Featured Photo: Matthew Liberatore, LHP, Mountain Ridge (Glendale, Ariz.)
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2080 Baseball Resource Libraries
Positional Preview Series
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CREAM OF THE CROP
(Potential Day 1 Targets)
Liberatore boasts two future plus or better off-speed offerings, including one of the better curveballs in the class and a change-up with solid dive and deception, to go with a projectable frame and a plus fastball generated through a quick and easy arm. Earlier this spring he was up to 97 mph with his fastball, but has since worked more consistently in the low-90s touching 94/95 mph.
A projectable lefty with the makings of three plus-or-better offerings at maturity, few prep arms can boast his upside. There’s some risk to the profile, however, as the Arizona commit can lose his release when cycling between the wind-up and stretch, as well as when implementing timing quirks to his standard motion to try and disrupt timing for the hitters. Supporters believe he’ll find more consistency as he continues to mature physically. It’s easy to project additional strength as well as growth across his arsenal, giving him one of the highest ceilings in the class to go with impressive “now” stuff. He should fit easily into the top half of the first round and could be the first prep arm off the board.
Weathers stood out with USA Baseball’s 18U National Team, pitching 9 2/3 innings during last year’s World Cup, striking out 12 and walking three while allowing just three hits and one unearned run. The Vandy commit has a strong frame and plus fastball to go with a solid change and developing breaking ball, all of which have shown growth throughout the course of the spring, making him one of the prep arms trending up as draft day approaches.
Ryan, son of former major leaguer David Weathers, has the bloodlines to back up the profile, and shows the feel and approach you would expect of someone growing up around the high levels of the game. There’s deception in the motion, with the lefty hiding the ball well through the back side, and an ability to work the corners with the fastball. Weathers profiles as a first round target and could slot as high as the top half of the first round to a club placing a high emphasis on his developmental progress this spring.
Ryan Rolison, LHP, Univ. of Mississippi
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/200 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 11m
Rolison wowed last summer on the Cape, working 28 innings while striking out 35 and allowing just 10 walks and 15 hits for Orleans. While he’s been a little less consistent this spring, the stuff has been there, with the southpaw boasting a plus fastball and plus-to-double-plus slide piece. We’ll show good command of each pitch when on but can struggle at times to hit his release consistently with each.
He has a durable build and a clean arm circle, but can come across his body some, and might benefit from getting more direct to the plate (even if it leads to a little loss in deception). His changeup is an average offering at its best, giving him an adequate arsenal to turn over big league lineups. Teams who believe they can help Rolison find a little more consistency in cleaning up his mechanics some could get a deal if he slips to the mid-to-late-first round after his up-and-down sophomore year. He remains one of the better lefty prospects in the class with a mid-rotation upside.
Shane McClanahan, LHP, Univ. of South Florida
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/173 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 1m
The South Florida southpaw can work in the 94-to-96 mph range and broke triple-digits numerous times early on this spring. He backs up the fastball with a changeup that shows plus potential at its best, along with a developing slider. Through his first handful of starts McClanahan looked the part of a top ten pick, showing premium swing-and-miss stuff from the left side, but his limited track record and inability to sustain that success might have dropped him closer to the back of the first round at this point.
As the season has progressed he’s seen his fastball velocity tick down some and has struggled with extended bouts of inconsistency with each of his secondaries, lending support to the argument that ultimately the power lefty will be best suited in a relief role. His aggressive approach and bulldog demeanor play well with scouts and could be an asset out of the pen.
Daniel Lynch, LHP, Univ. of Virginia
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 6m
Lynch entered the season as a projectable lefty who could already get into the low-90s with his fastball and showed good feel for an average upper-70s-to-low-80s tilted slider and a shorter mid-80s cut variation. He’s improved that trio of offerings on all counts, now working up to 94/95 mph with his fastball and showing sharper, more consistent bite on his slider and cutter. Further, his best offering may be a low-80s change-up that he throws with terrific arm speed deception.
Lynch’s “now” stuff has caught up to the top lefties in the class, and his easy arm and physical projection could help give some comfort to decision-makers that don’t have the benefit of a long track record with Lynch working at this level of performance. He could come off the board as early as the late first round and becomes an excellent value get as early as the second.
Kris Bubic, LHP, Stanford Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/220 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 9m
Bubic shone on the Cape, punching out 41 batters in 32 2/3 innings pitched while allowing just seven walks and 23 hits. After working mostly in the upper-80s last spring, Bubic saw occasional velo jumps over the summer and now works in the low 90s, touching 94/95 mph when he reaches back for a little extra in the early innings before settling into an 88-90 mph velo ban towards the end of his starts. With an above-average change-up and improving curveball, Bubic is pointing in the right direction, developmentally, though his stock would have benefitted from a more consistent uptick in stuff.
It’s unclear if the Stanford lefty ultimately fits better as a back-end starter or fastball/changeup relief option, but his solid feel and flashes of high-end stuff should be enough to get a team to bite in the first 50 picks or so. He has the benefit of solid performance numbers this spring and above-average pitchability to provide front offices with a little added comfort.
