Born: Peoria, Arizona
Age: 18 (11/06/99)
Height/Weight: 6’5”/200 lbs.
School: Mountain Ridge High School (Glendale, Arizona)
When Matthew Liberatore tried out for the Mountain Ridge High School baseball team, Mountain Ridge head coach Artie Cox saw a diamond in the rough. He wasn’t in the physical shape that he is now, relied primarily on off-speed pitches, and possessed a fastball that barely broke 80 MPH. Thanks to a workout regime that placed an emphasis on throwing fastballs and growth spurts that transformed Liberatore from a boy into a man, the left-hander is among the top prospects in the 2018 draft class.
Libertore throws from a three-quarters arm slot. He strides well, and his loose arm comes through the back with a lot of extension, though because his torso is upright and erect, he sacrifices some of it. His delivery is smooth and measured in tempo. His long and slender build, with wide hips and broad shoulders, suggest he will fill in as he gets older.
His fastball sits in the high-80s to mid-90s. Earlier in the spring, the left-hander was hitting 96 and 97 MPH on the radar gun, but as his season wore on it settled into the 89-94 range. The pitch has some run and sink to it thanks to his arm slot, and because of some recent changes to his mechanics, Libertore has excellent command of it.
He complements it with a pair of above-average pitches in his curveball and changeup. His curveball sits in the low-to-mid-70s and features tight 11-5 spin. His changeup sits in the low-80s and has fade and depth. Both pitches are above-average and have the potential to develop into plus pitches down the road. In addition, he just recently added a slider to his repertoire. The pitch, which sits in the low-80s, has been inconsistent over the spring, but has flashed average and looks to be another weapon he can use against hitters with more refinement.
The southpaw has a feel for pitching more advanced than most his age. He is cerebral on the mound, showing the ability to pitch backwards, mix his pitches up, and keep hitters off balance.
Libertore has a commitment to Arizona State University.
Born: Baltimore, Maryland
Age: 21 (4/28/97)
Height/Weight: 6’1”/175 lbs.
School: South Florida University
Shane McClanahan has always put up excellent numbers while attending Cape Coral High School- he has a career 1.02 ERA in 123.0 innings pitched, striking out 187 strikeouts- but it wasn’t until his senior year that scouts began taking notice. That year, he underwent a massive growth spurt that saw him grow from 5’6” to 6’2” and his fastball velocity increase from the mid-80s to the low-to-mid-90s. The Mets liked what they saw and selected him with their twenty-sixth-round draft pick, making him the 779th player selected overall. In addition, he threw a high-70s slider with good tilt, was developing a changeup, and thanks to his 165-pound frame, additional fastball velocity was all but guaranteed. Rather than sign with the Mets, he chose to honor his commitment to the University of South Florida and bet on himself. That bet initially did not pay dividends, as the left-hander hurt his UCL and needed Tommy John surgery.
After a year off, the southpaw returned to the field in 2017 as a redshirt freshman and made 15 starts for the Bulls, posting a 3.20 ERA in 76.0 innings, striking out 104 and walking 36. To date, the southpaw is putting up similar numbers this season.
McClanahan throws from a low three-quarters arm slot. At 6’1”, 175-pounds, the southpaw has a lean frame with a narrow waist, broad shoulders, and plenty of room to grow. It is unlikely that any additional muscle gain will affect his fastball, as the left-hander is a tall-and-fall pitcher, generating most of his velocity with his quick arm. His mechanics are simple, with a simple leg lift and hip turn, but stiff and high effort with a lot of recoil.
The southpaw has one of the most exciting fastballs in the 2018 draft class. The pitch sits in the mid-to-upper-90s, and though it has been said that the pitch has touched triple digits, McClanahan himself said such reports are untrue, and that the fastest he has ever touched is 99 MPH. The pitch gets good life when thrown down
His changeup is his best secondary pitch, a pitch that is already above-average and has the chance to develop into a plus pitch. Sitting in the mid-to-high-80s, it features a ton of late drop, and is thrown with similar arm speed as his fastball. It sometimes takes McClanahan a few attempts to find his release point, but the pitch is a quality out pitch when it is working. His slider shows the makings of a quality third pitch, generally graded as an average pitch with the ability to also be plus. It sits in the low-80s with biting, two-plane rotation. Because of his arm slot, he sometimes gets on top of the ball, leading to less command and less break.
