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2023 MLB Draft Notes, A GM Sighting And More

Image credit: Sammy Stafura (Courtesy Stacy Jo Grant)

With the high school season either over or winding down in some parts of the country, more scouts are making their way to cold-weather states to get looks at the 2023 high school class.

After trips to see some of the top high school players in the Northeast, here are reports on those players, with videos, two arrow-up names to watch and a general manager sighting. 

Thomas White, LHP, Massachusetts

White is the No. 14 player in the draft and the top lefthander available, a testament both to his talent and the lack of college lefties available this year. A Vanderbilt commit, White pitched for Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. on May 6, throwing 5.2 scoreless innings with two hits, three walks and 14 strikeouts. 

Pitching in front of several key decision-makers whose club has a top-10 pick, White showed the best curveball I’ve ever seen him throw. His fastball sat 92-95 mph, touching 96 once and 97 another time. His plus changeup is his best offspeed pitch and he showed it with swings and misses on the first four of them that he threw, with a little firmer velocity than normal at 86-88 mph early, then 84-85 mph later in the outing. That included one three-pitch at-bat where he threw three changeups to a hitter who whiffed through all three pitches. 

White is 6-foot-5, 220 pounds with a smooth, easy delivery. The biggest aspects scouts have under the microscope for White have been his breaking ball and his command. On this day, White’s curveball was better than ever, both in terms of the quality of the pitch and his ability to land it in the zone. He threw 24 curveballs, 20 for strikes, with five swinging strikes and six total strikeouts on the curveball. It was a 78-81 mph breaking ball, one that still gets wide on him with three-quarter action, leading a lot of scouts to believe he might ultimately add a slider to his repertoire. But in this outing, White’s curveball was crisper than usual, locking up hitters for called strikes and getting more empty swings than usual.

The three walks in 5.2 innings did signal some of the tightening of his fastball command that scouts want to see from White, who has a long arm swing in the back that’s not always synced up, leading to some misses especially up and to his arm side. But anyone who came in to see this start from White would have to walk away impressed by the three-pitch mix and upside for perhaps more velocity in the tank.

Senior officials from the Athletics (who pick sixth overall), Royals (eighth) and Marlins (10th) were all in attendance. Some teams won’t draft a high school pitcher with a top-10 overall pick, but the Royals did it just two years ago with another Northeast prep arm in Frank Mozzicato at No. 7 overall, and White is a superior prospect to Mozzicato in his draft year. White is expected to go somewhere in the first round, and given the presence of higher-ups from teams picking in the top 10 bearing down on him, a strong finish to the season could push him into that mix.


Josh Knoth, RHP, New York

Knoth has been the buzziest name among Northeast pitchers this spring, the continuation of an up-arrow trend the last two years. After his sophomore year in 2021, Knoth was mostly pitching in the mid-to-upper 80s, but with an extremely high-spin curveball. That fall at the beginning of his junior year, Knoth hit 91 mph, and we ranked him as the No. 78 player in the 2023 high school class before his junior season. After a dominant spring season, Knoth’s fastball had climbed to 94 mph, and the day after the 2022 draft ended, he ranked as our No. 29 player in the 2023 high school class.

Now, Knoth’s stuff is even better, and he’s still 17 until August, making him one of the youngest players in the 2023 class. He ranks No. 63 overall for the 2023 draft in our current rankings and will be moving higher in our next update. In his final regular season start for Patchogue-Medford High in Medford, N.Y. on May 8, Knoth threw 5.1 scoreless innings without allowing a hit, striking out 13 with an uncharacteristic four walks, pitching in front of 35-40 scouts and club officials. 

In this outing, he pitched at 92-95 mph and touched 96, with other outings this spring where scouts have consistently seen him reach 98 mph. It’s an impressive fastball with the arm speed where there could be a little extra velocity still to come, but the separator for Knoth is his innate ability to spin two good breaking balls. Knoth throws both a slider and a curveball that can spin above 3,000 rpm. The shapes of the two pitches can blend together at times, but they both show the components of plus pitches with a chance for a 70 breaking ball.

His slider mostly operated in the low 80s, though he cranked one up to 85 mph with sharp break and two-plane depth for a swinging strikeout. He threw his curveball with power at mostly 79-82 mph with top-to-bottom shape and steep drop when it was at its best. Knoth only threw one changeup, which came out firm at 88 mph, though it had good fading action. He has shown some feel for that pitch, but between the quality of his fastball and breaking pitches, it’s not a pitch he uses much.

