2020 MLB Draft Stock Watch: Pitching, Pitching And More Pitching
Welcome to Baseball America’s Draft Stock Watch. A recurring feature throughout draft season, we’ll use this space to explore rising and falling prospects in the 2020 draft class and also dive into various themes and topics at greater length. You can see previous installments below:
How Potential First Rounders Can Boost Their Stock | How Juco Can Pay Off | 10 Sleepers To Watch | Will Robo Umps Affect Catcher Scouting?| A Strong Year For Eligible-Sophomores | Nick Gonzales Keeps Hitting | 10 Prospects Trending Up
It's difficult to overstate the impressiveness of the depth of this year's pitching class.
Seemingly every week, there's another arm around the country trending up draft boards. Players are either coming out of the gate with improved stuff, showing better control than in previous years, or popping up entirely.
There have been more pitchers described as second- or third-round talents this spring than the last several years, to the point where it would be unsurprising to see many of those players slide come June.
“This is definitely a class that has separated itself in terms of the depth of arms,” said one American League scout. “I think from an area perspective you will see guys you were used to seeing go in the second round actually go in the fourth round … It’s just remarkable how loaded this class is in terms of arms.”
Given this, our stock watch today is heavily geared toward identifying a number of those pitchers who are trending up, and explaining why they are. It's a long one, so let's dive in.
*Ranks in parentheses refer to player ranks on the BA Draft 200 list.
Crochet missed the first three weeks of the season with shoulder soreness, but got back on the rubber Saturday and tossed 3.1 innings against Wright State while allowing two hits and striking out six.
Entering the spring Crochet had a chance to vault himself into the top 10 picks in the class, and now that he’s back he has a chance to fully step into those expectations. He’ll have a large contingent of scouts bearing down on him this weekend when Tennessee heads to South Carolina during the first week of SEC play. Crochet has exceptional upside thanks to a 70-grade fastball and potential plus slider, but has a somewhat limited track record as a full-time starter.
Crochet was one of two first-round college arms who dealt with injury to open the season. Mississippi State righthander JT Ginn missed two weekends with arm soreness before undergoing elbow surgery last week.
McMahon has been extremely consistent for the first four weekends as Miami’s Saturday starter this season. He’s worked into at least the sixth inning in all four starts and has struck out at least eight batters during every start as well.
His most impressive outing was a six-inning start against No. 1 ranked Florida, when he allowed six hits, an earned run and two walks to eight strikeouts. McMahon has a solid track record as an ACC starter, which could move the needle for teams who are nitpicking other arms in the 2020 class with more significant reliever questions.
Seymour continues to show that he’s an advanced strike thrower, and he’s piling up strikeouts over his first four starts of the year, including a 14-punch outing against Georgia Tech last Sunday. On the season, Seymour has thrown 20.1 innings in four starts with a 2.21 ERA and 40 strikeouts to just five walks.
His 14 strikeouts against the Yellow Jackets were the most a Virginia Tech pitcher has ever had in an ACC matchup, and helped the Hokies notch their first ACC win of the season. Seymour has an average fastball and a plus changeup, with a developing breaking ball as well. If he continues to succeed into conference play, scouts will have to allow that Seymour might have a chance to start at the next level in spite of his size and reliever-like operation.
Lonsway entered the spring with an easy plus curveball from the left side, but significant control concerns after a summer in the Cape Cod League where he walked 12 batters in 12 innings. Over the summer Lonsway’s velocity was also inconsistent and frequently below-average, but he’s shown better heat this spring.
After four starts and 18 innings, he’s struck out a tremendous 42 batters—good for the best strikeout per nine rate in the country (21.0). That sort of bat missing stuff from the left side is enticing, but the strike throwing concerns haven’t been addressed. Lonsway struggled to repeat his delivery over the summer and it appears the same issues are continuing this spring, but the stuff is hard to deny.
Unranked Risers And Pop-Ups
Clayton Beeter, RHP, Texas Tech
Beeter served as Texas Tech’s closer in 2019, but has transitioned to a starting role where he’s had tremendous success over four starts. After walking 19 batters in 19.2 innings (8.69 per nine) as a reliever in 2019, Beeter has cut his walk rate dramatically in a starting role this spring, walking just four batters in 21 innings (1.71 per nine).
A 6-foot-2, 220-pound redshirt sophomore, Beeter has a few plus pitches in his arsenal, including a fastball up to 97 mph and an overhand curveball that is good for a second plus offering. Beeter’s history of strike throwing could scare teams and there is some reliever/starter risk in his profile, but he’s done enough to significantly jump up draft boards, as high as second-round consideration for some teams.
Mason Erla, RHP, Michigan State
Erla was an exciting prospect coming out of high school as an athletic, 6-foot-4 righthander with an 87-91 mph fastball, but a football injury sidelined him during his senior season. He then made it to campus at Michigan State, where he started two games before a season-ending injury ended his debut season in college.
