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Finding Pro Pitching Comps For Top 2024 MLB Draft College Pitchers

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Image credit: Dylan Cease & Chase Burns (Photos by Matt Thomas/Padres via Getty & Brian Westerholt/Four Seam Images)

With more data available for college players, we wanted to examine the top five college pitchers on our draft board and see if there were any obvious pro pitching comparisons to be found—and what takeaways we might be able to glean from those comps if so. 

For the players below, we’ve used sourced TrackMan data for college baseball and similarly sourced pro data for minor league pitchers. It’s worth noting that college data is inherently more noisy than pro data in general, and with the way the NCAA baseball has played in recent years, there’s some skepticism about just how real some of the pitch movement data is for players in college. 

For each minor league pro pitch comparison we’ve also included BA’s internal Stuff+ grades though we generally don’t find changeup stuff+ numbers compelling.

With the caveats and notes about precision out of the way, let’s get into the fun stuff and see what we can find out:

Chase Burns, RHP, Wake Forest

PlayerHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Chase BurnsRFour-Seam63997.8100.920.23.72632.4-5.086.677.4
Dylan CeaseRFour-Seam81096.899.618.52.62563-4.66.2474.8
Zach MaxwellRFour-Seam34499101.919.65.42420-5.346.177.8

Burns has one of the best fastballs in the class. It’s a potential 70-grade offering thanks to its power and movement. It’s a hard cut-ride four-seamer, meaning it gets minimal armside run but an above-average amount of induced vertical break. It’s a very similar style of fastball to Padres RHP Dylan Cease. There’s some difference in release height and extension, as Burns’ release height is more vertical, but they are a similar class and style.

One of the closest matches on the minor league side was Reds righthander Zach Maxwell, who has similar power, shape, spin and release characteristics.

Maxwell was a sixth-round draft pick in the 2022 class. He was limited by his erratic control and reliever profile, though he has had no issues blowing his fastball by hitters this season in Double-A and Triple-A out of the bullpen. Maxwell has generated a 37% miss rate with the fastball this spring and has dominated the top of the zone with it when he’s been able to land it there. 

For Burns, it’s an excellent foundational piece to his repertoire as a starter, and given his role as a starter compared to Maxwell as a reliever, an impressive comparison regardless of the differences in pro and college schedules.


  • Zach Maxwell: 121

Chase Burns Slider

PlayerHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Chase BurnsRSlider50387.591.7-1-8.12875.9-8.235.876.1
Corbin BurnesRSlider27786.691.8-2.4-8.92983-8.936.572.1
Yerlin RodriguezRSlider23987.790.6-3.6-82786-7.396.368.5
Ben JoyceRSlider10787.192.70.9-8.52712-6.446.460.4
Graham AshcraftRSlider7787.690.81.4-9.62802-7.625.574.4

We’ve got a Burns to Burnes comparison! While their release height and extension are different, Burns and Orioles ace Corbin Burnes have similar slider traits. Both sit 86-88 mph with some drop and roughly eight inches of horizontal break. Both generate high spin rates averaging north of 2800 rpm. While Burnes’ extension is a differentiator, it’s in line with Burns’ average extension on his fastball. That hints at the potential for Burns to add some extension on the pitch as he works out some kinks in his operation.

There weren’t many obvious slider comparisons among minor league pitchers. While both Brewers reliever Yerlin Rodriguez and Angels reliever Ben Joyce had similar power, spin rates and movement profiles, the two also release their sliders from a much lower height. 

In fact, Reds righthander Graham Ashcraft was the only slider we could find that averaged 87 mph or harder with at least a 74-inch release height and at least seven inches of horizontal movement—and his data comes from a much smaller minor league sample than any of the others listed above.


  • Yerlin Rodriguez: 117
  • Ben Joyce: 135
  • Graham Ashcraft: 126

Hagen Smith, LHP, Arkansas

Hagen Smith Fastball

PlayerHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Hagen SmithLFour-Seam64995.6100.316.6-13.22376.8-4.466.1367.3
Matt StrahmLFour-Seam29693.496.716-14.12473-4.246.1564.8
Reggie CrawfordLFour-Seam20796.899.816.4-11.92424-4.526.6267.6

Smith has been an in-zone whiff machine this spring for Arkansas and has steadily added more and more power to his fastball over the last three seasons. The combination of his fastball velocity, movement and lower arm slot creates a challenging at-bat for hitters and is similar to another high-profile first-round lefthander: Giants 2022 first-rounder Reggie Crawford.