Tim Cate, LHP, Univ. of Connecticut
Ht/Wt: 6’0”/187 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 8m
Cate has one of the best curveball in the entire draft class, and he pairs it effectively with a future plus change-up a lively above-average fastball that he works from 88-to-94 mph with both two- and four-seam variations. Unfortunately, the diminutive southpaw missed over a month this spring due to forearm issues, which in conjunction with an earlier Tommy John surgery has added to the thought that Cate will ultimately land in the pen as a professional.
To his benefit, Cate shows comfort across his arsenal and solid command, making him a good candidate to stick in the rotation if he can just prove durable enough to handle the load. His stock is all over the map, with some teams valuing him as a comp-round target even with the expectation that ultimately moves to a multi-inning relief role.
Luke Heimlich, LHP, Oregon State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/197 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 22y, 4m
On pure stuff, Heimlich’s low-90s fastball, above-average control, and quality change-up and curveball should place him squarely in day one territory. The same off-field concerns that kept him off of draft boards in 2017, however, will be the final determinant as to whether Heimlich will get to continue on at the next level. The expectation is that a team will grab him as a senior sign somewhere towards the back of day two.
ADDITIONAL NAMES TO KNOW
Konnor Pilkington, LHP, Mississippi State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/225 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 9m
Pilkington works regularly into the low 90s with his fastball, commanding it well to both sides of the plate thanks to a repeatable delivery and good feel. His best secondary offering is a quality change-up with arm-side dive and he mixes in a slow curve with solid depth. Pilkington doesn’t have the most explosive arsenal, but his advanced feel and ability to execute across his arsenal, notwithstanding some late-season struggles, make him a worthy target in the third-to-fifth round range.
Steve Gingery, LHP, Texas Tech Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/210 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 0m
Gingery was an effective weapon for USA Baseball’s Collegiate National Team last summer, allowing just two runs in 16 innings of work. His arsenal is anchored by a heavy low-90s heater that he pairs with a plus low-80s change-up, with each pitch working of the same plane and general action. Gingery will miss the 2018 season with a torn UCL and likely falls out of Day 1 consideration as a result, though he’s still a potential early-round target thanks to his track record.
Hogan Harris, LHP, Univ. of Louisiana – Lafayette
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/205 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
Harris has a durable build and low-90s heat to go with an advanced feel for spin. The Ragin’ Cajun works from the mid-70s to the mid-80s with his curveball and slider, showing varying depth and bite across the entire velocity band. He’s a solid athlete with a chance for three above-average or better offerings to go with average or better command.
Jonathan Childress, LHP, Forney (Forney, Texas)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/215 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 4m
Evaluators love Childress’s durable and athletic build almost as much as his easy low-90s velocity. The Texas A&M commit will show four present offerings, including a solid change-up and developing curveball and slider. If Childress doesn’t get plucked early enough in the Draft this June he’ll immediately move to the short list of likely early round targets at the collegiate ranks for 2021.
Brandon Williamson, LHP, Northern Iowa Coll. (Iowa)
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/210 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 5m
The TCU commit impressed evaluators this spring with a low-to-mid-90s fastball that he used to set up two distinct breaking balls in his average-to-above-average slider and solid curve. He’s still a developmental target, but one who comes with athletic actions and the makings of at least three average or better offerings, making him an enticing option in the third-to-fifth round range if he’s willing to start his pro career.
Brett Hansen, LHP, Foothill (Pleasanton, Calif.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 7m
Hansen has the makings of a quality three-pitch mix anchored by an 88-to-92 mph fastball that reached as high as 95 mph at times this spring. His curve is a deep breaker with solid shape and he also shows some feel for a developing changeup. Depending on his signability, it could take a day one selection – or at least day one money – to buy him out of his commitment to Vanderbilt.
Justin Wrobleski, LHP/OF, Sequoyah (Canton, Ga.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/182 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 17y, 11m
The Clemson commit throws with some effort out of a low-three-quarters slot, working up to 93 mph with his fastball and backing it up with a sharp low-80s slider. He shows some feel for a low-80s change-up, still in its nascent stages, as well. If he makes his way to campus he could emerge as a top-of-the-draft type talent in three years, with evaluators expecting another uptick in his stuff across the board.
Tarik Skubal, LHP, Seattle Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’3”/224 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 6m
After missing the 2017 season due to Tommy John surgery, Skubal had a chance to reestablish himself as one of the higher upside arms in the class, but the big-bodied southpaw struggled with consistency throughout the spring. Pre-surgery, Skubal regularly worked into the mid 90s with his fastball, complementing it with a hard low-to-mid-80s breaker. He was once again up as high as 95/96 mph this spring, but his average curve and fringy changeup played down due to his struggles to command them.
