Feature Photo: Cole Stobbe, SS, Millard West (Omaha, NE)
Welcome to 2080’s ongoing Perfect Game Draft Pack series, with this week’s edition highlighted by profiles of a projectable six-foot-five righty with an above-average heater with life that, when paired with an above-average slider, suits well to a future bullpen role; a former 35th-overall pick from 2013 who is back from Tommy John surgery, and brings with him three potential above-average offerings; and a high school shortstop who could be the just second position player to get picked in the top 10 rounds of the MLB First-Year Player Draft from the state of Nebraska since 1993!
Jeremy Brown, David Rawnsley, and David Krause take us through this week’s profiles.
Bailey Clark, RHP, Duke Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/210 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 6m
Projected Draft Round: 3-4
Heading into this spring the Duke junior had some buzz surrounding his name has he showed an uptick in velocity with his fastball touching 96’s and 97’s with his heater. When you take that velocity, couple it with his slider, add the fact that he’s younger for the grade, and take into account his strongly built, yet still projectable, 6-foot-5 frame, then you’re looking at the type of arm who could start at the next level.
Opening up the spring with a highly anticipated matchup against Cal and their ace Daulton Jefferies, Clark threw well and lived up to the early season buzz as he went 5 1/3 innings, struck out five and walked just one. His next two starts were even better as he struck out 10 against Ohio State and followed that performance with a nine-strikeout performance against Toledo, walking just one and allowing a single earned run in each outing. After those three starts, which is when ACC play opened too, Clark’s command began to get loose which led to some tough outings and high pitches counts to get through five innings.
Since moving to the bullpen however the hard throwing right-hander has been able to harness his stuff and recently threw five strong innings against Virginia Tech, punching out eight without issuing a free pass.
Clark’s fastball is one that can sit in the 92 to 95 mph range, bumping higher, with easy and heavy life to the bottom of the zone courtesy of his loose and whippy arm action. Built like a starter, the arm action also eludes to starting being a very real possibility as it’s clean coming through the back and the ball explodes out of the hand with plane. He’ll need to work on finding a consistent release point and staying on line better with his lower half upon release but he has the athleticism to do so and appears to have found a groove now as he hasn’t walked any in his three appearances out of the bullpen.
Scouts were able to see Clark on the summer circuit last summer as he threw, and performed well, both on the Cape and for the Collegiate National Team. During his time with USA Clark served as a bullpen arm where he made three appearances spanning five innings in which he struck out eight, but on the Cape went a perfect 3-0 in three starts and came away with a dazzling 0.56 ERA in 16 innings pitched.
While the fastball is an easy above average pitch with the pure velocity and life, Clark’s slider shows just as much potential, giving him a quality 1-2 punch. The junior Blue Devil shows the same arm action on the mid-80s pitch and has proven he’s capable of consistently throwing the pitch for a strike, showing two-plane tilt with late bite to the bottom of the zone, serving as an out pitch. And while he’ll lean on the slider as his primary secondary offering, Clark will also flash a changeup as part of his three-pitch mix. –Jheremy Brown
Zach Hess, RHP, Liberty Christian Acad. (Lynchburg, VA)
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/200 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 19y, 3m
Commitment: Louisiana State
Projected Draft Round: 2-4
Zach Hess is a very interesting quandary for scouts.
The plus side of the list is full to the brim. He has a 6-foot-6, 200-pound build that has present wiry strength to it and is a very good athlete for his size. Hess’ raw present stuff is outstanding. He pitches comfortably at 90 to 93 mph and has been up to 96 mph and shows that type of velocity on a very consistent basis. His fastball gets outstanding running life at times from an extended three-quarters arm action and release point. Hess’s big-breaking slider is also a potential plus pitch, with hard diving action that can get under left-handed hitter’s hands and leave right-hander’s leaning back towards the third base dugout. And Hess has never had any problem at any point throwing strikes and even has shown the ability to spot both his primary pitches to different spots with intent.
On a list of pitcher’s in the 2016 class who can provide a hitter with an uncomfortable at-bat, Hess ranks up near the top.
So what’s on the minus side of the ledger? Hess’s age is a minor item, as he turned 19-years old in February and is 12 to 18 months older than many of the other top pitching prospects in the class. But the main issue is with Hess’ delivery and mechanics. They are violent and max effort, especially on his fastball, with a hard head whack and a distinct recoil after release that makes it appear like he’s cracking a whip at times. The effort difference between his fastball and slider release is also a minor item, as upper level hitters will pick up on that as a potential tip for his pitch selection.