Crawford has pitched nearly exclusively as a reliever this spring and has the advantage of shorter outings compared to Smith, though Smith only threw once a week on a college starter schedule. Crawford’s average velocity is a tick higher, though their top-end velocity is closer. Both pitchers create similar shape and vertical approach angle from the same lower arm slot.

Like Smith in college, Crawford has generated a ton of in-zone miss with his fastball this season in Double-A and Triple-A, with a 33% in-zone miss rate per Synergy Sports. His overall miss rate with the pitch is around 38%. 

Smith’s hard four-seamer from a low release height has few peers across baseball, even when folding in big league data. He generates an above-average amount of ride for his release height with above-average armside run. Phillies all-star reliever Matt Strahm is his closest MLB contemporary.

Both lefthanders have lower release heights, despite below-average extension. Each generate a similar amount of induced vertical break and horizontal run with flatter than average vertical approach angles. None of these fastballs are fingerprints of the other but there’s enough similar characteristics to make the comparison. 


  • Reggie Crawford: 118

Hagen Smith Slider

PlayerHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Hagen SmithLSlider42784.389.4-1.25.22561.8-8.065.769.2
Carlos RodónLSlider46186.890.4-0.86.52613-8.456.0574
Jackson FerrisLSlider27484.189.4-15.22415-7.776.6368.1

Smith’s 70-grade slider is a prime part of his arsenal and sits 84-85 mph with some gyro and sweep. It creates some similarities to Carlos Rodon, another prominent lefty and former college star. It’s not a perfect like-for-like because of some differences in release height and extension, but they move similarly in a common velocity range.

Smith’s minor league slider comparison is a fun one because Dodgers lefthander Jackson Ferris was a curveball-dominant lefthander in high school and has only thrown his new slider for a few years. He’s also added power to the pitch, to the point where I was surprised to see it here with an average 84.1 mph velocity and 89.4 mph max velo that is basically identical to Smith’s.

These two pitches are near identical from a data perspective, with only the extension numbers being significantly different between the two—with Ferris releasing the ball further down the mound. 

The slider has become Ferris’ go-to breaking ball this season with High-A Great Lakes and has generated a 37% miss rate and near 17% swinging strike rate. It hasn’t been quite the in-zone bat misser that Smith’s has (against college hitters, admittedly) but seems like a decent comparison otherwise.


  • Jackson Ferris: 107

Trey Yesavage, RHP, ECU

Trey Yesavage Fastball

PlayerHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Trey YesavageRFour-Seam71994.
Justin VerlanderRFour-Seam47693.59719.78.32407-5.545.885.1
Patrick ReillyRFour-Seam56093.497.220.29.12478-5.166.4979.2
Nick PivettaRFour-Seam2394.796.419.84.12348-5.816.7682.9

Yesavage is a tricky player to find pitch comps for because he has both a tall 6-foot-4 frame and an over-the-top arm slot that creates an extremely high release point. It changes the overall profile of his entire pitch mix relative to other pitches with similar power, shape and spin.

Evoking Justin Verlander’s name is a heavy comparison for any pitcher. Despite being at the tail end of his Hall of Fame career, Verlander is still effective when healthy. Yesavage and Verlander share a higher release height due to vertical arm slot. Both generate elite amounts of induced vertical break with above-average armside run.

While a younger Verlander sat in the upper 90s, Yesavage’s 93-95 mph velocity is more in line with Verlander’s current form. Yesavage posted an eye-popping IVB number, although it’s worth noting his 22 inches of induced vertical break is juiced by less reliable college Trackman numbers. Still, we can safely assume he’ll generate 19+ inches of IVB on pro devices.

Pirates righthander and 2023 fifth-rounder Patrick Reilly has a similar power and shape fastball to Yesavage, though his release height is a bit light and his extension is quite a bit better. It was fortunate that Red Sox righthander Nick Pivetta pitched a game in Triple-A this season because his fastball might actually be a better comparison thanks to a similar release height, average velocity and spin rate—though the sample size with Pivetta is something to note.

Yesavage’s combination of elite riding life with an extremely high release height and less-than-expected extension could create a bit of an odd fastball profile, and one that might be better served at the bottom of the zone than the top of it. This spring hitters produced an OPS of .976 against the fastball in the upper third of the strike zone compared to an OPS of .485 at the bottom of the zone. 

It’ll be a fun pitch to monitor.


  • Patrick Reilly: 112
  • Nick Pivetta: 109

Trey Yesavage Changeup

PlayerHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Trey YesavageRChangeup23183.187611.51552.7-8.875.0783.9
Michael WachaRChangeup42581.584.66.512.51529-8.546.6879.7
Jordan JonesRChangeup3685.8946.910.91463-7.656.0874.3

Yesavage has three 55-grade pitches in his fastball, slider and changeup per our final draft rankings. The changeup has an interesting comp. Both Yesavage and Royals RHP Michael Wacha have similar fastball movement with steep planes of approach. A steeper plane on a changeup often allows the pitch to tunnel off the fastball. Both Wacha and Yesavage have a similar plane of approach.