Knoth typically throws strikes at a high clip, and while he did walk four here, it didn’t raise much cause for concern. He has a compact, repeatable delivery and didn’t have many bad misses with his control, so the walks seemed like more of an aberration than anything else.

In terms of stuff, Knoth has a lot of similarities to Jacob Miller, the Ohio high school righthander the Marlins drafted with their second-round pick (46th overall) last year, though Knoth has even tighter spin on his breaking stuff and is younger on draft day. He could go off the board in a comparable range with a chance to go higher. 


Sammy Stafura, SS, New York

Stafura ranks No. 57 on our current draft rankings but will be moving up the list in our next update after a loud spring for Walter Panas High in Cortland, N.Y. After watching two of the final three regular season games that Stafura played, there was a lot to like from a player with a good blend of athleticism, tools and hitting ability. He’s been a prominent player in our 2023 high school rankings going back to before his junior season, when he was the No. 48 prep player in the country.

Since then, Stafura has gotten bigger, faster and stronger, and his offensive performance—aside from a junior season where his numbers weren’t great—has continued to be strong. The Clemson commit is a 6-foot, 187-pound righthanded hitter with an explosive, compact swing that produces a high contact rate and the approach to stay through the ball and use the whole field. Taking batting practice off the Hack Attack pitching machine at his high school’s home park, Stafura drove the ball with ease to the middle of the field and the opposite way. His home field is a bandbox, particularly from center field (329 feet) over to right field (309 feet), and it rewards his ability to drive the ball to right-center field. 

Stafura in one game went 3-for-4 with a home run, a ground-rule double and a sharp single to center field, with his only out a fly out that the center fielder caught before running into the fence. The previous game was the rare occasion where Stafura went hitless, though he did show his plus speed running home to first in 4.21 seconds. Stafura ran the 60-yard dash in 6.48 seconds last summer at East Coast Pro, an increase from what he had shown as an underclassman. 

Stafura made multiple defensive plays in that first game. He showed good body control turning a 6-3 double play, came in well on the slow roller and on multiple occasions showed a quick first step and took a good angle to a ground ball deep in the 6-5 hole, getting the out on one of them while the batter narrowly beat the throw on the other. If there was a drawback in this look, it would only be that his arm strength was short on those throws from deep in the hole. 

Overall, Stafura checks a lot of boxes whether a team prioritizes the hit tool and game performance or places more of an emphasis on athleticism and the ability to play up the middle. Among the high-ranking club officials who watched his final regular season game, one of them was Astros general manager Dana Brown. The Astros pick at the back of the first round (28th overall) and then don’t pick again until the end of the second round at No. 61, and GMs generally aren’t on the road to watch second-rounders. That doesn’t mean Stafura is necessarily going in the first round, but he seems a good bet to be drafted within the first two rounds. 


Alex Clemmey, LHP, Rhode Island

With White in Massachusetts and Clemmey in Rhode Island, two of the best lefties in the draft this year are in New England. They’re both tall, hard-throwing Vanderbilt commits, with Clemmey 6-foot-6, 205 pounds and still 17 until July. While White has a smooth, easy operation, Clemmey has an aggressive, up-tempo delivery with more effort and a tick more present velocity, with his games consistently drawing 30-plus scouts and high-level club personnel.

Pitching on a cold day on May 4, Clemmey struck out 13 batters in 4.2 innings, allowing one run on one hit with two walks. His fastball that day was 91-95 mph, though he has typically operated above that this spring and has reached 98 mph. When it’s on, his curveball (77-80 mph in this game) can be a sharp, swing-and-miss pitch for him, giving him two potential plus pitches. Clemmey threw three changeups, one of which had good sink to get a swinging strikeout, but it’s not a pitch he throws much. 

The biggest concern many scouts have with Clemmey as a potential early-round pick is his control. It’s a high-effort delivery that’s difficult to repeat, and his track record includes a lot of walks. In this look, Clemmey needed 85 pitches to get through 4.2 innings, with scattered control as he missed up and to his arm side. 

Some scouts think there’s a high chance he ends up a reliever, potentially a high-leverage one along the lines of Andrew Miller, but that carries extra risk with a high school draft pick. For some clubs, the upside will outweigh the risk. The Dodgers used their first-round pick (29th overall) in 2021 on prep lefty Maddux Bruns, who was reaching 98 mph but faced questions about his control and reliever risk. Both the swing-and-miss stuff (107 strikeouts in 74 innings) and the control problems (68 walks, nearly one per inning) have remained in pro ball. 


