Major League Baseball’s 2017 amateur draft is coming up on June 12. We continue our preview series with a look at some right-handed pitchers who could be taken by the Mets with the 20th pick in the first round.
Griffin Canning (RHP)
Picked by the Colorado Rockies in the 38th round of the 2014 draft, Griffin Canning instead honored his commitment to UCLA, where he became a standout pitcher. In his first year there, the 19-year-old posted a 2.96 ERA in 63.2 innings, allowing 54 hits, walking only six, and striking out 66. His numbers took a step back in 2016—as he posted a 3.70 ERA in 109.1 innings, with 109 hits allowed, 21 walks, and 95 strikeouts—but the California native rebounded and has posted the best numbers of his career in 2017.
Canning isn’t the most impressive physical specimen, but that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t know how to pitch. His fastball sits in the low 90s and touches as high as 95 miles per hour. His arm speed is plus, and the 170-pound righty certainly has additional room to fill out. That means he could possess a plus fastball at full maturity. The pitch has late arm-side run and sink and has additional life when located down.
Supplementing his fastball is a solid arsenal of secondary pitches, including a curveball, slider, and changeup. In the past, his changeup was his go-to secondary pitch, but he’s thrown his curveball and slider a lot more this past spring, leading some scouts to rank either or both ahead of it. His curveball sits in the low 80s, and though inconsistent, it has shown solid 10-to-5 break. His slider, which is also inconsistent, sits closer to the mid-80s and has shorter break and later lateral action as compared to the curve. The right-hander generally uses the curveball against lefties and the slider against right-handed hitters. His changeup is on the firm side, sitting in the mid-80s, but because Canning maintains his arm slot well and does not telegraph the pitch, he gets great deception on it.
Canning throws from a three-quarters arm angle. There is some concern about how he lands on his front foot since he closes his front landing toe instead of landing open, which can lead to an inconsistent release point and control issues. He generally repeats his delivery well, so even with this hiccup has been able to avoid major bouts of wildness. But it causes pause when projecting his ability to command his pitches going forward. He works from the first base side of the rubber, hiding the ball well behind his body and giving his pitches added deception.
Despite being a wiry 6’1”, 170 lbs., Canning has shown durability both in terms of pitches thrown per game and innings pitched, and UCLA coach John Savage has leaned hard on him at times, as he has done with most aces he’s coached.
Sam Carlson (RHP)
Only two pitchers from Minnesota have ever been drafted in the first round: Glen Perkins in 2004 and Dave Winfield, who was originally a pitcher. Sam Carlson, who was already on scouts’ radars before a huge jump in his stuff this spring, will be the third. If everything goes right, he has the potential to be the best Minnesota native to pitch in the major leagues since Dave Goltz, the fifth-round pick who pitched for the Twins between 1972 and 1983.
Carlson’s fastball sat 88-to-92 miles per hour for most of last summer, but when the 2017 season began, the 6’4” right-hander was throwing harder, sitting 91-95 and touching 97, all while retaining the sink and run he had gotten before. The pitch grew by leaps and bounds in just the span of a few months, and he still may be able to get more on it as he fills in.
His changeup is his best secondary pitch, flashing plus potential. Averaging about 82 miles per hour, it features exceptional fade and late tumble. It falls down and away from left-handers and is a devastating pitch against them. His slider rounds out his repertoire. It sits in the upper-70s to low-80s and has tight spin. Like his fastball, it experienced a lot of growth this past spring, tightening up and coalescing from a slurvy breaking ball into a much-better-defined slider. He commands both pitches well and trusts both secondaries enough to throw them liberally.
Carlson throws from a low three-quarter arm slot and finishes across his body. His delivery is loose, and he repeats it well, using his lower half and getting over on his front side. He incorporates a short dip towards his back hip as he is winding up, adding additional deception into his delivery. He has a commitment to the University of Florida.
Wil Crowe (RHP)
As a high school senior, Wil Crowe turned down multiple major league teams that were trying to woo him with promises of seven-figure bonuses. He was selected anyway by the Cleveland Indians in the 31st round of the 2013 draft, but he obviously passed on signing with them, attending the University of South Carolina.
