Feature Photo: Drake Fellows, RHP, Joliet Catholic (Joliet, Ill.)
In the second installment of 2080’s Hitting the Trail series focusing on 2016 MLB draft-eligible prospects, we continue our review of the Prep Baseball Report Super 60 Showcase, Nick J. Faleris provides his thoughts on 10 pitchers who stood out at this year’s event. Click here for Part One: The Hitters.
Brenden Heiss, RHP, Harry D. Jacobs (Algonquin, IL)
Ht/Wt: 6’1″/200 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 9m
The Arkansas commit showed electric stuff during his pen session, matching some of his best outings during last summer’s showcase circuit. His fastball peaked at 96 mph, resting comfortably in the 93-to-94 mph velo band with some dance. He comes with deception and angle on each of his offerings, and he demonstrated enough stability in his mechanics to stay fairly consistent with his fastball and changeup release, though execution on the breaking ball was inconsistent, leading to varying shape and bite. His changeup was a solid offering, sitting 82 to 85 mph and slipping between straight and cut action. His 76-to-77, mph 11-to-5 breaker flashed plus bite at times, but was generally inconsistent. Whether or not Heiss ultimately sticks as a starter will come down to his ability to find consistency in his lengthy arm action and release. There’s late-inning upside should he shift to pen at some point in the future.
Joey Wentz, LHP, Shawnee Mission East (Prairie Village, KS)
Ht/Wt: 6’5″/220 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 8m
The high-waisted Wentz was a revelation at the Super 60, showcasing a projectable build, strong baseline stuff and a creamy arm action that put a bow on one of the more intriguing helium candidates you’ll find. The fastball sat comfortably in the 90-to-92 mph range, touching 93, with quality run down and a firm finish up in the zone. He threw strikes to both sides of the plate and stayed in tempo both through his windup and out of the stretch. His strongest secondary offering was a quality changeup that came with late dive and fade and sat 8 to 11 mph off his heater. His mid-70s breaker is still in its nascent stages, showing varying depth and bite, but the arm works well and it isn’t hard to picture an average or better curve emerging given the quality arm speed, obvious athleticism, and ability to repeat. It was a short show, but loud enough to place Wentz immediately on the travel itinerary for Midwest decisionmakers this spring. If he makes it to Charlottesville, he could be an immediate contributor for the 2015 NCAA champion Virginia Cavaliers.
Nate Brown, RHP, Arrowhead (Hartland, WI)
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/185 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 5m
Brown didn’t show the same command he had on display during his two standout performances in Jupiter this fall, but the stuff remains impressive and the body is what you want to see from a future starter. He flirts with the low end of a three-quarters slot, producing good arm-side life on his low-90s fastball, with the heater working most effectively with two-plane action (it can get horizontal and stay on plane when he gets too low in his release). The Florida commit displayed good deception and arm speed with his upper-70s changeup, showing hard fade and plus potential. His slider sat in the upper-70s with two-plane action, but he buried the pitch multiple times and seemed to struggle with feel. Overall, the execution was not what has come to be expected of Brown, but the power and potential are there, placing him high on follow lists leading up to the June draft. One beneficiary of Brown’s below-average execution was Ben Rortvedt (Verona Area (Verona, Wisc.)), who was able to demonstrate good side-to-side mobility behind the dish and solid feel for squaring up and deadening balls in the dirt.
Drake Fellows, RHP, Joliet Catholic (Joliet, IL)
Ht/Wt: 6’5″/220 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 3m
Fellows shows an easy arm that is accentuated by a deep lean in his leg kick and sweeping, rotational path that whips the ball from his back knee through his three-quarters release. The Vandy commit sat comfortably at 90 to 91 mph with his fastball, flashing some run and occasional sink. His best secondary was an upper-70s changeup delivered with deceptive arm speed and coming with sharp run away from lefty bats on the outer half. Fellows demonstrated some feel for a low-80s slider with two-plane action and average depth, as well. Because he gives such a long look on the backside, there is a question as to whether he possesses enough deception at present for the stuff to play up at the pro ranks. Should an organization fail to cough up enough money to buy him out of a stint in Nashville, coaches Corbin and Brown should have plenty of raw material with which to mold into a quality producer.
Cole Duensing, RHP, Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, KS)
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/178 | B/T: L/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 17y, 11m
The youthful, high-waisted Kansas State commit provided an interesting blend of length and projectability wrapped in a relatively compact delivery. The heater was clean out of his hand, working 91 to 92 mph and reaching as high as 94 with a true finish. The righty showed impressive feel for his mechanics, allowing for fairly consistent execution with his fastball working both sides of the plate, though his secondaries both lagged behind developmentally. Duensing’s breaking ball sat 77 to 79 mph and flashed some bite with a slurvy shape, ultimately profiling as a tighter slider that should reach the low-80s at maturity. His changeup fluctuated between a too-firm bury pitch and a quality off-speed pitch with late arm-side dive. The Kansas prep product will be closely monitored this spring, and could represent an upside play for an organization willing to invest the time in tightening the secondaries while waiting on the body to fill out.