Command is the key for McClanahan. The left-hander has a history of being more of a thrower than a pitcher, walking over four batters per nine innings in 2017 and walking even more batters per nine innings in 2018. The lack of control has led to high pitch counts, limiting the innings he has been able to pitch. Overthrowing seems to play a major part of his control woes. At higher velocities, his fastball control often gets out of whack and his slider gets flat. He will likely never have pinpoint precision, but if he can maintain major league average control, with his stuff, he will have a good career.
Born: Springville, Alabama
Age: 21 (5/01/97)
Height/Weight: 6’3”/210 lbs.
Undrafted out of high school, Casey Mize blossomed at Auburn and is not only a lock to be drafted with one of the first few picks in the 2018 MLB Draft, but is a possible number one selection. The school has not seen a pitcher drafted that high since Gregg Olsen was drafted fourth overall in the 1988 MLB Draft, and with his combination of stuff and the ability to command it all, the right-hander may make history.
Mize throws from a three-quarters arm slot. He has an athletic frame that allows him to repeat his release point and command all of his pitches, but there are some concerns regarding it. Specifically, there is some violence to his delivery at times, and due to a short stride, he uses his arm to generate most of his velocity. These are not major flaws and can be tweaked and/or coached out of him, but there is some concern that changes to his mechanics would have a negative impact on his ability to control the strike zone.
The base that most pitchers build off of is their fastball, and Mize has an above-average one, sitting in the low-to-mid 90s. He tops out at 97 MPH, but the pitch generally settles in around 93-95 MPH. The pitch is easy and Mize has no problem holding his velocity and reaching back to put a little extra zip into it when he needs to deep into starts. The fastball is a good pitch on its own merits, but in addition, Mize pitches off of his fastball to create tunnels that his best pitch plays up off of.
In high school, Mize utilized a changeup. The pitch has since morphed into a splitter that has terrorized the NCAA over the last few years. The pitch looks like a fastball coming out of his hands, but suddenly drops out of the strike zone with significant downward action, sitting in the mid-to-high-80s. The pitch is easily a plus pitch, and projects to be a plus-plus pitch with some additional refinement down the line.
If a plus, borderline plus-plus splitter wasn’t enough, Mize has a full assortment of pitches that range from plus to average. His slider, which sits in the mid-to-upper-80s, has short, biting life with two-plane action. He can manipulate the grip of the pitch to make it less firm, turning it into something of a curveball, that is used for get-me-over strikes. He recently developed a cutter that he debuted in 2018 and the pitch is showing early returns, earning plus grades from scouts and evaluators. Sitting in the mid-to-high-80s, it has short, biting arm side life, and occasionally flashes two-plane action as if it was a slider. On top of all of that, he still throws the changeup that he developed his splitter from, a pitch that sits in the low-80s with fade and sink.
Strike throwing is a strength of Mize’s, as he shows the ability to pound the strike zone. He can command all of his pitches to all four quadrants of the zone and can throw them outside of the zone with purpose. He rarely falls behind batters and hardly ever walks them.
The biggest knock on Mize is his health. Dating all the way back to his time in high school, the right-hander has had various medical issues that have cost him time on the field. Most recently, Mize was shut down with a tired arm and flexor strain in his forearm during the spring and summer of 2017. He has avoided injury thus far, but because of his history, it is something that any team that drafts him needs to always have in the back of their minds.
Born: Jackson, Tennessee
Age: 20 (7/11/97)
Height/Weight: 6’2”/195 lbs.
With a fastball that sat around 90 MPH, a great curveball, and a changeup that showed promise, Ryan Rolison was considered one of the most polished high school southpaws in the 2016 draft class. His strong commitment to the University of Mississippi kept MLB teams away, with the San Diego Padres taking the shot and drafting him in the 37th round. As expected, he honored his commitment to Mississippi and after starting out in the bullpen, has emerged as one of Rebels’ most reliable starters. In 2017, he posted a 3.06 ERA in 61.2 innings, allowing 57 hits, walking 24, and striking out 64. The left-hander is having a similar season this year, tough his surface stats have taken a step back. Regardless, he is primed to be the first hurler from Ole Miss since Drew Pomeranz to be drafted in the first round.