In his first season with the Gamecocks, Crowe looked like a future ace. As a freshman, he posted a 2.75 ERA in 91.2 innings, though his lack of strikeouts was slightly concerning. He began his sophomore season just as impressively, but his performance tapered off, as he just didn’t have the same command and crispness to his pitches as he had the year before. That April, in the fourth inning in a game against SEC rival Florida, the right-hander felt something pop in his elbow. Though it didn’t really cause him much pain, Crowe tore his UCL, an injury that necessitated Tommy John surgery.
Despite being sidelined, Cleveland drafted him once again, this time in the 21st round of the 2016 draft, forcing him to make a difficult decision: Should he accept their offer, or should he gamble on himself that he would return to the field in 2017 and pitch like the ace he was before his surgery? He opted to return to UCS for one more season, and the decision seems to be the correct one. He looked the part of an ace college pitcher throughout his senior season.
In 2013, when he was a high school senior and first eligible to be drafted, his fastball sat in the high-80s to low-90s, topping out around 92 miles per hour. Since returning from Tommy John surgery, his fastball has sat in the 91-95 range, touching as high as 97 with sink. He commands the pitch well and likes to live on the corners with it, but as he tires he loses his pinpoint control of the pitch, leading to him fall behind in counts.
Crowe complements the fastball with three other pitches: a slider, curveball, and changeup. His slider, which sits in the 80-to-83 range is a swing-and-miss pitch with tight break. As his stamina fades, the pitch loses its bite, but he has shown a feel for changing the grip he uses and manipulating the spin and break the pitch gets, giving it more depth. His curveball, sitting in the high-70s, has been inconsistent, but has flashed plus when getting maximum break. His changeup is his least-developed pitch, but is also his least used pitch. Used mostly against left-handed hitters, the pitch sits in the mid-80s and doesn’t have too much movement but has gotten its fair share of awkward swings over the course of the 2017 season.
The right-hander throws from a high three-quarter arm slot, using a delivery that is simple and easy to repeat. His delivery is slow and methodical until the leg kick and stride. He speeds up, getting all of his bodyweight the pitch, putting less pressure on his arm to generate velocity. His arm is loose and easy throughout the delivery, and he shows his excellent arm strength. Crowe, as a whole, is more athletic that his burly 6’2”, 250-pound frame suggests. Thanks to it, he should continue to recover his stamina post-Tommy John, and should be able to be counted on as a durable workhorse going forward.
Crowe’s medical history will certainly raise some red flags, as will the fact that he is now a 22-year-old and will be turning 23 in September. On the flip side, whatever tea, drafts him will be able to use this to their advantage, as the college senior has less bargaining power.
Blayne Enlow (RHP)
Assuming he is selected in the first round and does not drop, Blayne Enlow will be the first player from St. Amant High School down in Louisiana to go in round number one— and it’s not like St. Amant High School doesn’t boast any impressive alumni. With Kim Batiste, Reid Brignac, Andy Sheets, and Ben Sheets all having graduated from there, Enlow has the chance to outshine all four. Though St. Amant did not have a particularly successful season over the 2017 season, Enlow himself impressed scouts between his performance during the summer showcase circuit and his performance with the Gators to the point that teams will be willing to cut him a serious check.
The right-hander has a fastball that sits in the low 90s, hitting as high as 94 miles per hour. He has yet to show the ability to hold his velocity deep into games and had stamina issues during the 2017 season after competing in the summer showcase circuit, and his fastball sat in the 88-92 range. Enlow is 6’4” and weighs only 180 pounds, so there should be no issues maintaining fastball velocity in the future—once he puts on a little bit of additional mass.
He complements his fastball with a curveball that is considered a plus offering. The pitch, a low-80s power curve with sharp 12-to-6 break, is considered one of the best secondary pitches in the 2017 draft class. He toys with a changeup every so often, but he rarely throws that pitch because he simply hasn’t needed to. Scouts see potential in it, but it is still very raw.
