There hasn’t been a player eligible for the 2018 draft that’s experienced a roller coaster ride quite like Georgia high school righty, Ethan Hankins. The long, lean flamethrower spent last summer on the showcase circuit making some of the top hitters in the country look rather foolish. His fastball was touching 97-98 mph with heavy arm-side run. His breaking ball was flashing above average to plus. He showed out for Team USA and had become the unanimous top high school player in the country. There was even chatter that he could be the first high school righty to ever go 1st overall. Then came the Spring.
Things seemed to be going great until the morning of February 17th. Hankins took the mound early that day but after 15 pitches he was removed for precautionary reasons while feeling some discomfort in his throwing shoulder. Fortunately for Hankins, it seems that he only had a muscle issue that flared up that only required physical therapy and rest. With a clean MRI, Hankins was able to pitch in a couple of scouting showcases at the end of the season. When he returned, the velocity was back (for the most part), but his secondary pitches and command were lagging behind.
Shown below are Hankins’ best pitches:
A plus to double plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s, and can reach 97 mph. Hankins has very good command of this pitch even though it features so much run. This is Hankins’ best pitch, perhaps the best fastball in the draft.
Hankins featured this nasty breaker last summer for Team USA and in the Perfect Game All-American Classic as well. The ball is thrown with intent and features sharp, late break and is throw in the low to mid-70s. When Hankins is right, this pitch grades out as a plus pitch as well.
Hankins’ arsenal also includes a developing change-up that could someday be a major league average pitch. For now, it lags behind the rest of his stuff. The arm action is smooth and easy from the 3/4 slot, though the delivery could use some cleaning up. Even though he’s an exceptional athlete, Hankins doesn’t do a great job of repeating his mechanics. If he can gain some hip mobility and add some strength to his lower half and core, it could help him accomplish this.
Hankins doesn’t appear to be a candidate to opt for college over professional baseball. Most sites claim there isn’t a very realistic chance that he signs with Vanderbilt. That said, premium high school talent isn’t cheap and his velocity and upside probably means he’s not a below slot candidate. There’s not a very high likelihood that the Royals will spend the 18th overall pick on Hankins, and I’m not sure he will last until their next pick at 33. It is worth noting that aside from the health and durability questions, I’ve read there may also be some maturity concerns. Whether that be physical maturity or concerns about his make up, I won’t speculate.
Regardless, Hankins has one of the highest cielings in this draft. He’s young for the class, he has an excellent frame to build on (6 ft. 6 in.), the pure stuff is some of the best available and he has very good command for a high school player. Whoever drafts Hankins will be a club that believes the shoulder issue was a fluke and the stuff will make a full comeback in short order.
Photo Credits: Brian Paglia