Rolison throws from a three-quarters arm slot. His delivery is smooth and easy, with a leg lift and a slight hitch. The left-hander throws crossfire, which has, at times, led to control problems when he opens his hips early. His 6’2”, 195 lb. frame does not hint at much more additional growth, but the southpaw is already athletic enough to handle the rigors of starting.
Unlike the other top left-handers in the 2018 draft class, Rolison merely has an average fastball. The pitch sits in the high-80s-to-low-90s, living 88-92 MPH and touching as high as 95 MPH. While the pitch isn’t exactly flashy, it is extremely effective. He gets plenty of swing-and-misses with it because his leg lift and slight hitch in his delivery hides the ball and throws off the timing of hitters. In addition, his crossfire delivery and ability to get on top of the pitch gives him the ability to create plane and sink on the pitch, despite not throwing from a particularly high arm slot. He has shown the ability to hold his velocity deep into games, and is able to command the pitch to all four quadrants of the plate, though he is sharper working to the arm side rather than the glove side.
By far, the left-hander’s best pitch is his curveball. The pitch is considered one of the best, if not the best, curveballs in the 2018 draft class. Thrown in the high-70s-to-low-80s, Rolison has complete control of the pitch. He is able to locate it anywhere in the zone and can manipulate its shape, snapping off 12-6 and 11-5 curveballs, effectively turning it into two different pitches. His changeup lags well behind his curveball. The pitch is still a bit stiff, lacking much depth or fade. It generally is thrown in the low-80s, so it still has roughly 10 MPH of velocity separation from his fastball, but Rolison still has work to do there.
As a draft-eligible sophomore, Rolison has extra leverage with whatever team drafts him. While his stock might not be higher than it is this season, he still has the option of returning to Ole Miss for the 2019 season and being drafted once again.
Born: Eustis, Florida
Age: 21 (8/04/96)
Height/Weight: 6’5”/180 lbs.
School: University of Florida
Over the last few years, the University of Florida has been a hotbed for high-profile pitching talent. In recent years, Florida pitchers Alex Faedo, A.J. Puk, Dane Dunning, and Jonathon Crawford were all first-round draft picks. This season, right-handers Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar will continue that trend, with the former being a lock for the first few selections. His talent was apparent since high school, and the Toronto Blue Jays drafted him in 2015 56th overall, but Singer elected to honor his commitment to the University of Florida. His numbers were pedestrian in his freshman year, as he was used primarily out of the bullpen, but once he entered the weekend rotation as a sophomore, things changed. He posted a 3.21 ERA in 126.0 innings, allowing 120 hits, walking 32, and striking out 129, and was a big reason the reason the Gators were finally able to get over the hill and win their first College World Series championship last year. Singer got off to a sluggish start this season but has bounced back.
Tall and lean, Singer has an excellent body for pitching. His broad shoulders and narrow waist suggest that he will fill in more as he ages, adding additional strength and durability, qualities that the right-hander has shown no problems with at this early stage of his baseball career. Singer throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, utilizing unconventional mechanics that are somewhat reminiscent of Tim Lincecum. He does repeat them well and is able to throw strikes.
Singer’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, consistently hitting 95, 96 MPH. The pitch has tremendous arm-side life, thanks to his arm slot. Singer is not afraid to challenge hitters inside, either, giving right-handed batters very uncomfortable at-bats when he pitches them in. Because his arm slot is so low, the fastball sometimes flattens out and loses the natural downward motion that pitchers throwing from higher arm slots generally are able to impart in their pitches.
He complements his fastball with a pair of average or better pitches in a slider and a changeup. His slider, which sits in the high-70s-to-low-80s, is considered above-average and a bit more developed than his change. The pitch gets sharp bite, but because of his low arm slot, can sometimes be inconsistent. His changeup, which sits in the low-to-mid-80s, has great deception on it, and has above-average tumble. He does not throw the pitch as much as his slider, but has shown enough confidence in it to throw it in any count, and the right-hander does get swing and misses from it.
