- Full name Sean Daniel O'Sullivan
- Born 09/01/1987 in San Diego, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'1" / Wt.: 245 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Grossmont College
- Debut 06/16/2009
Drafted in the 3rd round (103rd overall) by the Los Angeles Angels in 2005 (signed for $500,000).
View Draft ReportO'Sullivan has been one of the elite players for his age since Baseball America recognized him as the nation's best 12-year-old in 2000. Unfortunately, he picked the wrong year to have a slump. Projected at the start of the year to be the first high school pitcher drafted, O'Sullivan instead has taken a step back. Before regaining velocity down the stretch, he was one of this year's biggest mysteries. His velocity had not only fallen off significantly early in the season, but he also delivered his pitches with more effort, without the free and easy arm action he had shown in the past. Where his fastball had been a steady 93 mph, it was more commonly in the 86-88 range this year, while occasionally touching 90. His hammer curve, an effective pitch in the past, also hasn't been as crisp. He was a big disappointment to a throng of more than 50 scouts who came to see him in April at the National Classic, the nation's premier high school tournament. Many left after an inning or two. O'Sullivan's problems prompted myriad explanations, from his use of sometimes-controversial Tom House as a pitching instructor, to bulking up too much in his upper body, particularly in his shoulders. He could also be pressing, but didn't outwardly show it to scouts. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound O'Sullivan has always been a physically mature player for his age, and scouts were wondering if he might have peaked. But he was back up over 90 in mid-May and some of the apprehension had subsided. O'Sullivan is also a talented hitter and actually enjoys hitting more than pitching. He led California high schools in home runs in 2004, with 16, and was San Diego's high school player of the year--ahead of Matt Bush, the No. 1 pick overall in the draft. He has not swung the bat as well this spring, either. Because he has not performed particularly well, has limited projection and had high expectations coming into the year and may be unwilling to sign for lower-round money, teams weren't sure where to place O'Sullivan on their draft boards. He likely will still be drafted in the first couple of rounds because of his track record of success. If not, there's a chance he could slide right out of the early rounds--and possibly out of the draft altogether--and end up at San Diego State, where he would play both ways.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Like Jordan Walden, O'Sullivan entered his senior year as the top prep pitching prospect in the nation, saw his velocity and his stock drop and signed the following spring as a draft-and-follow. While O'Sullivan never regained his power stuff, he has made the transformation into a crafty pitcher who can toy with hitters. That he knows how to win understandably has the Angels excited. He won ERA titles in each of his first two pro seasons and led the California League with 16 victories in his third. O'Sullivan no longer overpowers hitters, but he gets them out by commanding three pitches that rate as average or slightly above. His fastball tops out at 92 mph, so he changes speeds and keeps it down with decent life, generating groundouts. He also throws a curveball and changeup. He's aggressive in the strike zone and extremely poised. It remains to be seen how well O'Sullivan will fare against advanced hitters without a true out pitch. His fastball could use more movement, and his curve could use tighter spin. His stuff tends to drop off after five innings, which means he might be better as a middle reliever than as a workhorse starter. Double-A will be a good test for O'Sullivan in 2009. If his secondary stuff comes around, he could be a No. 4 starter on a big league contender.
O'Sullivan's development from overpowering amateur to cerebral, calculating pro is intriguing. His velocity plummeted during his senior high school season in 2005 and he fell to the Angels in the third round. He signed the following spring for $500,000 after one season at Grossmont (Calif.) JC. He has won ERA titles in each of his two pro seasons, with a 2.14 mark in the Rookie-level Pioneer League in 2006 and a 2.22 mark in the low Class A Midwest League last year. His younger brother Ryan is a top-five-round high school talent in the 2008 draft class. O'Sullivan has plus control of four solid-average pitches. He adds and subtracts off his 87-91 mph fastball and spots it to all four quadrants of the strike zone. His changeup, curveball and slider aren't knee-bucklers, but they have plenty of deception to get the job done. He'll mix in a two-seam fastball as well. He's durable, repeats his delivery and pitches with poise and guile. Because he doesn't possess plus raw stuff, O'Sullivan will have to maximize his command and pitchability as he faces more advanced hitters. He was generating 95-mph fastballs as a high school underclassman, but it's a stretch to project additional velocity because of his thick, maxed-out body, which earned him the nickname "Nacho" during his debut season. O'Sullivan earned the organization's pitcher of the year award in 2007 and profiles as an innings-eating No. 4 starter in the big leagues. This season will be an important one for him, as he'll be tested in the hitter's haven that is the high Class A California League.