Now, four years later, Erla is starting to raise eyebrows for his performance early this spring. In four starts and 26 innings he’s struck out 42 batters and walked six. It’s a small sample, but Erla has more than doubled his career strikeout rate so far this year after taking small steps forward in K/9 and BB/9 each season with Michigan State.
Last year his fastball averaged around 93 mph and didn’t play up particularly well—he allowed 102 hits in 82 innings—but he’s more regularly up to 95-96 and touching 97 mph so far this season and the strikeouts are up accordingly. He’s yet another arm who could work himself into the second round.
Landon Knack, RHP, East Tennessee State
Multiple scouts brought up Knack’s name this weekend. Through games on March 8, the righthander is leading the country in strikeouts with 51. That’s more than those by top of the first-round arms like Reid Detmers (48), Asa Lacy (46) and Max Meyer (46).
Knack pitched at Walters State (Tenn.) JC for two years before moving to East Tennessee State. In his first year in the Southern Conference he posted a 2.60 ERA over 15 starts in 97 innings with 94 strikeouts (8.72 per nine) and 16 walks (1.48 per nine).
What’s different this year is Knack’s stuff is up significantly. He’s touching 97-98 mph, which is impressive in its own right, but even more so considering Knack’s—ahem—knack for and track record of throwing strikes. Previously, Knack was more in the low 90s range with his fastball. He should be a priority senior sign who goes around the fourth round to a team who implements a senior-heavy strategy like the Mets did in 2019.
Kyle Nicolas, RHP, Ball State
Nicolas struck out 17 batters against Sacred Heart last Friday, which is one more than the 16 righthander Drey Jamison managed last spring and two shy of the all-time Ball State record (19 in 1941). On the season, Nicolas has posted a 2.74 ERA over 23 innings and four starts with 37 strikeouts and seven walks.
He seems to have done well with new pitching coach Larry Scully, as Nicolas has cut his walk rate significantly at this point after walking 102 batters in 110.2 innings (8.3 per nine) in his most recent full season. Nicolas also struggled last summer in the Cape, where he posted a 6.29 ERA in 24.1 innings with 31 strikeouts and 21 walks.
He’s touched 97 mph with his fastball, which typically sits more in the 93-95 mph range with a slider that has potential and a distant third-pitch changeup.
Adam Seminaris, LHP, Long Beach State
An undersized, pitchability lefthander, Seminaris is one of the better pure pitchers in Southern California and while he might not have the biggest upside, he’s performed at a high level against solid competition this spring.
In one of his biggest matchups this spring, Seminaris tossed eight shutout innings against Mississippi State on Feb. 28, when he struck out 10 and walked two. Seminaris followed up that outing with a 14-strikeout game against Xavier. His curveball is his best offering, and it’s solid but Seminaris doesn’t have plus velocity to brag about.
On the season, Seminaris has posted a 1.23 ERA over 22 innings with 36 strikeouts to three walks. He should be a solid day two pick.
Nick Swiney, LHP, North Carolina State
One of a number of college arms in the state trending upward—along with Duke’s Bryce Jarvis and Wake Forest’s Jared Shuster—Swiney has a long track record of racking up strikeouts, but questions about his profile and strike throwing.
After walking more than five batters per nine in his freshman and sophomore seasons in a reliever role, Swiney has started four games and walked just six batters in 28 innings. He struck out 10+ batters in each of his first three games before throwing against Virginia in his most recent start, where he threw seven innings and struck out five batters.
Swiney’s fastball ranges anywhere from 86-93, and he’s touched 94, with good natural feel for spinning a breaking ball and a solid changeup. If he maintains this newfound strike throwing throughout the spring, he could wind up around the second or third round.
Best Changeups Outside The Top 100 Prospects
As we round out our best pitches outside the Top 100 series, we look at five pitchers with plus changeups outside the Top 100 Prospects.
Notes From the Field
At Baseball America, we travel around the country throughout the season. Here are notes from our in-person looks. This week we checked out a Top 25 matchup between Duke and Florida State, where a number of crosscheckers and a scouting director were in attendance to see a primetime Friday night matchup between the red hot Bryce Jarvis and FSU’s CJ Van Eyk. We also stopped by to see Louisville lefthander Reid Detmers throw in Winston-Salem.
Detmers was outstanding during his most recent start, on the road on a frigid Friday evening at Wake Forest. The lefthander struck out 15 hitters over six shutout innings while allowing just four hits (all singles) and two walks. The stats alone tell you that Detmers was dominant, but the way he deploys his arsenal makes him one of the best college arms in the country and should lead to him hearing his name called early in the first round.