For many scouts, this is an easy equation and the answer is always the same: Hess fits the future reliever profile perfectly. And reliever profiles rarely become high draft picks out of high school, especially when they will become draft-eligible sophomores in college.
The problem with the profile for some, including this scout, is Hess has never given any hint whatsoever that he has had or will have command issues. In fact, his present pitchability is one of the things that stands out about him. Factor in his overall athleticism and his clean injury history and there is nothing aside from the delivery that indicates anything but him being a future starter.
The team that picks him in June will be one that believes in the latter path, that Hess can stay a starter at the professional level given all his positives.
An aside about Hess’s background that is interesting but has no bearing on his draft status is that he will be one of the least likely players ever to complain about umpiring. His father, Karl, is a veteran college basketball official who has refereed six NCAA Final Fours. There will be no sympathy from dad for complaining about ball and strike calls. –David Rawnsley
Matt Krook, LHP, Univ. of Oregon
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/217 | B/T: L/L | Age (as of draft date): 21y, 7m
Projected Draft Round: 2-3
Coming out of a California high school back in 2013, lefthander Matt Krook was selected by the Miami Marlins 35th overall after a spring in which he rapidly rose up teams’ draft boards. But after a physical raised a medical red flag, the Marlins lowered their offer and as a result both sides were unable to reach terms. As a result, Krook enrolled at the University of Oregon and was immediately deemed a top prospect for the 2016 MLB draft. His freshman year in Eugene was going as planned over his first eight starts, as he was showing high-octane stuff while averaging 11.91 strikeouts per nine with a minuscule 1.79 ERA. Everything to this point was screaming top end of the first round in three years.
That was until April 5 when he left in the third inning of his start against the University of Washington with elbow discomfort which ultimately led to Tommy John surgery. His entire sophomore season was lost while recovering from the surgery and it wasn’t until last summer that he was able to toe the rubber once again. Under a careful eye and strict limitations, Krook began his rehab assignment in the Cape Cod League, which is no easy task for a pitcher who is healthy, let alone one who missed the entire previous spring.
While on the Cape Krook wasn’t in his top form and understandably so in terms of command, though he still punched out 15 in 11 1/3 innings, which spanned six starts, none of which ever went past his predetermined two innings per start. I was on hand for his second start of the summer during which he showed three pitches that have above average potential, all of which leave the same high three-quarters arm slot with relative ease and cleanliness out of his hand.
The results this spring have been mixed through the halfway point as the command hasn’t been as sharp as scouts would like to see, nor are the end results, but he’s still missing bats frequently with both his fastball and breaking ball. His most recent start against UCLA saw him struggle to find a consistent release point, but when you factor everything together it’s still a package that scouts will be highly intrigued by.
With an easy delivery and live arm action Krook is able to consistently live in the low-90s, and capable of bumping higher, with his fastball, a pitch that shows plus life and is chiefly responsible for the empty swings the pitch collects. The arm action shows no signs of rust from the missed time and the command is something that should continue to improve with continued reps on the mound.
His curveball is his second offering that will show above average in any given outing while still projecting for more. A low-80s offering, Krook’s curveball features big depth and sharp break to the bottom of the zone with tight spin and swing-and-miss capabilities. Throughout the spring he’s worked mostly off his fastball and breaking ball, though on the Cape he also showed a feel for a late-fading, mid-80s changeup to round out a three-pitch mix.
Krook’s starts down the stretch will be closely monitored as they could have a significant impact on where he’s ultimately selected. And while the numbers aren’t what you’d expect out of a high end draft selection at this given moment, he has the arsenal and talent to climb up boards come June. –Jheremy Brown
Cody Sedlock, RHP, Univ. of Illinois
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/210 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 20y, 11m
Projected Draft Round: 1S-2
Last spring an Illinois pitcher took the college baseball and scouting world by storm as Illini lefty Tyler Jay improved off an impressive sophomore season to dominate in his junior campaign before eventually being selected sixth overall by the Minnesota Twins. While their developmental paths and careers in Champaign have not been the same, Illinois’ ace for the 2016 season—Cody Sedlock—has a chance to relatively high (albeit not as high as Jay) this summer.
