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Most Projectable 2017 Draft Picks

 With a fresh Northeastern arm and projectable frame, high school righthander Matt Tabor could gain velocity if he signs with the Diamondbacks and develops in their system. (Photo by Stacy Jo Grant)

Teams are constantly on the lookout for projectable pitchers who, while they might not exhibit overpowering fastballs now, could develop into major league-caliber arms. In this piece, Baseball America attempts to identify the most projectable pitchers from this year’s draft.

A scout told Conor Glassey for his “Scouts on Scouting” story from 2010 that projectability is partially an eye test. “We’re looking for tall, lean—I’m not going to say skinny kids, but non-mature kids—who three or four years down the road, they’re going to get in the weight room to where you can project that they are going to throw harder,” the scout said.

Perhaps no better example of playing the projection game is Brewers lefthander Josh Hader. Drafted by the Orioles out of high school in the 19th round in 2012, Hader was a slender 6-foot-3, 160-pound pitcher who sat in the mid-80s. By 2014 his fastball ranged from 89-93 mph. Today he ranges from 92-96 mph for the Brewers in the majors.

Most telling for Hader’s velocity gains is the fact that he’s added 25 pounds since being drafted. Other projectable pitchers from the 2012 draft class include righthander Walker Buehler, who signed with the Dodgers as a first-round pick in 2015 after three years at Vanderbilt, and Mariners reliever Edwin Diaz, a Puerto Rican high school product.

Using each pitcher’s height, weight and age, we identified six of the most projectable 18-year-old high school pitchers from this year’s draft class.

RHP Michael Mercado

Drafted: Rays, second round School: Westview HS, San Diego

Mercado doesn’t just have room to grow. He has room to flourish. The 6-foot-4, 165-pound righty already sits in the low 90s thanks to a rigorous training program that boosted his velocity, but he could reach the mid- to upper 90s once he adds weight. Mercado has a deep repertoire of pitches along with a clean delivery that bodes well for adding strength. He turned pro quickly by signing with Tampa Bay.

RHP Caden Lemons

Drafted: Brewers, second round School: Vestavia Hills (Ala.) HS

Lemons rocketed up boards this spring because of his cleaned-up delivery and increased velocity. Listed at 6-foot-6, 175 pounds, Lemons could easily add another 30 pounds to get where he needs to be. He touched 96 mph this year and could eventually reach triple digits, a goal that the Brewers hope he achieves. As with all high school pitchers, patience is paramount.

RHP Matt Tabor

Drafted: Diamondbacks, third round School: Milton (Mass.) Academy

One of just nine Massachusetts players drafted this year, Tabor’s cold-weather origins leave room for the cultivation of velocity. Listed at 6-foot-2, 160 pounds, Tabor usually sits in the 90-94 mph range and has maxed out at 97, a result of growing a couple of inches and adding good weight over the winter. He repeats his delivery well and could gain another tick or two on his fastball with professional instruction.

RHP Blayne Enlow

Drafted: Twins, third round School: St. Amant (La.) HS

The Twins selected Enlow with the first pick on the second day of the draft, most likely nixing his chances of making it to Louisiana State. He features a fastball that parks around 90-92 mph to go with a plus curveball and heaps of athletic ability. Enlow’s delivery is loose and easy, allowing him to command his pitches. Most promisingly, his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame has plenty of room to grow.

LHP Jerryell Rivera

Drafted: Angels, 11th round School: Beltran Baseball Academy, Florida, P.R.

The Puerto Rican southpaw could be on the verge of big-time velocity because his 6-foot-3, 180-pound frame could easily support more weight. Rivera pitches with a loose delivery and repeats his motions incredibly well, allowing scouts to project a plus fastball down the line. He topped out at 93 mph this spring. Rivera still is getting a grip on his secondary pitches, but with enough time he could develop into a legitimate starter.

LHP MacKenzie Gore

Drafted: Padres, first round School: Whiteville (N.C.) HS

Gore doesn’t have the same kind of frame that projects for velocity growth as others (6-foot-1, 185 pounds), but his age and easy athleticism are reason enough to suggest future gains. The southpaw repeats his steep delivery with ease and commands the ball to wherever he desires. Gore normally sits 89-93 but has shown the ability to hit the mid 90s when needed, providing a hint of what he might be able to pitch at when he’s fully grown. All together, his secondaries, athletic ability, and upwards-trending velocity portend a dangerous pitcher at Gore’s peak.

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