This is a very, very intriguing pick. With the Mets’ selection in the second round, number 48 overall, they selected Nevada prep righty Andrew Church, and I’ll hold off before defining him any further.
I guess we’ll begin with his backstory. Church is actually playing for his third high school in four years. He began at prep baseball powerhouse Bishop Gorman High in 2010, but that didn’t work so he transferred to Palo Verde High to pitch for an old friend. However, due to transfer rules Church was ruled ineligible to pitch in 2011, and by the time he was ready to pitch in 2012, the previous coach had been fired and another coach was elevated to the position. Church had a dispute with the new coach in 2012 and sat out that season as well. At this point, Church was already 18, so he moved out and got an apartment on his own inside another school district, where he pitched for Basic High. Transfer rules again prevented him from pitching in games until April of this year. Despite not pitching in high school games, Church kept himself sharp by playing for a travel team and throwing bullpen sessions, but scouts have not had a whole lot of opportunities to see Church pitch over the last four years.
And so, when you consider the rest of what I have to say, remember that we’re talking about a kid who’s barely had a chance to pitch in front of real competition over the last four years.
Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts. I’ve seen Church listed as tall as 6 feet, 3 inches, but don’t believe it. He’s no taller than 6 feet, 1 inch, which does limit his potential somewhat. He might have the room to add another half-tick of velocity onto his fastball, but I’m not sure it’ll be enough to get excited over. What he has right now is enough, being at least solid-average at 90-94, bumping 95. Another half tick may get him to above average. Unfortunately, the fastball doesn’t have a ton of life, and I do think he’s going to be flyball-prone as a pro.
The offspeed stuff is problematic, as you’d probably expect from a raw high school kid. His best secondary offering is a mid-70s curve, and while it can flash above average with hard drop, most of the time it comes in a little too slurvy. He also throws a so-so slider and a changeup, though neither pitch is near ready yet. My guess is the slider gets dropped as coaches persuade him to focus on perfecting the curve. I don’t see any reason why the changeup couldn’t progress to at least an average offering.
The mechanics are a mixed bag. There’s the foundation of a good delivery here, but it’s going to take some work to mold it into something that will help Church see results and keep him healthy long enough for him to see them. Thankfully, Church has a short, clean arm action with early elbow pronation, and a lightning-fast arm generates plenty of power. What he does need to work on is his lower body. Right now, he doesn’t stride far enough and drives through his settling point rather than drifting through it. The end result is his arm releasing the ball before the rest of his body has a chance to catch up. In other words, his arm is doing all the work. The Mets’ player development team needs to make sure he strides further and synchronizes his release to the forward momentum of the rest of his body. It’ll also keep him from opening up his shoulder too quickly, which will help him generate more velocity from his torso and prevent hitters from getting too good a look at the ball. These alterations should help him find both consistent velocity and better command. There are a couple of other things, like possibly cleaning up his glove-side mechanics, but those are minor.
Church’s commitment is to San Diego, but he’s considered signable at slot with this pick.
Church has a high ceiling, roughly that of a number two starter, but he’s very, very raw, even by prep pitcher standards. With more experience and superior coaching, Church should be able to take a step forward, but if he isn’t able to clean up his mechanics or find a consistent breaking ball, there’s an excellent chance he’ll end up pitching in relief, if he’s lucky enough to make the majors at all. High risk, high reward.