2019 MLB Draft Notebook: A Week 3 Look At Elon's Arms
Elon boasts a trio of pitchers who are on scout's follow lists this spring. All three worked this past weekend against Wagner, and it was not the best outing for any of the trio.
Here are reports on all three, plus a look an effective southpaw from Wagner.
George Kirby, RHP, Elon
Kirby currently ranks No. 38 on the Baseball America Top 200 Draft Prospects list, but he will be higher on our next update after showing well to begin the season. He had gotten off to an excellent start this spring, striking out 21 batters and walking none while allowing one run (0.66 ERA) in his first two starts—all while showing premium stuff.
In his third start of the season on a chilly Saturday this past weekend, Kirby showed good arm strength and featured a four-pitch mix, throwing from a three-quarter arm slot and staying closed well during his delivery. Wagner, however, had Kirby sized up. He gave up eight hits and four runs in 3.2 innings.
The righthander dialed up his fastball in the early innings, topping out at 96 mph. He throws with a compact delivery that allows him to finish breaking pitches effectively. His fastball dipped to mostly 91 mph by the third inning. He flashed above-average command of his fastball early and was able to dart both sides of the plate, throwing knee-high strikes to the glove side with relative ease.
Kirby threw a curveball in the upper 70s that touched 80 mph, but he missed with it to his glove side often. It showed good depth, and it had more 12-to-6 shape when he dialed it back into the mid- to upper 70s. While he spiked a few in the dirt, Kirby was able to keep the pitch down in the strike zone to compliment his fastball command. He also featured a fringy slider in the 82-84 mph range that blended a bit with his curveball movement, but he was able to command it enough to throw it in the zone.
His changeup was promising as well. It registered in the mid-80s with some arm-side sink, and he threw it with good arm action. The pitch came out of his hand with ease, and he didn’t tip it during his delivery. It generated some swings and misses from the Wagner hitters, and he was able to keep it down in the zone for most of the afternoon.
Fastball command eluded Kirby later on in the game, with the pitch getting squared up when left out over the middle of the plate. The righthander was able to navigate the first two innings with relative ease, but Wagner collected four hits while scoring four runs in the third. Kirby struck out the first batter of the fourth inning before giving up three consecutive singles, which ended his outing.
While he can easily spin the ball, Kirby showed excellent fastball command early in the game and was able to locate consistently. He was able to keep hitters guessing, and he mixed his pitches effectively throughout the start. While the results weren’t good, the righthander did show flashes of plus stuff and a feel to pitch.
Kyle Brnovich, RHP, Elon
If Kirby is the better pro prospect, fellow junior righthander Kyle Brnovich has a longer track record of success as a starter at Elon. While Kirby worked his way into the rotation full-time as a sophomore, Brnovich was the CAA freshman of the year and led Elon's starters that season with a 3.10 ERA. He followed that up by earning second-team All-America honors last season with a 8-2, 1.71 season that included an Elon record 147 strikeouts in only 105 innings.
Brnovich currently ranks No. 105 on BA's Top 200 Draft Prospects list. Uncharacteristically, he was wild in his third start of the season last Saturday. He lasted 4.2 innings before getting pulled. The righty recorded eight strikeouts and allowed just two hits, but lost control of the strike zone and allowed five walks.
Brnovich attacked hitters early with a 90-91 mph fastball. The pitch flattened out from time to time, and some arm-side run caused him to lose command of the pitch early in the game. He collected at least two strikeouts in each of the first three innings, leaning more on his slider to get the job done. He worked mostly with his fastball-slider combo, sprinkling in a few changeups during the outing.
The righthander’s slider was a plus pitch on Saturday, dialing up to 84 mph but sitting mostly in the low 80s. He was able to disguise the pitch well out his hand, not changing arm angle or having any tilt in his delivery. The slider was a chase pitch in the first couple of innings, causing difficulty for righthanded hitters in particular. As the game went on, it blended more towards a curveball shape. He started to lose the plate in the fourth and fifth innings, walking the first two batters in the top of the fifth.
His changeup was ineffective, registering in the upper 70s. The pitch tended to sail out of the strike zone and didn’t help him navigate through the lineup. There wasn’t any discernible difference in arm speed, yet Brnovich quickly went back to his breaking stuff to generate strikes and get out of trouble. He threw few changeups.
The most impressive part of his outing was his ability to regain the range of his breaking stuff and throw it for strikes. While he did lose his arm slot late, he was able to manipulate the shape and depth to regain feel and land the pitch for strikes. Without as much bite as early in the game, the breaking ball started to have more sweeping action. With traffic on the bases, he still showed solid depth and the ability to put hitters away with it. Brnovich navigated the game with a heavy dose of breaking stuff, pitching backwards from time to time.
George Kirby Looks Familiar To Mariners
The Mariners' scouting and analytics departments both drew comparisons between the club's first-round pick this year and last.
Ty Adcock, OF/RHP, Elon
Adcock is an interesting two-way player for the Phoenix. The redshirt junior played in both games of the double-header Saturday, showing off his athleticism in right field, at the plate and later on the mound. Offensively, he shows good balance and plus bat speed with the ability to keep his hands inside the ball while using all fields. He collected three hits and two RBIs while patrolling right field. In the field, he registered an assist by making an excellent throw, showing off an accurate, plus arm to nab a runner who tried to stretch a single into a double. He was much quieter with the bat in the second game as a DH, singling to left-center field as his only hit of the game.
Adcock was summoned out of the bullpen in the 10th inning, where he came out throwing heat and aggressively attacking batters. His fastball command was erratic at times, not showing the ability to consistently pound the strike zone with it. His above-average fastball was up to 97 mph, and he paired it with a breaking ball that was in the 82-84 mph range with good downward movement. He also flashed an above-average changeup, which he used sparingly, but it had good movement with tumbling action. His outing proved to be ill-fated, as he gave up a home run on a 95 mph fastball that stayed out and over the middle of the plate.
Neil Abbatiello, LHP, Wagner
Wagner lefthander Neil Abbatiello was effective in Saturday's opener. He did not give up a hit until the fourth inning. He came into 2019 after going a perfect 8-0 in 15 starts last season. He tossed 4.1 innings against Elon, striking out six and scattering five hits before making his exit. He showed a feel to pitch, busting hitters inside to set up off offspeed offerings away that consistently frustrated Elon hitters.
His fastball was consistently in the mid-80s, and he reached back to 87 mph with runners on base. His breaking ball had sweeping action into righthanded hitters, registering in the low 80s. He was able to keep it down while expanding the strike zone on hitters to keep them off-balance. His third pitch, a changeup, was mixed in but didn’t have much velocity differentiation from his fastball.
There's no big-time stuff here, but he used what he had effectively.