FORT MYERS, Fla.—At the Perfect Game National Showcase on Saturday, Luke Bartnicki began to prove himself on the national scene. He’s been on scouts’ radars for a little while, but Saturday’s performance in front of hundreds of professional scouts certainly elevated his profile.
"This is one of my first big national showcases," Bartnicki said. "I just looked around, absorbed it and just started throwing."
The 6-foot-3, 210-pound lefthander used the stage at PG National to assert himself as one of the top pitching prospects in the 2018 MLB draft class. He retired all six batters he faced, showing an easy delivery and the potential for two plus pitches and command.
Bartnicki started throwing his low-90s fastball and sharp slider. He attacked hitters, showing no fear coming inside with his fastball against righties and the ability to navigate both sides of the plate.
The southpaw needed just 22 pitches to get through two perfect innings. He induced six swings-and-misses with his fastball and three with his slider. His fastball worked at 91-93 mph consistently, and his slider sat at 81-83, featuring tight horizontal sweep.
Growing up, Bartnicki was always one of the hardest throwers on his teams. Because of that, he didn't need a secondary pitch. When you're 12 years old and already throwing in the 70s, why bother working on a changeup or a breaking ball?
"I used to be just a fastball guy and overpower hitters when I was young, but I realized that they were going to start catching up," Bartnicki said. "The thinking was 'The bat speed is going to get better, so I needed to work on my slider.'"
This year during his high school season at Walton High (Marietta, Ga.), Bartnicki focused on gaining feel for his offspeed stuff. In his bullpens throughout the spring, he's focused on developing his slider and changeup. He'll continue doing that summer.
"I've been throwing 75 percent offspeed pitches (in my bullpens), trying to get a feel for it, and it's working a little bit now. I had a really good feel for it today. In a 3-2 count I struck a guy out with it."
Here’s a backdoor curve from Bartnicki for the strikeout: pic.twitter.com/9c7YcoXYHx
— Carlos Collazo (@CarlosACollazo) June 17, 2017
Bartnicki's first and only real challenge came against the final batter he faced, who worked the count against him. On 3-2, Bartnicki shoved his slider through the backdoor and into the zone for a called third strike.
Bartnicki is also working on his changeup. He didn't throw it in the game on Saturday, but he says it shows sinking movement and arm-side run, but that he doesn't quite have a feel for spotting it down in the strike zone yet.
While most two-sport stars excel in football or basketball, Bartnicki is actually an accomplished swimmer. Scouts are often talking about the value of prospects playing multiple sports because of how different sports allow for growth in athleticism in various parts of the body, and Bartnicki's success in the pool applies just the same.
"It definitely helps with the endurance and the strength in my shoulder with my throwing," he said. "I throw from a three-quarter arm slot and I also swim with the same arm slot, so it's just a good fluid motion now. I've been doing it for almost 11 years now. It's just good endurance. It helps me with just being an athlete."
Bartnicki's athleticism and easy delivery have him at the center of the national stage. He's got the potential to be an All-American, both in the Perfect Game All-American Classic and in the Under Armour All-America Game.
"I'm excited because I'm going to get to pitch against some of the best hitters," Bartnicki said.
Unfortunately for those hitters, they'll have to face one of the nation's best pitchers when they dig in against Bartnicki.