MLB Draft Buzz: Live Looks At Top 2021 Northeast Pitchers
With a stacked year for talent in the Northeast for the 2021 draft and national-level scouts flocking to the region right now, I spent the last couple of weeks on the road seeing several of the top high school prospects in the region.
Today we have reports and videos on the standout pitchers from this trip, with a second part next week on the prominent hitters. Reports are based on seeing these players in person and conversations with scouts who have been tracking these pitchers throughout the spring.
Chase Petty, RHP, New Jersey (BA rank: 25)
Petty is the most famous high school pitcher in the region thanks to a fastball that has reached 102 mph. He threw on May 17 with a predetermined limit of 50 pitches, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts and one walk in four innings. Petty can touch triple digits, but on this day he sat at 93-95 mph, touching 97. Of those 50 pitches, he induced four swings and misses, with one on the fastball and three on the slider. There's a lot to like with Petty between his impressive athleticism, arm speed, a big fastball and a slider that flashes plus at times. But scouts also have concerns about his control, the effort to his delivery and the general riskiness with high school righthanders. When the Indians drafted Daniel Espino in the first round at No. 24 overall in 2019, he was another high school righthander who could crack 100 mph with a plus breaking ball but question marks on his control and delivery. Petty could end up going in a similar area of the draft, though some teams would have him lower.
Michael Morales, RHP, Pennsylvania (BA rank: 56)
Morales struck out 12 of the 20 batters he faced on May 10, allowing two runs (one earned) in five innings with one hit and three walks allowed. Morales is 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and scouts highest on him are drawn to his starter traits, stemming from a smooth, controlled delivery with loose arm action and easy operation. His stuff is about the same as it was last year, cruising at 90-93 mph and up to 94 with good life in this start. Morales had sharp bite on a curveball that was mostly 77-80 mph and has plus potential as he refines the shape and consistency of that pitch. He didn't throw a changeup in this start, but scouts have seen him show feel for that pitch in previous outings. Morales mostly threw strikes, though he walked two batters in a row when his control escaped him, usually high or to his glove side. Morales isn't overpowering, but he's not a long-range projection either, and some scouts will even prefer that profile to the prep righthanders with bigger present stuff but more reliever risk.
Dennis Colleran, RHP, Massachusetts (BA rank: 227)
In his first start of the year, Colleran ran his fastball up to 96 mph, though his control wasn't there as he battled through walks and hit batsmen. In his next start on May 18, Colleran dialed back his fastball a bit and had better results, throwing seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, two walks, one hit by pitch and two hits allowed. At 6-foot-3, 230 pounds, Colleran has a strong, physical frame but he is still one of the younger players in the class, turning 18 in August. He pitches exclusively out of the stretch with a big leg kick and slings the ball from a long arm stroke that leads into a low three-quarters slot. He throws a mix of two- and four-seam fastballs that mostly ranged from 90-93 mph with good tailing life in this outing. Colleran has some sneaky athleticism and explosion for his size, with the potential to eventually throw in the upper 90s. His best secondary pitch is his low-80s slider, which missed a lot of bats last summer. On Tuesday it was an inconsistent but average pitch at times with the tight spin to project better. Colleran rarely threw his firm changeup last summer, but he mixed it in more in this start, showing improved separation from his fastball and better action than last year, using it for swinging strikeouts against two hitters. Colleran threw a lot of strikes last summer, so after his early outings, scouts will want to follow how his strike-throwing progresses in the rest of his starts, particularly from a pitcher with an unconventional delivery.
Shane Panzini, RHP, New Jersey (BA rank: 237)
If Panzini turned 19 in October, he would be on the older end of the class, but he turns 20 that month, making him close to two years older than some of the younger 2021 high school arms (he's 1 year, 10 months older than Dennis Colleran, for example). That's going to work against Panzini in draft rooms, but there are a lot of things working in his favor. He's about the same size as Colleran (6-foot-2, 220 pounds) with a simpler delivery that's smooth and under control. His fastball, which has been up to 96 mph this year, regularly hit 95 mph and sat in the low-to-mid 90s on May 16, when he gave up two runs in the first inning, then settled down the rest of the way to finish with eight strikeouts, two walks, four hits and two runs allowed in seven innings. That was actually a season-low strikeout total for Panzini, whose previous starts had 14, 10, 15 and 14 strikeouts. Panzini doesn't have a knockout pitch among his secondaries, but his slider is an average pitch at times, mixing in a curveball and changeup as well. There are certain clubs that are significantly higher on Panzini than his current ranking might suggest, so he's one of several New Jersey prep arms who could be prominent picks this year.
Jacob Steinmetz, RHP, New York (BA rank: 189)
Steinmetz's high school isn't playing this season, so he has spent most of the year pitching for Elev8 Academy in Florida, where his stock has climbed. He's 6-foot-6, 220 pounds and is on the younger end of the class, turning 18 shortly after the draft. Steinmetz pitched on May 9 at Major League Baseball's Prospect Development Pipeline Northeast workout at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, where there wasn't a game but pitchers did throw live batting practice. His fastball ranged from 90-94 mph, and he has registered a tick above that in other outings. Steinmetz didn't execute his curveball consistently in this look, but he has an innate feel to spin the ball to develop it into a true out pitch, with spin rates that tickle 3,000 rpms. Like a lot of pitchers with his age and long limbs, Steinmetz had erratic control in this stint, but there are a lot of projection arrows pointing the right way for a pitcher who could eventually throw in the upper 90s with a sharp snapping curve.
Luke Holman, RHP, Pennsylvania (BA rank: 145)
Holman pitched in a playoff game on May 13 at the home ballpark of Double-A Reading, striking out 15 in 5.2 innings with one run (unearned) on two hits allowed. Holman is 6-foot-4, 190 pounds with a fastball that held at 90-92 mph through the duration of his start and touched 93. That's about the same velocity Holman showed last year, but he has the physical projection that suggests more velocity should come as he packs on weight. He throws from an overhand slot with a fastball/curveball combination that pairs well off each other. It's a 75-78 mph curveball he showed feel to spin last year and has tightened up this spring into a potential out pitch. Holman threw an occasional changeup as well but didn't show much feel for it on this night. He's also a good athlete, showing slightly above-average speed by beating out an infield single in 4.25 seconds from the right side of the plate.
Fran Oschell, RHP, Pennsylvania
Oschell is a Duke commit built like former Duke righthander Michael Matuella at 6-foot-7, 215 pounds. Oschell isn't overpowering—he sat at 88-90 mph and touched 92 once for Malvern Prep on May 14—but there could be more velocity in the tank and he has an outstanding changeup for a high school pitcher. He holds his changeup with a split grip between his middle and ring fingers and it dives at the plate with splitter-like late tumble. He throws it mostly at 76-78 mph, so it has excellent separation of around 12 mph off his fastball, making it a weapon against both lefties and righties. Oschell mixed in an occasional short slider at 82-85 mph but is primarily a fastball/changeup pitcher with some rigidity to his delivery. Most likely, Oschell will end up at Duke, but his stock could rise there if he's able to get his fastball into the mid 90s.
Twins Acquire Sonny Gray, Send Reds Chase Petty
If there was any doubt that the Reds are focusing on rebuilding in 2022, Sunday likely answered those questions. Cincinnati traded away Sonny Gray, one of its best starting pitchers, and threw in a relief pitching prospect in return for a recent first-round pick (Chase Petty).