Cameron Planck, RHP, Rowan County Senior (Morehead, KY)
Ht/Wt: 6’4″/218 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 3m
Planck was all arms and legs coming at the plate, utilizing a high leg kick to go along with a deep knee bend, long backside action and explosive drive to the plate. The combination resulted in quality deception, and it’s easy to picture uncomfortable right-handed at bats against the broadly-built Louisville commit. The arsenal plays, including a lively low-90s fastball, representing a slight velo bump from summer showings, and solid-average sweeping slider that peppered the bottom of the zone, sitting around 83 mph. The righty also showed an underdeveloped low-80s curve with soft downer action and a mid-80s changeup that he struggled to find. There’s a lot to work with here, and room to build to impact stuff with further reps and refinement. His spring performances will largely dictate his ultimate draft day value, which projects at present to somewhere in the fourth to sixth round range if signable.
Lucas Krull, LHP, Mill Valley (Shawnee, KS)
Ht/Wt: 6’7″/220 | B/T: R/L | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 17y, 11m
The long and lanky lefty flashed interesting stuff while offering up a lot of projection both in his capacious build and precocious age (the Arkansas commit won’t turn 18 until after the draft). As is commonplace with long-limbed prep arms, Krull can struggle to maintain his motion and hit his release on a pitch-by-pitch basis, but when everything clicks, he provides a glimpse of a high-upside arm with three average-or-better offerings delivered on a steep downward angle. Krull worked his fastball primarily in the upper-80s, reaching 91 with a steep release. His mid-70s curve is a potential above-average offering, already coming with some depth and flashing quality spin. Krull rounds out the repertoire with an upper-70s changeup that flashed some dive and showed an arm action that dovetailed well with the fastball. While it’s always a gamble to bet on big bodies figuring out their mechanics, Krull shows some athleticism and a shorter arm action than you’d expect from a pitcher his size, lowering some of the hurdles he’ll have to clear on his way to establishing himself as a dependable starter at the next level.
Cal Coughlin, RHP, Lake Forest (Lake Forest, IL)
Ht/Wt: 6’1″/200 | B/T: S/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 7m
Coughlin has a strong, thick build and utilizes a quick arm out of a high three-quarters slot to produce a quality four pitch mix. The TCU commit topped 94 mph with the heater while working primarily in the 90-to-92 mph range with true four-seam action and occasional arm-side action down. The changeup is an upper-70s offering with slight cut action and comes with solid arm speed deception but below-average command. Coughlin mixed two breaking balls into his session, including an interesting mid- to upper-80s short-slider/cutter and a rudimentary low-70s curve with 11-to-5 action. The impressive showing was accentuated by his batterymate for the day – Cooper Johnson (Carmel Catholic (Mundelein, Ill.)) – who showed quiet hands and a very low presentation, offering an almost completely unobstructed view of the repertoire.
Alec Marsh, RHP, Reagan College Prep. (Milwaukee, WI)
Ht/Wt: 6’2″/215 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 1m
Marsh boasts a simple step-in delivery with solid balance and an easy arm. His fastball worked in the 90-to-92 mph range out of the windup before dropping down to the 87-to-90 mph velo band out of the stretch, albeit with a little bit of wiggle. The Arizona State commit showed a high level of comfort with all three of his offerings, including a soft low-70s curve with decent shape and a 78-to-81 mph changeup with some tumble. While not overpowering, the righty projected confidence and poise on the bump, and it’s easy to picture him as a early contributor for the Sun Devils if he chooses to forgo pro ball this summer.
Erik Miller, LHP, De Smet Jesuit (St. Louis, MO)
Ht/Wt: 6’5″/220 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of 2016 draft date): 18y, 4m
The tall lefty boasts wide hips and long legs, projecting to a sturdy build at maturity. There’s some effort in the arm that limits his command at present, though he decelerates well enough to somewhat assuage concerns as to potential stress on the shoulder and elbow. The Stanford commit worked 89 to 91 mph with his fastball, touching 92 up in the zone with his four-seamer and showing best at 89 with his two-seamer down. The changeup worked well out of his high release, sitting in the low-80s with fade and actually smoothing the arm action some. His breaking ball was a mid-70s curve with inconsistent shape and he trended towards coming around the offering out of a non-uniform release point. Miller has shown crisper stuff in the past, and at its core the profile is still one that derives its value from its projectability. He could boost his status with a strong spring and could otherwise emerge as an early-round candidate after three years with the Cardinal.