Born: Melbourn, Florida
Age: 18 (11/02/99)
Height/Weight: 6’6”/200 lbs.
School: Eau Gallie High School (Melbourne, Florida)
Technology has been a boon for baseball. The advent of television beamed America’s game into every household. Instant replay and video allows us to analyze every single play, from multiple angles. Pitch f/x and TrackMan data allows us to analyze the details of every single pitch. Technology has been a boon for Carter Stewart as well. Always having an excellent curveball that scouts have raved about, Stewart had the pitch validated by technology during the Perfect Game All-America Classic in San Diego last summer, when technicians from TrackMan informed him that the pitch regularly registered spin rates about 3,000 revolutions per minute, making it one of the most impressive pitches the company has ever tracked in both the minor and major leagues.
Stewart’s fastball sits in the low-to-mis-90s. The right-hander can touch as high as 98 MPH, but the pitch generally holds around 92-94 MPH. He takes a long stride and extends well, creating good downward plane. He is able to command the pitch, throwing it in all four quadrants of the plate. He complements his fastball with the aforementioned curveball, an absolute hammer of a curve. The pitch sits in the low-80s and has sharp bite. In addition, Stewart is able to change his grip and manipulate the shape of the pitch. He generally throws a 11-5 curve, but can tighten it up into a 12-6 breaker or loosen it and turn it into more of a slurve. In addition to the curveball, he also has a feel for a changeup. The pitch has a solid velocity differential from his fastball and features arm-side drop, but Stewart is inconsistent with his release; sometimes he throws it with the same arm speed as his fastball and other times he slows down his arm to guide the pitch, tipping batters. He gets plenty of swings-and-misses with it, leading scouts and evaluators to believe that the pitch will develop into at least an average offering with further development.
Standing 6’6” and weighing 200 pounds, Stewart has a long and lean build with plenty of projection left in it. The youngster throws from a high three-quarters arm slot. His delivery is low-effort and with his leg lift and whippy arm, he is able to keep the ball hidden from batters until the last moment. Some scouts and evaluators have expressed concern that the deep arm action he utilizes may lead to control problems when his arm gets too long and he drifts, but the right-hander very rarely struggles with throwing strikes.
Stewart has a commitment to Mississippi State University.
Born: Silver Creek, Colorado
Age: 18 (11/25/99)
Height/Weight: 6’2”/195 lbs.
School: Orange Lutheran High School (Orange, California)
Cole Winn began his high school career inconspicuously, but in his last season at Silver Creek High School, he was outright dominant. A junior, he was named Colorado State High School Pitcher of the Year, posting a 0.73 ERA in 47.2 innings for the Raptors, allowing 18 hits, walking 9, and striking out 95 batters. This past year, he moved to Southern California, attending baseball powerhouse Orange Lutheran High School. There, the right-hander has not only continued to dominate, but has been doing so against tougher competition- the Trinity League is considered one of the best high school baseball circuits- getting plenty of national exposure as a result.
Over the summer, Winn filled out, standing 6’2” and weighing 195, giving him a solidly built, athletic frame with room for additional projection. He throws from a high three-quarters arm slot. His delivery is simple and repeatable, and his arm action loose and easy.
Winn’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90s. He generally settles in the 90-93 MPH range, but can reach back and hit 94, 95, 96 MPH when he needs to seemingly at will. The pitch has downward plane, and he can command it to all four quadrants of the plate. The right-hander has a wide assortment of pitches that he pairs with his fastball. The best among them is his curveball, a 12-6 breaker sitting in the mid-to-high-70s that gets plus grades from scouts and evaluators. The pitch has powerful downward break that he is able to throw anywhere in or out of the strike zone. He recently added a slider to his arsenal and has really taken to the pitch. With late, sharp two-plane bite, the pitch sits in the low-to-mid-80s and is particularly deadly against left-handers. His least developed pitch is his changeup, but it is much more than a get-me-over pitch that is barely thrown. Sitting in the low-80s, it features arm-side drop, and flashes average.
Winn initially had a commitment to Notre Dame, but de-committed and changed his college commitment to Mississippi State University.