Will Klein was not a guy that would have gone high in the draft last year. He might not even have been taken. The problem he had, like most fire-ballers, is Klein could not throw a strike walking 27 batters in 24.0 innings. He is a big, hard-throwing righty standing 6’5” tall who pitched out of the pen as a sophomore and struggled to put it all together though his stuff was really good.
That all changed when Klein suited up for the Chinooks in the Northwoods League last summer. The Lakeshore pitcher was a force striking out 38 batters while walking just 8 in 21.0 innings. It seemed that Klein had suddenly figured things out.
After suiting up and throwing an inning in the Northwoods All Star Game, the right-hander from Eastern Illinois was shut down with a 0.85 ERA allowing just 8 hits over 16 summer games. That one inning in the All Star Game was flat out spectacular as Klein blew 3 hitters away with 99 and even flashed 100.
Eastern Illinois decided to try Klein’s hand as a starter this spring and it was rewarded before the season shut down. Klein was averaging 6.0 innings per start striking out more than 8 guys per start and 12.3 K/9. Klein made the Valentine’s Day start at Arkansas and though he gave up a few runs, seemed like he could do the starting thing just fine.
I wrote in my notes from that Arkansas start that it looks like Klein is still learning to be comfortable on the mound. I didn’t get to watch his last start, but I would agree with that sentiment with the other three. The more he started, the better he got.
Klein’s fastball seems to be fairly straight but he does throw it at a downhill angle most of the time. The pitch registered 94 to 98 against the Razorbacks and seemed to hold it’s velocity well. When he got ahead, Klein was able to elevate the pitch and hitters had a hard time keeping up with the pace swinging and missing frequently.
Klein throws a slider as well that is up to 88. The pitch has 11-5 movement from a catcher’s perspective. It is a solid offering and almost unhittable at times.
Klein compliments his slider with a big 12-6 curve. The pitch is usually right at 80 and has a big curveball loop. The pitch is obviously slower and gives Klein a third velocity to work at. This seemed to be more of a get me over type of pitch, but he can bury it getting swings and misses as he has shown numerous times.
Klein follows those three pitches up with a still developing change up. This is probably a pitch he didn’t use much out of the pen but will need as a starter. The pitch has some armside run and comes in from 87 to 90. This is a good variation to his fastball and can get hitters timing messed up. He pushes the change a lot which is just a feel thing. The more he throws this pitch, the better it will get and the more he will feel it.
Klein likes to pitch outside and works exclusively out of the stretch. He has simple mechanics lifting his leg waist high although he does bring his front leg up bent under him rather than hanging the foot below his knee like most pitchers. Klein works from the first base side of the rubber. He has really quick feet and a very good pick. One problem he does have is he muscles pick throws to first base. That can make for an interesting day for the first baseman and the first base coach who might have to play dodgeball.
Klein is a wild card type of pick. He has some really good stuff with a huge arm, good secondaries, and size. If he is the guy he can be and has shown he is for the last year starting in the Northwoods League in June, Klein will be a solid pick up for someone on Day Two. Klein should get a chance to start for a long time but an organization is probably going to have to be a little patient as he learns what it’s like as a starter at a high level. After all, he missed out on that lesson this spring. With a strong defense behind him, Klein will be better. He could be a big league starter and really surprise someone but, he is risky and could also be a complete bust if he doesn’t continue throwing strikes.
If available, Klein is my pick at 135. I would also consider him earlier at 105 if there is a big run going on pitchers. Or maybe even at 76! I really like Klein and think he could do some really good things in pro ball. Remember though, this class is really deep with pitchers so there will be some really good arms available at 76 and later.
With less than a week until draft day, make sure you check out the other names we’ve looked at in the 2020 MLB Draft Profile library!
Photo from the Daily Eastern News and listed as a file photo.