Detmers worked with a full four-pitch complement on Friday, starting with a low-90s fastball and backing it up with a downer curveball, an excellent changeup and a short, sharp slider he used sparingly. Beyond its velocity, the fastball's signature component was its devastating two-seam movement. Detmers had tremendous command of the pitch and proved over and over again that he could bring it back over the outside corner against lefties or elevate it on the outside half against righties and let it explode out of the zone.
The fastball's characteristics allowed Detmers to establish command of the strike zone from east to west. His nose-to-toes curveball worked in perfect concert with the fastball and helped Detmers keep hitters guessing from north to south as well. Although he didn't command the curveball as consistently as he would like, Detmers still showed a strong ability to let it parachute in for a called strike or plummet into the dirt for chases.
If Detmers had just the fastball and curveball, he'd be plenty effective. His changeup, however, made him nearly unhittable. Detmers threw the pitch with excellent conviction and plenty of separation from his fastball. Thrown against righties, the changeup allowed Detmers to control the lower half of the strike zone on the outside part of the plate. The equation of all three pitches meant he had weapons he could use to attack hitters up, down, in and out. More than that, he had the smarts to sequence his pitches in a way that kept Wake Forest’s hitters guessing—mostly incorrectly—all night long.
--Written by Josh Norris
Jarvis has trended up since the start of the college season thanks to increased stuff, and he turned in a day one performance in front of plenty of scouting heat last Friday in a big-time matchup with Florida State righthander CJ Van Eyk.
There were echoes of Jarvis’ perfect game against Clemson throughout this outing, as the 6-foot-2 righty took a perfect game through 6.2 innings. The bid for his second perfect game of the season ended after he got right fielder Robby Martin to swing through three changeups for a strikeout—but the third bounced away from catcher Michael Rothenberg and allowed Martin to reach first base.
While the perfect game ended and the no-hitter disappeared when left fielder Elijah Cabell singled in the ensuing plate appearance, Jarvis still outdueled Van Eyk to the tune of seven shutout innings, allowing a hit and a walk and striking out 12 batters.
Jarvis showed electric stuff across the board throughout his seven innings of work with a fastball that touched 96 in the first inning and sat in the 93-94 mph range for the duration of the night. He also showed two barrel-missing offspeed pitches in an 83-86 mph changeup and an 83-87 mph slider.
His fastball and changeup were easy plus offerings in this outing, while his slider was perhaps a half-grade behind, more above-average but flashing plus potential as well. Jarvis recorded six whiffs with his fastball, six with his slider and eight with his changeup.
Jarvis has an average frame and pitches with a quick tempo out of a half wind up with a bit of effort and recoil at times in his delivery. He also has a bit of head whack—particularly on more high effort throws—but that didn’t affect his command in any way in this outing, as he landed all of his pitches consistently throughout. When he did miss with his changeup and slider, he missed down in the zone and was ahead of batters in the count enough that no damage came from the misses.
If he holds this stuff throughout the spring, it’s hard to not see Jarvis going on day one or soon on day two of the draft.
Van Eyk was on the losing end of an exceptional pitcher’s duel with Bryce Jarvis Friday night, but still turned in a solid performance. Van Eyk tossed six innings and allowed just three hits and one earned run, with six strikeouts and two walks.
Van Eyk throws with a more loose and fluid arm action than Jarvis, working out of a slow windup that features very little coil, with some hooking action in the back, a three-quarter arm slot and an easy finish.
His pure stuff wasn’t quite as loud as Jarvis’, though it was solid. Van Eyk threw a fastball that touched 95 mph a few times, but was more regularly in the 91-94 mph range. His best secondary offering on the day was a 78-80 mph downer curveball that had 11-to-5 and 12-to-6 shape with sharp, biting finish at its best. It looked like an above-average offering with plus potential.
Van Eyk also threw an 81-84 mph changeup that had slight fading life at times but good sinking dive that fooled both lefty and righty hitting batters throughout. His fourth offering was an 83-85 mph slider that he used more infrequently than his curveball—the pitch had tight spin with slight 10-4 shape, but less depth and swing-and-miss potential than his curve.
Like Jarvis, Van Eyk showed good control of most of his pitches throughout the outing—his two walks both came after missing just on the edges of the strike zone—and he showed good feel for landing his changeup down in the zone. However, he did yank his slider to the glove side on a few occasions and more regularly spotted his curveball to the arm side, regardless of whether or not the batter was right or lefthanded.
Van Eyk’s fastball induced more groundballs than whiffs, but he did generate four swings-and-misses on his curve and four on his changeup in this outing.
De Sedas was a prominent prospect coming out of high school. In the 2018 BA 500, we ranked the Florida shortstop as the No. 28 player in the class, choosing to buy into the upside of his exceptional raw tool set despite concerns about his hit tool during the spring.
Unsurprisingly, MLB teams were onto something and De Sedas has largely struggled with the bat in his year plus with the Seminoles. After hitting just .231/.353/.337 as a freshman, De Sedas has limped out of the gate again this year, hitting .148/.313/.148 after going through Duke’s gauntlet of pitching this weekend.
