Both Kiley and I will be posting in-person scouting reports on draft prospects we see throughout the spring. Well, summer and fall, too. Here is another dump of notes from Arizona and a recent trip to Southern California.
2018 Draft Board
Oregon righty Matt Mercer threw six innings of two-run ball on Friday night against Arizona State. He struck out eight Sun Devils, walked four, and left scouts with lukewarm feelings about his stuff. Mercer was up to 96, sitting 91-94 throughout his outing, and ASU hitters squared it up pretty often. His best secondary offering was his above-average changeup, which has bat-missing fade and benefits from Mercer’s funky delivery. Neither of Mercer’s breaking balls nor his command impressed scouts. His below-average mid-80s slider lacked movement and mid-70s curveball was fringey. I thought his curveball flashed average and could mature there if it’s used more frequently.
On one hand, Mercer is a college arm up to 96 with an out-pitch changeup and potential average third offering, if you’re willing to project on one of his breaking balls. On the other, he has below-average command right now, not everyone likes his delivery and/or athleticism, and he’s already had one Tommy John. There are some foreseeable avenues that lead Mercer to league-average starterdom but more that run to the bullpen. In the bullpen, maybe his fastball ticks up and singular focus on his changeup means he’s a 60 fastball, 60 changeup reliever with some funk, a la Tyler Clippard.
Ducks righty Parker Kelly is tough for righties to pick up because of his release point, and as a result he’s amassed a 27-to-2 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 10 relief appearances despite throwing only 88-91. Kelly pitches from the third-base side of the rubber, he has a cross-bodied delivery and he gets down the mound. He can throw his above-average breaking ball for strikes and run it off the plate away from righties. There’s enough funk here that Kelly should be able to get righties out in pro ball.
Vanderbilt righty Reid Schaller would have been a draft-eligible sophomore this year, but because he spent 2017 rehabbing from Tommy John, he’s a rare, draft-eligible redshirt freshman. Schaller is pitching sparingly out of the Commodore bullpen (just 6.1 innings so far this year) but he’s throwing very hard. He was 94-98 with a firm, average, mid-80s slider. Elite college relievers typically have a plus breaking ball, but Schaller has barely thrown, so his slider might look very different as June approaches.
Some High-Profile 2019 Draft Prospects
UNC Wilmington SS Greg Jones will be a draft-eligible sophomore in 2019 and has obvious first-round tools. He ran a four flat from to first, homered from the left side of the plate, singled from the right side, and made a nice play in the hole to his right during which he showed a 55 arm.
Jones is a bit raw as a hitter (which was largely the knock against him last year, when he was a high-school senior), and he didn’t get enough defensive opportunities for me to firmly grade his glove, but he clearly has premium physical tools that are rare for a college hitter. The list of college hitters who can play up the middle, are 70 runners, and have 55 raw power is very short. Even if Jones is only a 40 future hitter, that skillset at shortstop likely goes in the first round.
TCU LHP Nick Lodolo struggled against Vanderbilt but flashed a little bit of everything. He was only 88-92 (same as he was opening weekend against Grand Canyon) but showed a few above-average sliders and changeups. His curveball had very little power to it, but it has good shape. He’s not an exciting prospect right now, but it’s easy to see how he could be one in 2019 if his velocity ticks up a little bit and his secondaries become more consistent.
I wrote up TCU RHP Sean Wymer earlier in the year, but saw him again in Los Angeles and his stuff was up. Wymer came in to a game in relief of Lodolo (rain in LA cancelled Saturday’s contest, which Lodolo would have started, so he and Wymer piggybacked Sunday’s game) and was 92-93 with pinpoint command of a better curveball than I saw opening weekend.
Arizona State OF Gage Canning is creating buzz due to his early-season performance. Through 20 games, he’s hitting, I swear to you, .506/.556/.867 with eight triples. He’s a 70 runner who plays full-speed all the time, he’s capable in center field, he has strong hands/wrists which drive the quality of his contact right now, and there’s room to project on the bat if you think Canning will be able to tweak his swing in pro ball and get a little more out of his lower half at the plate. How he hits as Pac-12 play continues will further clarify his draft stock, but it’s soaring right now.
Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.