Enlow throws from a high-three-quarters arm slot. He has a loose, quick arm and a smooth, simple delivery. The high leg lift he incorporates into his delivery gives him some deception, but his delivery is otherwise smooth and simple. Because of that, he is able to repeat his release point consistently and control all of his pitches. He is a known strike thrower who attacks hitters directly.
Enlow has a commitment to Louisiana State University, and the commitment is considered to be a strong one. The right-hander is a longtime fan of LSU, and any team that drafts him will have to be aware that any amount of money they offer might not be enough to sway him from attending the university.
Tanner Houck (RHP)
An Illinois high schooler armed with a blazing fastball, Tanner Houck has received comparisons to the likes of Max Scherzer, Justin Masterson, and 2016 first-round draftee Nick Burdi his entire career. This led the Blue Jays to take a gamble and drafting him in the 12th round in 2014, but he didn’t sign with them, instead remaining committed to the University of Missouri.
At Mizzou, Houck blossomed into a durable, dependable workhorse, posting a 3.49 ERA in 100.2 innings in 2015, a 2.99 ERA in 105.1 innings in 2016—and similar numbers through the 2017 season.
Houck has one of the best fastballs in the entire 2017 draft class. It sits 92-96 miles per hour, topping out at 98, but it is more than just pure velocity that makes his fastball so good. The pitch gets a lot of sink and arm-side action to it, generating a lot of swings-and-misses and plenty of weak contact.
His secondary pitches are less impressive than his fastball. His best is his slider, which has flashed plus at times over the course of the spring but lacks consistency. It sits 80-84 with late tilt down and glove-side. The pitch works well with his arm slot and delivery, getting more total swings and misses than any of his other pitches. He also throws a changeup, but the pitch is very undeveloped, as he does not throw it often.
The right-hander has an unconventional delivery. He throws from a low arm slot and throws across his body, spinning off towards first base. He lifts his hands high above his head while starting a high leg lift. He then separates into a long, whippy arm action, wrapping his arm behind his back. His body remains closed upon landing with his lead leg, upon which he uncoils his limbs and trunk and throws. His front foot is not consistent where it lands, pointing anywhere between home and third base, leading to an inconsistent release point and poor control.
Houck uses his 6’5” height throughout his entire delivery, and it allows him to generate extension down the mound. In addition to control issues, his arm action is red flag for injury.
Alex Lange (RHP)
When Alex Lange graduated high school in 2014, he almost certainly could have been drafted by a major league baseball club right out of Lee's Summit West High School thanks to an strong fastball and the potential in his breaking ball and changeup. Because teams knew about his strong commitment to Louisiana State, they kept away.
The right-hander made an immediate impact for the Tigers, posting a 1.97 ERA in 114 innings with 87 hits allowed, 46 walks, and 131 strikeouts in his freshman year and helping lead LSU to the 205 College World Series. He wasn’t able to repeat that kind of dominance in his sophomore season in 2016, but he still had a solid year, posting a 3.79 ERA in 111.2 innings, allowing 92 hits, walking 49, and striking out 125. He has returned to his dominant form in 2017 once more. He’ll be following Kevin Gausman and Aaron Nola as LSU pitchers selected in the first round.
Lange’s fastball sits 92-96 miles per hour, with a bit of running life to his arm side. He has a strong build and is able to maintain his velocity deep into starts. His curveball is his best secondary pitch. Sitting 79-82, it has tight spin and late bite, especially when he takes care to get on top of the ball. He doesn’t consistently do that, but even when he doesn’t, the pitch has swing-and-miss potential. Complementing his curveball is a change-up that shows promise. The pitch sits in the mid-to-upper-80s and gets good tumbling motion. He has confidence in both pitches and throws them often, but like his fastball, control issues stemming from overthrowing and his own pitching mechanics often make both less effective.
The right-hander throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, and there is some effort in his mechanics. His delivery was a bit more complicated in the past, but Lange has simplified it down to just some simple rotation prior to breaking his hands and delivering the ball.