Baseball America recognized O'Sullivan as the best 12-year-old in the nation in 2000. A candidate to be the first high school pitcher drafted in 2005, he saw his velocity and draft stock slip that spring. He went in the third round and spent a season at Grossmont (Calif.) JC before signing as a draft-and-follow for $500,000--roughly what Los Angeles offered him after the draft. He led the Pioneer League in ERA during his debut. While his calling card as an amateur was low- to mid-90s heat, O'Sullivan's upside now lies in his feel for pitching rather than his arm strength. He can spot his 88-91 mph fastball, curveball, slider and changeup to all four quadrants of the strike zone. He adds and subtracts off his fastball, toys with a two-seamer and mixes his stuff well. O'Sullivan's loss of velocity is curious. Some Angels officials believe he'll regain the fastball he had as an underclassman, but his thick, mature body--which draws comparisons to Chris Bosio--has earned him the nickname "Nacho"and doesn't lend projection. His breaking pitches are effective but lack significant bite. His overall stuff doesn't grade out as more than average, so his command will be paramount against more advanced hitters. O'Sullivan showed stamina and poise in his first taste of pro ball, and his cerebral approach could carry him quickly through the minors. He'll likely open 2007 in low Class A.
Minor League Top Prospects
O'Sullivan was a fireballer until his senior year of high school, when his velocity dropped. He has remade himself into a steady innings-eater, winning league ERA titles in his first two pro seasons before topping the Cal League with 16 wins and ranking third with 158 innings. O'Sullivan has at three average or slightly better pitches in his fastball, curveball and changeup. More important, he shows good command of each of them. His aggressiveness in the strike zone and pitchability allow his stuff to play up, though there are questions about how he'll get more advanced hitters out. While he piled up a lot of innings and has a big body that should be durable, O'Sullivan tended to lose a little something on his pitches the second and third time through the order. That suggests he could be best as a middle reliever who could shut down a lineup for two or three innings at a time.
The highest-profile draft-and-follow from the 2005 draft--he signed for $500,000--O'Sullivan has won ERA titles in the Rookie-level Pioneer League (2.14) and MWL (2.22) in two seasons as a pro. His 6-foot-1, 220-pound frame isn't the prettiest and he doesn't have a true out pitch, but he may have had the league's best feel for pitching despite being one of its youngest starters (19 until Sept. 1). Though Cedar Rapids had more impressive arms in the likes of Trevor Bell and Warner Madrigal, O'Sullivan is the best bet to reach and succeed in the majors. O'Sullivan threw in the low- to mid-90s as a high school junior, but now he operates with an 88-90 mph sinker that he puts wherever he wants. His changeup is his best pitch, and his slider is the better of his two breaking balls. He can't blow hitters away, but he keeps them off balance and pitches above his stuff.
The top 2005 draft-and-follow to sign with his original organization, O'Sullivan was a fourth-rounder who received $500,000 after a big spring at Grossmont (Calif.) JC. A strict 60-80 pitch count limited his win total but didn't prevent him from leading the league with a 2.14 ERA. His best trait is his pitchability, as no other Pioneer League pitcher could match his control of four pitches. His fastball has plus movement at 88-91 mph, and the Angels expect him to regain his former 91-94 mph velocity now that he's adapting to pro ball and a bigger workload. He has a feel for his changeup and will throw it in any count. O'Sullivan's two breaking pitches also can be weapons, though they lack outstanding bite.
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Control in the Los Angeles Angels in 2008
- Rated Best Control in the Los Angeles Angels in 2007