The Mets’ fifteenth-round pick, Gabe Llanes, is very interesting. He’s also a major project.
Llanes is a high school senior from California, and he has some present talent and plenty of projection in his 6-foot-4-inch, 180-pound frame. Right now, Llanes throws 88-90 and can touch 93, and there’s hope that he’ll gain velocity as he grows into his body and focuses solely on pitching--he also plays shortstop for Downey. And as a two-way player, you know Llanes has the athleticism you look for in a young starting pitching prospect.
What’s most impressive about Llanes is how much movement his fastball has. Blessed with some sink and some serious arm-side run, it is one of the liveliest fastballs I’ve seen this year. He’ll also show a slider, and when it’s on, it’ll flash above average with some depth and bite, thanks in part to his three-quarters arm slot, but more often than not he overthrows the pitch, causing it to flatten out. His changeup is an afterthought for the time being, though I don’t see any reason why he couldn’t learn one.
Command is my biggest question mark for Llanes. Like I said, his fastball is very lively, and pitchers with movement have the most trouble with location. Mechanically, there are some things that aren’t helping. Right now, Llanes is very "tall and fall" on the rubber; rather than starting his momentum toward the plate early, Llanes just stands there, only moving toward the plate once he’s separated his hands. This slows down his body and messes with his timing. Even worse, Llanes has some head violence when he pitches. Basically he generates such force in his torso--a good thing--that he takes his eye of the plate momentarily. Many teams won’t touch a pitcher with head violence because they consider it unfixable. I’ll also mention that Llanes has an arm grab, which is correlated with Tommy John surgery.
Like I said, Llanes is a major project, one I might not have wanted to take a chance on earlier in the draft. His mechanics, control, and offspeed pitches all need substantial work. But in the 15th round, Llanes is well worth the risk, especially considering that it looks like a signing is going to happen (he is committed to Fresno State). The Mets largely played it safe this draft, which made this a calculated risk.