle, RHP, Kentucky; Blaine Knight, RHP, Alabama; Sean Wymer, RHP, Texas Christian; Steven Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech
Photo Credits: Auburn Athletics