Four MLB Draft Pitching Prospects With Noteworthy Pitch Characteristics
In a draft class loaded with pitching depth, we’re combing through some of the names you should know.
On Wednesday, we delved into why Sam Bachman is a coveted 2021 arm thanks to a fastball-slider combination that has MLB teams excited.
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We won’t go into too much detail on Bachman in this space, but you can find that full writeup here.
Below are four more interesting names, combining our reporting for the BA 500, conversation with Rapsodo and use of Pramana’s Draftpoint Technology.
Both Burns and Bachman possess high-end velocity, sitting in the upper 90s while occasionally touching triple digits. Both have 70-grade fastballs. But they are two distinctly different pitches.
Bachman, as we wrote yesterday, has worked to maximize the spin efficiency on his fastball, creating significant horizontal break. He pairs it with a hard, low-spinning slider that creates a ‘gyro’ effect and tunnels effectively with the heater.
Burns has more of the high-spin four-seam fastball that’s en vogue right now.
“He’s another guy that creates a different look,” Rapsodo analytics manager Nick Rossini said in our latest Baseball America podcast.
“There’s more of a 12 to 1 (o’clock) spin direction, which is, you know, similar to Walker Buehler or Gerrit Cole in that he’s missing bats above. He’s spinning it a lot and getting pure ride on his fastball. It’s just a pitch that seems to go up, right? It seems like a rise ball—like a softball rise ball.”
You can see in the pitch visualization below how Burns’ high-spin fastball can live up in the zone and deceive hitters who presume slightly more drop is coming.
Burns already has the plus fastball MLB teams covet. Now he’ll need to refine his secondaries—the most promising of which is a sweeping mid-to-upper-80s slider. An intriguing subplot to the draft? Whether teams intrigued by the metrics of Burns’ fastball jump to develop him in house, or opt to see how he develops on an SEC pitching staff at Tennessee.
Looking for a potential draft sleeper? Farr is a name to stash away. The South Carolina righty has the third-highest RapScore (59) of any pitcher in the BA 500, and he also ranks highly on Draftpoint’s board.
Farr’s approach differs from the previous two pitchers. Unlike Burns’ fastball or Bachman’s fastball-slider combination, Farr lacks a true plus pitch. But he makes up for it by working with a fastball, curveball and changeup that all have above-average potential.
“It’s really purely because he has above-average stuff on all of his pitches and it plays if he can tunnel them well and pitch well with them,” Rossini said. “He’s not going to blow it by anybody most of them, but he can get through games with a very well-rounded approach.”
Rossini noted that Farr’s curveball, which carries a 55 future grade in the BA 500, is thrown with both a high spin rate and high spin efficiency.
Farr has shown big stuff at times, but a shoulder injury at Northwest Florida JC and the shortened 2020 season stifled his ability to display it consistently. This spring he posted a 3.87 ERA and struck out 90 batters in 83.2 innings, touching 97-98 but more frequently sitting 93-95 mph with his fastball. Draftpoint notes there’s some similarities in scouting reports to current D-backs RHP Taylor Widener, another former South Carolina pitcher who showcased a repeatable delivery and flashed an upper-90s fastball in college, but didn’t have an overwhelming three-pitch arsenal coming out of school.
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McGowan is another pitcher with a RapScore (57) that is higher than you might expect for a pitcher who ranks outside the Top 200.
Strike throwing consistently hampered McGowan in his three years at Charlotte and he actually took a step back this year when he averaged 6.2 walks per nine innings, the worst mark of his college career. But the stuff has always been intriguing, which is why some pegged McGowan as a potential sleeper candidate this year.
His performance didn’t necessarily meet those expectations, but the stuff remains intact, headlined by a high-spin fastball that gets up to 97. His mid-80s changeup also grades favorably according to Rapsodo’s data and has a considerable amount of separation from the heater. Opponents hit .233 against McGowan’s changeup this year.
“His fastball spins around 1 (o’clock) and his changeup has more of a 2 or 2:20 spin direction on average,” Rossini said.
“It’s going to get more horizontal movement. It’s a pitch that should tunnel rather well off the fastball as he can throw it in a similar way. And he’s getting a ton of horizontal break on that. So he’s a really good pick with those top two pitches.”
McGowan also features a slider that has graded above-average at times and a curveball. He checks some of the boxes teams are yearning for as a shorter 6-foot-1 righty with a high-spin, high-velocity heater, and could be an intriguing selection if he falls into the right player development system.
There are significant red flags to Seymour’s profile. He hasn’t logged many innings despite stops at Dartmouth College, the Cape League, Northwoods League and Kansas State. And in 14 games this year for Kansas State, pitching mostly out of the rotation, he didn’t get many batters out, posting a 6.19 ERA and walking 32 batters in 56.2 innings, good for a 12.2% walk rate.
But Carson Seymour is a bit of a weird pitcher. And when you rank where Seymour does on the BA 500, weird is good.
He’s a 6-foot-6 righty who can touch 99 mph, even if the fastball doesn’t always play up to its velocity. The real gem, though, is his upper-80s breaking ball that touched 90-91 this year against Big 12 hitters.
Seymour threw it roughly 25% of the time, and batters swung and missed at more than a 50% clip.
“He has an extremely interesting (breaking ball),” Rossini said. “He throws it hard … He throws it a 6 o’clock, which is great. It’s the pure 12-to-6 (shape). But the most unique part … he throws it with low spin. He throws it at like 1800 rpms.
“To give you some context on spin rate, you may have a guy throwing in the 90s who may have 1800 rpms on his changeup, 2200 to 2300 rpms on his fastball, maybe his curveball is at 2500 or 2600. (Seymour’s) 1800 rpm is an extreme outlier … Very few people have the capability to throw this pitch. It’s a very, very odd ball pitch that I think can play up extremely well … just because it’s so out of the realm of possibility for a curveball.”
As Rossini explains, Seymour’s breaking ball should present a late, tumbling action, similar to what you might see from a changeup. Because he has the true 12-to-6 spin direction, the bottom falls out relatively late and is hard for hitters to pick up.
The problem is that Seymour’s struggles throwing the pitch for strikes rendered it non-competitive at times this season. But it’s easy to see the intrigue if a team can envision a way for Seymour to harness his control more effectively.