Georgia Righthander Dylan Lesko's Changeup Wows Scouts
From the second time Buford (Ga.) High righthander Dylan Lesko left a high school hitter flailing wildly at his changeup in the first inning of his National High School Invitational start, the question started bouncing around the scouting section: have you ever seen a high school pitcher with a better change?
A day later, we’ve still searching for an answer.
In a pitching class that’s significantly down on the college side, and quite deep in the high school ranks, Lesko stands above the rest as the clear-cut pitching prospect in the class. He backed his reputation up in a matchup against Don Bosco Prep (Ramsey, N.J.) righthander Caden Dana, and while Buford eventually lost on a walkoff in the bottom of the seventh, Lesko impressed.
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He threw four innings and allowed two hits and one earned run, while striking out seven and walking none (though he hit one batter) on 51 pitches with a repertoire that in many ways is a classic, top-of-the-class arsenal.
His fastball sat around 95 mph and touched 97 multiple times on several radar guns and he showed a high-spin breaking ball in the mid-70s with tremendous bite that generated several swings below the zone. Listed at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds, Lesko has a lean and still projectable frame, he’s a tremendous athlete with a fast arm, loose arm action and a delivery that has generated approximately zero red flags from evaluators.
What makes him unique, however, is that changeup.
Amateur changeups can be difficult to evaluate in most scenarios. Many of the top high school pitchers in the country have fastballs that are more than enough to blow past your typical high school hitters, and on the college side most top arms are increasingly asked to throw hard and rip off breaking balls.
It’s not unusual for elite high school pitchers to not even throw a changeup at all—the logic being why give hitters an opportunity to hit a changeup when they can’t catch up to your fastball?
For Lesko, it’s different. His changeup is his go-to weapon. In this outing at the NHSI, Lesko threw 33 fastballs (64.7%), 13 changeups (25.5%) and just three curveballs (5.9%). And there’s a reason he throws it as often as he does: it’s one of the best high school changeups evaluators have seen in years.
It draws double-plus grades frequently, and seems to check off all the boxes you could have when evaluating a change. There’s plenty of velocity separation from his fastball—about 15 mph of separation in this outing specifically—and scouts are also blown away by the depth and movement of the pitch. There’s around a 10-11 inch difference in induced vertical break between his fastball and changeup according to scouts, and that is a key metric for changeup swing-and-miss rate.
But it’s one thing to throw a pitch that checks out on the numbers. It’s another to have confidence in the pitch and command of it. Lesko’s usage alone indicates his confidence, and he routinely goes to the changeup as his go-to secondary over his curveball, and he will double up on the pitch to both lefties and righties for whiffs in the zone and below it.
There have certainly been high school pitchers who have shown impressive changeups in the past. Two high school pitchers from the 2020 class stand out in recent memory: Royals 2020 second rounder Ben Hernandez was known for his changeup and current Georgia Tech righthander Marquis Grissom Jr. also drew plenty of praise for his split-change.
However, Grissom Jr. topped out around 92 mph and Hernandez wasn’t viewed as the sort of first round talent Lesko is now. To see just how rare it is for a top-of-the-first-round high school pitching prospect to have this sort of now changeup, we looked back at all top-15 high school pitchers selected in the bonus pool era (2012-present).
Draft's Top Pitcher Dylan Lesko Needs Tommy John Surgery
On Wednesday, the club of injured pitchers in the 2022 draft class gained another significant name with the news that Dylan Lesko is lost for the season with an elbow injury that requires Tommy John surgery.