Sedlock, like Jay, spent much of his first two seasons in the bullpen (receiving a few spot starts in his freshman and sophomore seasons) and flashed some intriguing raw stuff with a low-90s fastball and quality breaking ball. Despite low walk figures, he didn’t always sport the best command but was able to succeed and get outs thanks to the quality of the arsenal.
In another similar—albeit not perfect comparison—both Jay and Sedlock performed well in the summer before their junior seasons to capture the eyes of evaluators from across the country and firmly put themselves in contention to be considered for the early rounds of the draft. Jay was absolutely dominant the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team in summer of 2014 (0.00 ERA, 21 strikeouts in 16.2 innings) and made a brief cameo in the Cape Cod League. Sedlock, again didn’t put up quite the same eye-popping numbers, but he still impressed many on-lookers this summer when he appeared in 11 games in the Cape Cod League for the Bourne Braves.
While Jay did not shift to the rotation until very late in the season (starting two games) for the Illini’s magical 2015 season, he was absolutely dominant out of the bullpen and had enough teams convinced to draft and develop him as a starting pitcher, a role in which he’s now performing for High A Fort Myers. This year, with plenty of key players from the 2015 team now in the professional ranks or graduated, Sedlock has been the ace for the Illinois staff since opening day. Not everyone can make the adjustment, but he has done so almost seamlessly. There have been a few poor starts, but for the most part Sedlock has gone out and given the Illini a chance to win every time he’s taken the ball.
One of the most encouraging things for evaluators is the fact that Sedlock has been able to maintain his stuff deep into ballgames, and he even recently struck out 14 and issued just one free pass in a game in which he threw 10 2/3 innings (132 pitches). He’s a strong, physical kid with room to fill out even further as he matures, and he certainly has the frame and build to carry plenty of the innings at the next level.
The stuff is certainly starter-quality as well, as his fastball comfortably sits in the low-90s and touches 94 to 95 and features solid sinking action with late life down the strike zone. Additionally, Sedlock also throws a deep 12-to-6 curveball that shows plus, and a slider in the 83-85 mph band that has short tilt and shows solid potential as he continues to develop. He’ll flash an occasional changeup, but it is generally not an offering that he uses too often at present, and it is an offering that he’ll need to work on some upon getting to pro ball. Still, Sedlock offers teams with an intriguing package as he owns a pair of plus pitches and another one (slider) that flashes above-average on a workhorse frame. If he continues to throw strikes as he has this year, Sedlock could develop into a solid mid-rotation arm at the professional level, and he’ll be in play for plenty of teams in the supplemental rounds this June. –Andrew Krause
Cole Stobbe, SS, Millard West (Omaha, NE)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/200 | B/T: R/R | Age (as of draft date): 18y, 9m
Projected Draft Round: 2-3
Only one high school position player from the state of Nebraska has been picked in the top 10 rounds of the draft since 1993. The short high school season, frequent bad spring weather and relatively low level of high school pitching make it very difficult to evaluate a hitter leading up to the draft. Throw in that very few scouts make their homes anywhere close to Omaha or Lincoln and it’s a perfect storm against a high school hitter.
Fortunately for Millard West high school standout infielder Cole Stobbe, that one previous top-round high school pick, Jakson Reetz, laid down an almost perfect blueprint for success for the rare high school position prospect.
Reetz, the Nationals third round pick in 2014, played at all the major summer events in 2013 and excelled in most, including being named the Most Valuable Player at the Perfect Game All-American Classic, and started for the USA 18u National Team in the fall. All scouts really had to do in the spring was check in to make sure he was healthy and performing and do signability. Reetz had already established his draft value.
Stobbe is following that script perfectly. He had an outstanding summer, standing out especially at the PG National Showcase and Tournament of Stars, being named a PG All-American and also spending the early fall starting at shortstop for the 18u National Team.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound right-handed hitter has followed up this spring by hitting .392-10-30 in 22 games thus far.
Stobbe’s run and throw tools both register as solid average on the MLB scout’s scale, which is a bit low for a top round infielder. Most scouts feel that he will end up at either second or third base at the professional level and he both played and looked comfortable at those positions during the summer. His carrying tool is his bat and especially his power potential if he can stay in the middle of the field. Stobbe has also impressed evaluators with his steady and mature approach to the game both on and off the field.
Without the flashy athletic tools, Stobbe’s big league comparisons look like players such as Jed Lowrie or Mark Ellis, infielders who could reach double figures in home runs, hit near the top of the line up and play steady defense. That would be a great place to end up for the rare Nebraska high school position prospect. –David Rawnsley