Aaron Ashby, LHP, Crowder Coll. (Mo.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/185 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 19y, 6m
Ashby had some late-season helium thanks to an uptick in fastball velocity that saw the lefty sitting 90-to-93 mph and touching 94. That, coupled with a big-bending curve with plus bite give him an adequate one-two punch with which to attack pro hitters, and could get him off the board as early as the third round to a team believing they can help smooth out his control issues (he averaged over five walks per nine innings pitched this spring).
Bartnicki throws from a true three-quarters slot, pumping low-90s heat with good angle. His slider is a weapon, playing from the upper 70s to the low 80s with tilt and solid snap. The Georgia Tech commit rounds out the package with a strong, durable build to go with athletic actions and good arm speed. While he’s been inconsistent this spring, he’s still in the mix in the third-to-fifth round range.
Garrett Wade, LHP, Hartselle (Hartselle, Ala.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 9m
Wade was impressive as part of the Braves Scout Team/East Cobb club that competed in Jupiter at the WWBA World Championship in October, placing an exclamation point at the close of the 2017 scouting circuit. Committed to Auburn, the Alabama prep arm works from 88-to-91 mph, touching as high as 93 on occasion, with a nice low-80s two-plane slider with impressive spin rate. There’s some room left in the frame to add muscle and firm up the physique, making him a candidate to see a jump in stuff as his body continues to mature.
Adam Wolf, LHP, Univ. of Louisville
Ht/Wt: 6’6”/220 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 21y, 5m
Wolf was impressive over 16 starts this spring, holding opponents to a .213 average and striking out 109 batters in 102 2/3 innings of work. His bread and butter is a mid-80s cutter with hard, late action, which he commands well to both lefty and righty bats. Wolf will mix in a low-80s slider with deeper action and can use it as a weapon to expand the zone against same-side sticks. He fits in the third-to-fifth round range and profiles well as either a back-end arm or potential late-inning weapon who is particularly tough on lefties.
Tyler Holton, LHP/OF, Florida State Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/200 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 22y, 0m
The FSU lefty doesn’t blow away hitters with velocity, working primarily in the upper-80s with his fastball. His above-average-to-plus change-up, however, serves as an ample equalizer, as he throws it with very good arm speed and pitch plane deception. He’ll also mix in an upper-70s short curve with slurvy action to give batters a different look. If he can convince decision makers that his execution and feel will play at the next level he has a chance to grow into a solid back-end arm.
John Rooney, LHP, Hofstra Univ.
Ht/Wt: 6’5”/225 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 20y, 4m
Rooney is a big-bodied lefty who can dial-up his fastball to 93 mph, working more regularly in the 88-to-91 mph range. He’ll mix-in a low-to-mid-80s slider with good depth and pitch plane deception off the heater, with his solid in-zone command of each helping both offerings to play-up off of each other. His changeup comes and goes, but teams believing they can get him more consistent on the backside could pop him as early as the fourth round.
Joseph Menefee, LHP, George Ranch (Richmond, Texas)
Ht/Wt: 6’1”/210 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 8m
Menefee threw five no-hit, scoreless innings in three the WBSC World Cup appearances last fall while striking out six (though he did issue four free passes over that span), helping USA Baseball’s 18U National Team to its fourth straight gold medal. The Texas A&M commit works in the upper-80s with his fastball and can show a solid low-80s change-up to with a low-70s slow curve and low-80s short slider/cutter.
Jonathan (J.P.) Gates, LHP/1B, Nature Coast Technical (Brooksville, N.C.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/190 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 6m
The Miami commit works with an up-tempo motion and high release, creating solid angle with his upper-80s-to-low-90s fastball and a solid upper-70s slider. He flashes feel with his low-80s change-up, as well, giving him a chance for three average or better future offerings. There’s not tons of projection in the body, making him a fit in the fourth-to-sixth round range – a position he could improve upon with a strong performance and continued development at Miami.
Neeck shows decent athleticism on the bump and creates solid downhill plane on his 88-to-91 mph fastball, working out of a high-three-quarters release. His best secondary is a quality 1-to-7 upper-70s curveball with good depth and shape, and he will flash a low-80s change-up, as well. His committed to Virginia.
Drew Rom, LHP, Highlands (Fort Thomas, Ky.)
Ht/Wt: 6’2”/177 B/T: L/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 18y, 6m
Rom was dominant at the WWBA World Championship in Jupiter last fall, working 3 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit ball, striking out nine and walking none. The Michigan commit has a projectable build and shows an ability to work the quadrants with his 88-to-91 mph fastball. His slider is a sharp breaker with 2-to-8 tilt, and he already shows solid feel for a low-80s change-up with some arm-side sink.
Steven Hajjar, LHP, Central Catholic (Lawrence, Mass.)
Ht/Wt: 6’4”/205 B/T: R/L Age (as of 2018 MLB Draft): 17y, 10m
Hajjar is a limby lefty who brings some deception to the mound, throwing lots of arms and legs at hitters. He gets good arm-side action on his heater, which can reach 92 mph with giddy-up, and has proven difficult for hitters to pick up. A Michigan commit, Hajjar also wields a promising upper-70s slider.