A switch-hitter with a solid, 6-foot-2, 198-pound frame, De Sedas looked lost at the plate. He chased fastballs both up and away, and showed an inability to recognize spin, much less barrel offspeed offerings with quality contact. In total this weekend, De Sedas went 0-for-12 with four strikeouts and one walk.
Defensively, De Sedas looked fine at shortstop. He made a few challenging plays. On one he ranged to his right and made a moderately difficult backhand look easy, fielding through the ball with ease and delivering a strong throw across the diamond. In another instance, De Sedas ranged up the middle to field a forehand behind the second base bag, set his feet and fired another strike to first. He showed an ability to cut down the distance on slow rollers as well, getting rid of the ball quickly when necessary, showing good hands and a solid internal clock.
His arm strength is likely his loudest defensive tool, but his hands were reliable and consistent this weekend as well. Some scouts question whether De Sedas has the short-area quickness necessary to handle shortstop at the next level, but considering the prevalence of shifts in the modern game it might be pessimistic to write him off the position entirely.
If De Sedas does have to move to another position—his tools would play nicely at third—the pressure on his bat increases significantly, and there are significant red flags in that area.
Cabell showed some of the best raw power of any player on the field this weekend in batting practice. Ranked No. 70 on the BA 500 in 2018, Cabell was a high-upside, toolsy outfielder with power but there were questions about his vision and hit tool at the plate.
That largely seems to hold true now, as Cabell has easy plus raw power and the ability to drive the ball out of a park to the opposite field, but has swing-and-miss concerns, particularly with spin. Over the three-game series against Duke, Cabell went 4-for-11 with two home runs with six strikeouts and three walks.
His first home run came on Saturday against sophomore righthander Cooper Stinson, who threw an 88 mph two-seam fastball to the outer half, which Cabell did an excellent job sitting back on and driving to deep right-center field. Cabell showed a solid understanding of the strike zone, and saw fastballs well throughout the weekend, though sliders gave him trouble at times.
Despite the high strikeout rate—he leads FSU with 26 strikeouts through 15 games—Cabell has the best OPS (1.243) of all Seminole hitters through 15 games with a .271/.514/.729 slash line, seven home runs and 10 walks. He’s also been hit by 14 pitches this season, a shockingly high amount for 15 games, which is good for the most in the nation and boosts his on-base percentage significantly.
Cabell has some room for improvement in left field. He made one error where a routine fly ball popped out of his glove, and on another fly ball had a slow jump and indecisive route to allow a blooped fly ball to fall into shallow left field for a hit. While winds were difficult at times this weekend, Cabell still looked a bit indecisive, though he still has game-changing natural arm strength with impressive carry.
There’s a lot to like with Cabell, especially considering how much power he’s able to get to in-game and with the entire field, but there’s a decent amount of crudeness still waiting to be refined.
Shane Drohan, LHP, Florida State
FSU’s No. 2 weekend arm, Drohan threw better than his line indicated in Saturday’s matchup with the Blue Devils. Drohan threw 5.1 innings and allowed five hits and four earned runs while striking out six and walking two.
A skinny lefthander listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Drohan throws with a loose and easy arm action, with a three-quarter slot and quick tempo. He showed fringy control in this outing, but had a solid three-pitch arsenal led by a 90-93 mph fastball with solid natural sinking life.
That pitch paired nicely with an 80-84 mph changeup that had fading life that resembled the look of his fastball and a 77-80 mph curveball with 1-to-7 shape that had loopy break at times but solid depth. The curveball got four whiffs in the game and was better against lefthanded hitters than righties, particularly when he landed the pitch down and away to his glove side.
Drohan’s fastball played up a tick from what the velocity might suggest, and he used it to generate 10 whiffs in the game, though when he did leave any of his pitches over the middle of the plate they got hit hard.
Thomas Girard, RHP, Duke
Scouts beared down on Girard when he entered the game in relief of Jarvis. The undersized, 5-foot-11, 190-pound righthander has been a reliable arm out of the pen for the Blue Devils, posting a 2.33 ERA as a sophomore in 46.1 innings and tying for third in the ACC with nine saves.
In two innings of work Friday night, Girard struck out five batters and walked one, allowing one run that crossed on a groundout. Girard threw his fastball in the 89-91 mph range with natural sinking and running action on the pitch, but his slider was his obvious weapon—an 80-85 mph breaker that has three-quarter shape and impressive tilt.
He generated six whiffs with the pitch and used it to finish all five of his strikeouts, bearing the pitch in the bottom of the zone while his fastball was consistently up. Girard has a reliever-only operation, pitching out of the stretch with a fast arm and violent action, exploding off the rubber and falling to the first base side in his landing.