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2011 Draft Profile: Taylor Guerrieri

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With the Rule 4 draft coming up, I’ve been examining some potential first-round picks for the Mets. In case you missed my previous profiles, you can find them here: Levi Michael, Taylor Jungmann, George Springer and Mikie Mahtook.

Taylor Guerrieri

Position: Pitcher
School: Spring Valley H.S. (SC)
Level: Senior
Birth Date: 12/1/92
Height: 6-3
Weight: 195 lbs.
Throws: Right
Bats: Right

Why you should celebrate if the Mets take him: He looks like a starting pitcher, with a large frame that still offers some projection and a big, overpowering fastball. That fastball is a great pitch, sitting in the low-to-mid 90s and peaking at a very impressive 98. With a little more consistency in velocity, there’s no reason why Guerrieri can’t be sitting in the mid-90s. That kind of arm strength stands out in any draft class, even one as talented as this year’s. And if that weren’t enough, the pitch has some good sink most of the time—the pitch will flatten out at high velocities. I don’t think he’ll be a ground ball machine, but there should be enough there to help keep batted balls out of the air.

Guerrieri’s curve can be nearly as good. The pitch has a lot of drop and tight rotation as it travels along an 11-to-5 path, and he’s fairly consistent with it. It’s a wipeout pitch that will get him swings and misses at the pro level. He’s also been working on a change and a cutter, and his high three-quarters arm slot should be suitable for both pitches.

Finally, and just as importantly, Guerrieri’s mechanics are mostly solid. He takes a good stride, his glove side is firm, the arm action is clean, and the whole package comes off as effortless. Too often, young pitchers’ mechanics are geared toward creating velocity, and that can be costly later on, either because the pitcher will get hurt or lose command, or because another organization or program will force him to start from scratch. Guerrieri is largely free of this.

Why you should hope the Mets call someone else’s name: Command is Guerrieri’s most glaring weakness, and it’s the only blemish keeping him from being a top five pick. He has trouble spotting the fastball, and he’s at his best when he’s able to spot it down in the zone. Unfortunately, all too often he’ll either miss up in the zone or throw it in the dirt, something that high school hitters aren’t able to take advantage of but pro hitters will. He has similar difficulty commanding his slider, which will cost him strikeouts as he advances.

What’s causing it? Like I said, his mechanics are pretty clean. However, there is a little bit of funkiness in his lower body—his legs are just a little bit busier than they should be, and I think that may be impairing his ability to land consistently. By streamlining his stride—it wouldn’t hurt to lengthen it a little more, either—he might help his command. Or it might not, in which case I’d be at a loss for what to do, and then it might be reliever time.

There’s one other thing I should mention. Some scouts are questioning his makeup, but it’s all very mysterious right now. Guerrieri changed high schools this past year, leaving many to wonder if there was an off-field reason for it. I don’t know if there’s anything to it, and I don’t know how concerning it really is, but I’d imagine teams will be doing some research.

Any other issues are just endemic to the high school pitcher species. He doesn’t really have a third pitch. Few high schoolers do. Whoever drafts him will have to buy him out of a commitment to South Carolina. That’s part of the price when you deal with prep players.

What I think: Depending on how serious any off-field issues are—right now I’m leaning toward "not very"—Guerrieri should be near the top of the Mets’ list. High school pitchers that combine polish and stuff to any degree are few and far between, and Guerrieri is more signable than either Dylan Bundy or Archie Bradley, both of whom want big money. Unfortunately, this will make him appealing to other teams as well, and I’m expecting Guerrieri to be off the board before the Mets have a chance to pick, possibly to the Brewers at 12. Or he could go much earlier to a team who doesn’t want to pay huge bucks for Bundy or Bradley.