It was even more difficult to find a decent minor league changeup comp than fastball comp for Yesavage. No one that we could find had the sort of power and movement on a changeup with a release height this high. One of the closest pitches was the changeup from 26-year-old Guardians reliever Jordan Jones, who has used the pitch as a fourth offering this season.

Despite that low usage, Jones has used the changeup to generate better miss rates and swinging strike rates than the rest of his arsenal. Perhaps he should use it a bit more?

Either way, the two pitches are distinct enough that I’m not sure its useful to compare them too closely. Perhaps the greater takeaway here is that Yesavage simply has an unusual pitch profile. When the game for hitters is pattern recognition, that’s a good thing.


  • Jordan Jones: 77

Jurrangelo Cijntje, BHP, Mississippi State

PlayerPOSHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Jurrangelo CijntjePRFour-Seam76795.299.418.310.32331.2-4.476.0267.1
Michael KopechPRFour-Seam57798.510218.29.92601-4.056.9468.9
Yeferson VargasPRFour-Seam18594.697.817.611.32248-4.885.9567.8
Haden ErbePRFour-Seam18594.797.417.89.52460-4.516.8566.7

Cijntje is days away from being the talk of the sports world. Many who already follow college baseball know he’s a switch-pitcher who lights up a radar gun from the right side. Since his four-seamer is his primary pitch, we’re choosing to take a look at the righthanded option as opposed to his slower lefthanded four-seamer. Cijntje’s data is very close to White Sox RHP Michael Kopech.

Both side mid-to-high-90s and can touch 100. Kopech throws harder, but it’s not unreasonable to think Cijntje can get there. From a movement and release height perspective, the two have very similar shapes. The one exception is Kopech gets nearly a foot more of extension leading to a flatter plane of approach to the plate.

We’re assuming there’s more noise here in Cijntje’s data than the other college pitchers here because he’s a switch pitcher, but we’re hopeful that because the overwhelming majority of his fastballs this season came from his right side it will be minimal. Either way, take this with more of a grain of salt than usual.

Looking purely at this data, Cijntje has a compelling fastball. It has above-average velocity, above-average carry and comes from a lower-than-average release height with a fairly flat approach angle. Those are all of the qualities of a swing-and-miss fastball, though his overall 22% miss rate and 18% in-zone miss rate aren’t quite as high as we would expect for a college fastball with these traits. Perhaps his location of the pitch is not ideal? 

Red Sox righthander Yeferson Vargas and Rays righthander Haden Erbe stood out as reasonable minor league comparisons for Cijntje. Both are relievers, though Vargas is 19 and pitching in the FCL currently while Erbe is a 25-year-old reliever in Double-A. Vargas has generated a 36% miss rate with his fastball this season, while Erbe has a more modest 26% miss rate against much better competition. 


  • Hadern Erbe: 120
  • Yeferson Vargas: 115

Brody Brecht, RHP, Iowa

PlayerHandPitch TypePVelMxVelIVBHBSpinVAAExtRelZ
Brody BrechtRFour-Seam54096.510016.76.62061.4-5.765.677
Aroldis ChapmanLFour-Seam39998.210416.3-7.12346-5.157.372.8
Jared JohnsonRFour-Seam12296.7100.517.57.42117-5.276.2176.3

Like Yesavage, Brecht has an unusual fastball profile with just modest riding life and more glove-side cut from a higher release point (though not as high as Yesavage) that has made it less of a miss pitch in college than you might expect given its impressive velocity. Brecht’s fastball was arguably the hardest to find a direct comp.

Brecht is a short-strider, so the comparison to Aroldis Chapman is a bit awkward. That said, both sit mid-to-high-90s with similar movement profiles. Brecht’s plane of approach is steeper than Chapman’s because he lacks the same elite extension. This comparison helps show some of the deficiencies in Brecht’s fastball. Chapman has unique release traits—Brecht does not—and Brecht generates below-average ride. Perhaps whoever drafts the Iowa righty will work on getting him downhill. This could create more unique release traits, or they could look to clean up his spin axis to find more efficiency.

Both Blue Jays righthander Julio Ortiz and Braves righthander Jared Johnson have similar power, riding life and cutting action from a similar release height on their fastballs, but both of the two pro pitchers have a bit more spin and a lot more extension than Brecht does.


  • Julio Ortiz: 105
  • Jared Johnson: 108

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