Dozens of scouts convened at Maplezone Sports Institute (MSI) on Monday morning for MSI's MLK Pro Day, an indoor event that gathers many of the Northeast's top prospects. At least three scouting directors were in attendance, as was potential first overall pick Jason Groome.
If you don't know who Groome is at this point, it might be time to crawl out from under that rock. The New Jersey native was a rock star on the showcase circuit this summer, thanks to a devastating three-pitch mix and a delivery that looks too easy to be true. On Monday, Groome, who is still early in the stages of his throwing program, threw a 25-pitch bullpen, and his fastball reached 93 mph while sitting mostly at 87-90. His curveball left his hand in the upper 70s, and he was on top of it every single time he threw it. Groome peppered in a low 80s changeup too, spotting the pitch well down and to his arm side.
Groome's arm action starts with a soft plunge in the back, and it ends with an effortlessly clean finish. He's an exceptional athlete, with a well-coordinated lower half that allows him to maintain balance and repeat his delivery. His delivery points to a future of outstanding control. Groome also doesn't turn 18 until late August, making him one of the youngest prospects in the class. He's also a lefty.
While Groome's bullpen session was the most noteworthy performance of the day, many prospects at the event showed intriguing tools, including righthander Andrew Carber.
Carber graduated from high school back in 2013, and has spent the last two years at Clemson, where he's played for the club golf team. A three-sport athlete in high school, Carber missed the competitive nature of baseball, and decided to give pitching another chance about six months ago.
On Monday, the 6-foot-9 Carber showed off three pitches and an intriguing delivery. His fastball worked at 87-91—impressive for an indoor January bullpen—and he showed a tight-spinning breaking ball with 11-to-5 shape and bite, especially when thrown to his glove side. His long levers work to his advantage on the mound; he has a long stride and lands online. Carber has a short arm action and finishes cleanly out front.
Carber said that he has been working with Pennsylvania pitching coaches Sam and Josh Wernick, subscribing to Tom House's pitching philosophy. This spring, Carber will play at Harford Community College in Bel Air, Md. Based on his skill set, Carber is likely to generate significant interest from power conference colleges, though he is eligible for the 2016 draft.
The best-known position-player prospects at the event were Alex Kirilloff and Brandon Martorano, though several others also showed well.
Kirilloff, a Liberty commit, brings size, strength and speed to the table. He ran the 60-yard dash in under 6.7 seconds to start the workout, then showed off his outstanding arm strength during an infield/outfield session. In batting practice, the ball exploded off of Kiriloff's lefthanded bat, making a noticeably higher-pitched sound than those of his peers.
Kirilloff's quick-twitch ability has some scouts considering him a first round talent. Kirilloff's swing includes a barred lead arm and quite a bit of back elbow drive, leading to questions about the utility of his plus raw power. He showed off plus bat speed and hammered line drives to both gaps on Monday; using the opposite field more often in the spring could ease concerns that some evaluators have about his mechanical profile.
Martorano currently ranks as the No. 76 prospect in this year's high school class, and he's shown dedication to his craft this offseason. Martorano was seen as a pull-happy hitter over the summer showcase circuit, but he's worked on his timing and hit quite a few fly balls to the opposite field on Monday. As a receiver, Martorano has flexible hips and a good understanding of how to help pitchers best utilize their stuff. He caught the first group of bullpen sessions, a group that included a swarm of 90-mph arms. Martorano is committed to North Carolina, where he could challenge for a starting role immediately, if he doesn't turn pro instead.
Righthander Max Kranick was one of the most improved prospects of the event. The Virginia commit showed up with a noticeably thicker lower half, and he says he's gained 22 pounds since the Area Code Games in August, when he weighed in at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds.
Kranick's fastball sat at 90-93 and touched 94 on Monday, and he showed outstanding feel for his changeup, which featured promising armside run. Over the summer, Kranick mostly sat 89-92 on the showcase circuit, and at times showed confidence in his changeup. His impressive indoor, early season velocity could indicate a velocity jump this spring.
Kranick's added lower half strength was noticeable in his delivery as well. Last summer, he tended to start his forward momentum after a leg lift that recoiled his front leg toward home plate. On Monday, his stride was much more controlled and much more fluid. If his progress continues, Kranick could put himself in early round discussions come June.
Other top arms at the event included Zack Hess (ranked No. 24 in the High School Top 100), Tyler Mondile (No. 72), Robbie Peto (No. 74), Holden White and AJ Alexy. Of this group, all are righthanded, except White.
• Hess showed off plus arm speed and his fast ball reached 92 mph. The Louisiana State commit also showed off his slider and changeup.
• Mondile worked 90-91 and showed outstanding fastball movement. His changeup emulated his fastball's movement, with excellent arm-side run. Mondile will have to continue to iron out the timing of his changeup going forward, but the pitch has promise. Mondile is committed to Florida State.
• Peto showed the potential for three quality pitches. His fastball worked at 89-90 and he mixed in a changeup and curveball. Peto's high back elbow and somewhat stabby arm action lead to some question whether he will start long-term, but his pure stuff and arm speed give him an intriguing starter kit. He is committed to North Carolina.
• White throws from a low three-quarters arm slot and gets outstanding movement on his upper 80s fastball. The Wake Forest commit also has a promising slider, thrown with darting 2-to-8 shape and upper 70s velocity.
• Alexy was one of the more eye-opening prospects at the event. He showed off a clean arm action with impressive acceleration, and he threw four pitches of interest. Alexy's 6-foot-4 frame indicates that his fastball could someday check in much harder than it's current 90-92. He also threw a curveball with promising spin and quality depth from top to bottom, and he had feel for his changeup down and to his glove side. Alexy also threw a knuckleball. He is committed to Radford.
Martorano and Kirilloff were the highest-ranked position players at the event, but several others showed promise:
• Logan Goodnight showed off very smooth hands and impressive body control in the infield. His speed has improved since the summer, and he ran the 60-yard dash in 6.7 seconds. In batting practice, he showed quick hands and a compact swing, and hit several line drives up the middle. Goodnight is committed to Penn State.
• Joseph Burton, a righthanded hitter with impressive strength in the batter's box, will play at Harford Community College in Maryland this spring. He demolished baseballs in batting practice, and he showed solid athleticism in the 60-yard dash, posting a 6.84 time despite a massive, physical frame.
• Kobie Taylor (ranked No. 94) ran the 60-yard dash in under 6.7 seconds, and showed off a fluid arm action in the outfield. Taylor has a smooth righthanded swing and average bat speed. He is committed to Vanderbilt.
• Tyler Friedrich, a Maryland commit, has a physical frame with intimidating raw strength. He ran the 60-yard dash in 7.26 seconds, then showed strength and bat speed during batting practice.