Where applicable, we pulled the language from our draft scouting reports to see just how impressive these 26 pitchers’ changeups were at the time. To see if they compared to Lesko. Turns out, they don’t:
- Jackson Jobe, RHP (2021 3rd pick, Rank No. 8) — “...shows feel for a future plus mid-80s changeup…”
- Frank Mozzicato, LHP (2021 7th pick, Rank No. 41) — “...a low-80s changeup that could develop into an average or better pitch…”
- Andrew Painter, RHP (2021 13th pick, Rank No. 15) — “...best secondary is a changeup in the low 80s that scouts put plus grades on…”
- Mick Abel, RHP (2020 15th pick, Rank No. 11) — “…throws a changeup in the 81-85 mph range that has good tumble and fading life and consistently shows above-average quality…
- Ryan Weathers, LHP (2018 7th pick, Rank No. 16) — “...can also turn to an average changeup when he needs…”
- Carter Stewart, RHP (2018 8th pick, Rank No. 9) — “...scouts projecting a changeup that could be at least average down the line…”
- Grayson Rodriguez, RHP (2018 11th pick, Rank No. 24) — “...doesn't throw it often, but he mixes in an occasional changeup to show it's in the repertoire…”
- Cole Winn, RHP (2018 15th pick, Rank No. 10) — no changeup mentioned in report
- Hunter Greene, RHP (2017 2nd pick, Rank No. 1) — “...flashes feel for his changeup, which scouts feel comfortable projecting…”
- MacKenzie Gore, LHP (2017 3rd pick, Rank No. 4) — “...his low 80s changeup, which projects as an above-average to plus offering…”
- Shane Baz, RHP (2017 12th pick, Rank No. 11) — no changeup mentioned in report
- Trevor Rogers, LHP (2017 13th pick, Rank No. 31) — “...he'll toy with an effective changeup as well…”
- Ian Anderson, RHP (2016 3rd pick, Rank No. 12) — “...a devastating mid-80s changeup, which garners plus grades…”
- Riley Pint, RHP (2016 4th pick, Rank No. 2) — “...throws an 89-91 mph potentially plus changeup with deception and fade…”
- Braxton Garrett, RHP (2016 7th pick, Rank No. 10) — “...his changeup shows excellent promise, giving him the potential for three above-average or better…”
- Matt Manning, RHP (2016 9th pick, Rank No. 11) — “...throwing more strikes with his curveball and changeup. His secondary pitches remain inconsistent…”
- Jay Groome, LHP (2016 12th pick, Rank No. 3) — “... also mixes in a changeup, which he's able to spot down in the strike zone…”
- Kolby Allard, LHP (2015 14th pick, Rank No. 18) — no changeup mentioned in report
- Brady Aiken, LHP (2014 1st pick, Rank No. 1) — “...has good feel for a changeup, giving him a third potential plus pitch…”
- Tyler Kolek, RHP (2014 2nd pick, Rank No. 2) — “...has shown a changeup in showcases or in the bullpen but hasn't needed it in games…”
- Kodi Medeiros, RHP (2014 12th pick, Rank No. 32) — “...commit's changeup has improved, showing the makings of an above-average offering with continued refinement…”
- Kohl Stewart, RHP (2013 3rd pick, Rank No. 5) — “...and shows feel for his changeup, and he'll display four above-average big league pitches at times…”
- Trey Ball, LHP (2013 7th pick, Rank No. 7) — “...he learned to rely on his changeup, which he throws with deceptive arm speed and nice fade…”
- Phil Bickford, RHP (2013 10th pick, Rank No. 20) — “...tinkers with a changeup but seldom uses it because he can dominate high school hitters with his fastball…”
- Max Fried, LHP (2012 7th pick, Rank No. 11) — “...low-80s changeup is already at least average and projects as another plus pitch…”
- Nick Travieso, RHP (2012 14th pick, Rank No. 40) — “...still learning a changeup but already has shown the ability to manipulate the baseball…”
Just seven pitchers of this group had reports indicating a future plus changeup and there was no mention of any pitcher earning double-plus or 70 grade changeups.
Baseball America has asked a number of veteran scouts over the last few days to see if any top high school pitchers come to mind with comparable changeups. We routinely get the same answer: “I can’t think of a better one.”