Air Force Lefty Jake DeVries Flying Under the Radar

Few teams have had the opportunity to evaluate Jake DeVries, but industry folks who are familiar with the Air Force junior left-hander tell me why Four Corners scouts will want to put eyes on him next spring in advance of the 2016 draft.

Indeed, when you pitch for a small-conference school that produces few pro players and competes for regional attention with the Pac-12, you don’t always have the luxury of waiting for the scouts to come to you. And when that small-conference school is the United States Air Force Academy, you have obligations that supersede baseball and make exposure to professional teams more difficult to come by.

Such are the circumstances for DeVries, who thusly took it upon himself this summer to go where the scouts would be. So he packed his bags after his sophomore season ended and headed for the Cape Cod League to join the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox. He made three appearances in June, but was then shipped to the Middle East for a multi-week training assignment. Though the audition was brief, it was long enough to showcase the pitching tools that make him a high follow and a possible top-three rounds target.

In the Cape, the 6-foot-3, 203-pound lefty worked comfortably in the 90-93 mph range and reached 95 mph, scattering 13 hits with 10 strikeouts, five walks and a 2.84 ERA over 12.2 innings. That was the same velocity from late spring, as one American League scout who saw DeVries pitch 6.1 scoreless innings of relief against UNLV in the Mountain West conference tournament told me the fastball bumped 96 mph while his 78-81 mph curveball flashed above-average. Air Force head coach Mike Kazlausky also said that the heater registered as high as 96 mph in a two-inning outing vs. Northern Colorado a few weeks earlier. By the end of his sophomore season, he had notched 80 strikeouts across 84.2 innings while limiting opposing batters to 72 hits and a .236 BAA, though his 53 walks suggest command remains a hurdle to clear.

I typically don’t write stand-alone stories about a player I’ve not seen in person, but based on the industry info above and the generously provided video below, there’s enough here to make an exception.

From the video, we see DeVries checking off the most important boxes for a starting pitching prospect. He has a physical, athletic build with room for muscle gain, and it’s a low-effort delivery with a pretty clean arm action. It’s impossible to discern the action on his pitches in the footage, but he had this hitter way off-balance with an advanced pitch sequence. The first offering is a breaking ball that sneaks through the back door for a called strike, which he follows up with an inside fastball that’s fouled off, which he follows up with another fastball down and in for a swing-and-miss strikeout. He’s mostly a two-pitch guy right now, but DeVries told me that he’ll spend the fall developing his changeup as well as gaining a better feel for his breaking ball.

DeVries finished last season as the Saturday starter, a role he may resume next spring with Air Force returning its entire rotation from last season. The Falcons will also return seven starters from the field, who should help build on last season’s 23-29 campaign, their best season in more than a decade.

Air Force will open the 2016 season on Feb. 19, in Davidson, N.C., where I hope to get my own look at DeVries and come back with a coherent scouting report.

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Deborah Lee James

Hate to be pedantic, but it’s the United States Air Force Academy, no “Military” required.