Jason DeCaro, RHP, New York

DeCaro has been an unusual case this spring for scouts. He is in the 2023 class, but he skipped a grade when he was younger, so he started pitching this spring at 16 and just turned 17 last month. That makes him the same age as 2024 prep players, and during his time on the travel ball circuit, he was mostly playing with 2024s, with the intention to take a year after graduation before going to North Carolina in 2024. However, after a strong showing at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter, Fla. last year in October, DeCaro decided he would go to North Carolina this fall, pending the outcome of the draft this year.

That makes DeCaro more comparable in age to the international players who just signed this year in January than the 2023 prep arms who are mostly 18 or 19. That will make him more appealing in some ways, including in the draft models for certain clubs that place a higher weight on being young for the class. But it also might make it more challenging for some clubs to sign him out of high school when there are other pitchers showing more advanced present stuff who will be available in later rounds. 

Pitching for St. Anthony’s High in South Huntington, N.Y. on May 9, DeCaro didn’t have his best outing—he allowed four runs in 6.1 innings with two walks and four strikeouts—but he still flashed promising projection indicators. He’s 6-foot-5, 225 pounds with more room for strength gains to add to a solid fastball for his age. DeCaro pitched at 88-91 in this outing and touched 92. He has been up to 93-94 mph this spring, an uptick from the 91 mph he was touching last year, though hitters in this game were able to square up his fastball.

DeCaro has a starter look between his delivery, projection and ability to manipulate his offspeed pitches, with a pair of breaking balls he can spin in the 2,500-2,800 rpm range. His 78-81 mph slider was his most effective swing-and-miss pitch here. It was at its best when it started on the outer third to righthanded hitters before diving late off the plate. His curveball ranged from 73-78 mph, showing good depth at times, though like a lot of pitchers his age, his two breaking balls can blend together. Facing a lineup with only one lefthanded hitter, DeCaro threw just one changeup here, but it’s a pitch that has shown lively fading action before. 

Currently ranked No. 215 for the 2023 draft, DeCaro would be a top 75 high school player if he were in the 2024 class, but his game requires a deeper projection relative to a lot of the 2023 prep pitchers who are a year or two older than him. If he does make it to college, he would be a great addition for the Tar Heels and a priority name to follow for the 2026 draft. 


Jack Cropper, RHP, Massachusetts

Pitching for Norwood (Mass.) High on May 3, Cropper struck out 15 batters in six innings, allowing two runs on two hits and three walks. Cropper’s fastball was 91-95 mph, touching 96 a couple of times, and he has been up to 97 mph this spring. It’s big velocity, especially from his 6-foot, 180-pound frame at 18. Cropper’s control and secondary pitches will need more development, with Cropper mainly leaning on a 77-80 mph slider with a couple of changeups mixed in at 79 mph where he would slow his arm. 

Cropper is committed to Northeastern, where he would be the hardest-throwing pitcher on staff if he were already on campus (with the exception of fellow Massachusetts native Dennis Colleran, who is out this year after Tommy John surgery). Cropper seems likely to make it to school, but there were also 15 scouts at this start and not all of them were area scouts, so he could be in the mix for a later-round pick. 


Dylan Vigue, RHP, Massachusetts

Vigue has flown relatively under the radar this season, but after the stuff he showed yesterday, there should be more eyes on him the rest of the year. A UMass commit at Groton School, Vogue is 6-foot-3, 200 pounds with a fastball that in the early innings sat 90-93 mph and touched 94. The most exciting part of Vigue’s arsenal was his slider. It’s a power slider at mostly 83-86 mph and reached 87 with hard, deep lateral break across the zone. It’s was a plus pitch at times that generated 12 swinging strikes in just four innings. With how hard Vigue is able to throw his slider and the strength projection Vigue has in his frame, there could be an uptick in velocity in the future. 

Vigue showed feel to spin a curveball at 79-81 mph to change eye levels and give hitters another look, but his slider was his best breaking ball. His changeup is a relatively new pitch for him, and he mixed in a few of them as well. 

Vigue struck out nine, but he did allow three runs (two earned) with two walks and a hit batsman, so improving his fastball control will be key for him to take the next step in his development. He’s 19 and turns 20 in December, so he’s old for the class and would be a draft-eligible sophomore in the 2025 draft if he gets to campus.

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