After Tallion, several battling for title of second best prep pitcher
While righthander Jameson Taillon from The Woodlands (Texas) High has separated himself from the rest of this year's high school pitchers, scouts have mixed opinions about who comes next in a talented but inconsistent group. Here are scouting reports on the next five pitchers behind Taillon in this year's class.
A.J. Cole, rhp, Oviedo (Fla.) HS
At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, Cole offers plenty of projection and has the kind of frame scouts love in a high school righthander.
"He's definitely a projection guy," an American League area scout said. "He's thin—he's got to put on some weight and gain some strength—but he's a projection guy that has a good arm."
Cole is a good athlete for a pitcher, and his long legs helped him run a 7.2-second 60-yard dash at last summer's Tournament of Stars. His fastball was in the 92-95 mph range all summer, with reports that he touched 97.
The scout has never seen 97 out of Cole and said he didn't come out of the gate as well as some other pitchers around the country have.
"He missed a start—I guess he had some kind of illness—and he was anywhere from 87-92, but it was a real cold night and he had been off for a while, so I don't think he's quite where he wants to be right now. It's still early in the season."
Cole uses his height well and gets good downhill action on his fastball. He also throws a knuckle-curveball with sharp, 11-5 break that he can locate to either side of the plate. He'll occasionally throw a changeup, but it's clearly his third pitch and he doesn't use it much because he hasn't needed it yet.
"I only saw two pitches, and a front of the rotation guy usually is going to have three pitches," the scout said. "It doesn't mean he doesn't have it, but it's hard to gauge him because it's so early in the season for him and the weather hasn't been well, so it's hard for him to get in a routine. He's shown a plus fastball and a plus breaking ball in the past. I'm sure he'll get back to that and, if he does, and can develop a third pitch, he could be a middle of the rotation guy, working toward that front part. But those pitches have to come along."
Karsten Whitson, rhp, Chipley (Fla.) HS
At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, Whitson has a great pitcher's build and a baby face that implies he'll continue to fill out and get stronger. Even if he doesn't, Whitson is plenty good already.
After going 7-3, 1.49 with 73 strikeouts over 42 innings last year for Chipley (Fla.) High, Whitson tore through the summer showcase circuit and finished the summer by winning gold medals with Team USA's 18U National Team.
Whitson's fastball sits in the 91-93 mph range and gets as high as 95 and has good life and sink. He also mixes in a sharp slider that ranks as one of the best in the class with its sharp, late break, and a changeup typically in the 80-82 mph range.
"Karsten's got to be in the discussion for the best high school righthander in the country," a National League area scout said. "He looked better this spring than he did in the summer: better command, just all-around better. His fastball was up to 96 with a breaking ball that you could consider above-average right now.
"Mechanically, it scares me a little bit. He flies open a little bit with his front hip and then he's got a little bit of a shoulder roll up top. If he was a junior in college and he'd pitched with it for three years in college, it might not be as concerning. But, as a high school kid, it can concern you a little bit."
Dylan Covey, rhp, Maranatha HS, Pasadena, Calif.
Covey's stuff is eye-catching as well, but hard to connect with. In his first start of the season, his four-seam fastball pounded the strike zone at 93-94 mph with whispers of 96. An 81-82 mph slider is Covey's best secondary offering, exhibiting sharp, late movement. Covey's changeup and curveball are not as advanced as his fastball and slider, but those pitches have plus potential also.
Mechanically, Covey is fairly sound for a high schooler. Like many power pitchers, he drives off the edge of the rubber with a small forward leap, with his front shoulder elevated above his back shoulder. Covey finishes well, doing an excellent job of getting out over his front foot. Scouts have two technical concerns with Covey: in his delivery backstroke, his arm wraps behind his right leg, and he has a tendency to pull his front shoulder out and open when tired.
Perhaps the only negative surrounding Covey is his frame. At 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, he has worked hard to improve his fitness. However, he does not have the tall, lanky and projectable build scouts prefer in a high school righthander. Despite that isolated issue, Covey profiles as a solid No. 2 or 3 starter with the possibility of four plus pitches.
Kevin Gausman, rhp, Grandview HS, Aurora, Colo.
Despite being one of the older players in this year's high school class, Gausman still has plenty of projection left on his long, lean frame. Gausman, who was named to Baseball America's Preseason All-America Team, gets natural sink on a four-seam fastball that sits in the 90-93 mph range and peaks at 96. His secondary stuff—a curveball, a vulcan changeup and a cutter-like slider—is still a work in progress, but he still projects as a first-round selection.
"He's got a really fast arm," an American League area scout said. "He's long, he's loose. We think he's got the type of frame where he's going to add some weight, but he's never going to be a real big guy. He's always going to have a lean, wiry build. But Justin Verlander has a thin, wiry build for me. I mean, he's strong, but he's by no means a beast, and he throws 100. I don't think this guy's going to throw 100, but I think he's going to pitch somewhere in the mid-90s. I think that's a safe assumption. His breaking stuff is pretty good, he can spin a breaking ball alright. He competes. For my territory, he's the top guy out here, no question."
Gausman was one of the few players to play in both the Under Armour and Aflac All-American games last summer, and he was also on the Team USA 18U National Team that won gold medals against Cuba. Gausman also played on his school's basketball team, where he averaged 11.9 points and 4.7 rebounds per game.If he winds up at Louisiana State, Gausman would be draft-eligible again as a sophomore.
Stetson Allie, rhp/3b, St. Edward Prep, Lakewood, Ohio
With broad shoulders, a barrel chest and big, strong thighs, Allie has a physically imposing presence on the mound and the stuff to match. He fires fastballs in the mid- to upper 90s and mixes in a mid-80s slider and an occasional changeup. On the showcase circuit and even in high school ball, Allie pitches in short stints and has a closer's mentality on the mound. Although there's not a lot of effort in his mechanics—especially for a player that throws as hard as he does—Allie does not have good command.
"He's going to have to refine that command of the strike zone a little bit," a National League area scout said. "But, being a high school kid with that type of arm strength, he's definitely one of those kids that can be tough to turn away from because of just a little command problem.
"He's not exactly the most violent, but he has trouble repeating his delivery. I know talking to his dad, who's a former scout and everything, they've worked real hard this offseason smoothing everything out and it's kind of paid some dividends as far as being a little more consistent with being around the zone. I think that's the main thing, is just repeating the delivery."
Allie's strength also shows up as a position player—where he profiles best as a third baseman. He has a patient approach at the plate and the strength to drive the ball out of the park—as he showed at the East Coast Professional Showcase when he hit a broken-bat home run. If Allie ends up honoring his commitment to North Carolina, he would be a draft-eligible sophomore in the 2012 class.