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2019 Mets Draft: Potential pitchers

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With the 2019 MLB Draft in a few days, who are the likeliest pitching candidates the Mets might target?

Matthew Allan

Born: Stanford, Florida

Age: 18 (4/17/2001)

Height/Weight: 6’3”/210 lbs.

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Seminole High School (Stanford, Florida)

While not an unknown coming into the 2018 season, Matthew Allan wasn’t exactly at the top of the draft boards. Thanks to a strong showcase on the summer circuit, his stock has massive helium and Allan is considered among the best prep pitchers in the 2019 MLB Draft class. Allan has been a big reason the Seminoles reached the Florida regionals for first time since 2001.

The right-hander throws from a three-quarters arm slot, incorporating a big leg lift. His mechanics are loose, low effort, and repeatable, though some evaluators have expressed concern that his arm action in the back may be leading to the control problems he periodically exhibits. At 6’3”, 210 lbs., Allan has a durable pitching frame, rarely showing fatigue or stamina problems while on the mound.

Allan possesses a plus fastball, sitting in the mid-90s and topping out as high as 97 MPH. He is able to command the pitch well, working in the upper and lower halves of the strike zone with it. While the pitch does not have much run, he throws with downward plane, giving the pitch some sink. He complements his fastball with a power 12-6 curveball that sits around 80 MPH and is considered a plus pitch. He is able to throw the pitch for strikes and out of the zone to get batters fishing, working arm and glove side. In addition, he throws a low-to-mid-80s changeup, but the pitch is firm and still in development.

Allan has a commitment to the University of Florida.

Daniel Espino

Born: Panama

Age: 18 (1/05/2001)

Height/Weight: 6’2”/200 lbs.

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Georgia Premier Academy (Statesboro, Georgia)

Born in Panama, Daniel Espino grew up idolizing Mariano Rivera, arguably the most famous and certainly the best player to come from the central American nation. In 2016, Espino and his family were fortunate enough to have the means and ability to relocate to the United States in order to further Daniel’s baseball prospects. Settling in Georgia, the youngster enrolled at Georgia Premier Academy and has since blossomed.

Espino throws from a three-quarter arm slot. His high leg lift and hip swivel during his delivery gives his pitches some deception, but because of his long arm action in the back, he shows the ball to hitters. The long arm action also has led to control and command inconsistencies. There is no much projection left in his frame- and he is likely smaller than his listed height and weight- but the stuff is already plus, and he has shown the ability to carry it deep into games.

When Espino first arrived in America, he threw a fastball that sat in the mid-80s. He has since developed into one of the hardest throwers in the 2019 MLB Draft class, sitting in the upper-90s and occasionally hitting triple digits. Though the pitch overpowers most hitters at his level with its pure velocity, the pitch has good riding action as well. In addition, he throws a two-seam fastball that shows heavy sink. He complements his fastball with a slider, curveball, and changeup. The slider, which sits in the low-80s, has sharp, two-plane bite, and projects as a plus pitch. The curveball, which sits in the high-70s, has good depth, but he sometimes telegraphs the pitch, slowing his arm. His changeup, which sits in the mid-80s, is his least developed pitch, and while it generally is too firm, it flashes good fade at times.

Espino has a commitment to Louisiana State University.

George Kirby

Born: Rye, New York

Age: 21 (2/04/98)

Height/Weight: 6’1”/195 lbs.

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Rye High School (Rye, New York)

A native of upstate New York, George Kirby excelled on the mound at his eponymously named high school. As a senior, he posted a 0.32 ERA in 43.1 innings, allowing 24 hits, walking 11, and striking out 73. It was a high point in an excellent high school career, in which he posted a cumulative 1.56 ERA in 198.0 innings, allowing 126 hits, walking 95, and striking out 256. That June, he was selected by the Mets in the 32nd round of the 2016 MLB Draft, but elected to honor his commitment to Elon University instead.

As a freshman for the Phoenix in 2017, Kirby posted a 4.84 ERA in 61.0 innings, allowing 67 hits, walking 17, and striking out 55. While his stats were pedestrian at best, he was part of history as he combined with Jordan Barrett to throw the first no-hitter in Colonial Athletic Association Tournament history, blanking the College of Charleston. He improved by leaps and bounds in 2018, posting a 2.89 ERA in 90.0 innings, allowing 88 hits, walking 27, and striking out 96. His 2019 season thus far has been a mirror of his sophomore year, though he has been much stingier about allowing hits or walks.

At 6’4”, 200 lbs., there is still a bit more room for Kirby to physically mature. His delivery is simple but effective, throwing from a three-quarters arm slot with a hip swivel. His delivery is clean and repeatable, leading to an elite ability to throw strikes and near pinpoint control.

Kirby’s fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s with life and can top out as high as 96 MPH. His arm action is short and compact behind his back, but fast as he releases the ball, allowing the pitch to sneak up on hitters. He is able to locate it to all four quadrants of the plate and commands it well. He mixes in a curveball, slider, and changeup, but all three lag behind many of his fellow top-end collegiate pitchers simply because Kirby has relied much more on his fastball than anything else to dominate the CAA. His slider is the most advanced of the three, flashing plus with late bite, especially when thrown down and to his glove side. His curveball sits in the low-80s with tight 11-5 break, though he sometimes subtracts from it and morphs it into a slower, mid-to-high-70s pitch with more loop. He rounds out his arsenal with a firm, mid-80s changeup that shows flashes of good fade.

Jack Leiter

Born: Summit, New Jersey

Age: 19 (4/21/00)

Height/Weight: 6’1”/195 lbs.

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: The Delbarton School (Morristown, New Jersey)

The son of two-time All-Star Al Leiter, nephew of former major leaguer Mark Leiter, and cousin of current major leaguer Mark Leiter, Jr., Jack Leiter grew up a rat in a baseball family. Attending Delbarton, a private boys school in Morristown, he did not pitch for the varsity baseball team as a freshman, and pitched just a single game as a sophomore in 2017. In 2018, his junior year, Leiter became was unleashed on New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association and became a force for the Green Wave, posting a 0.64 ERA in 54.1 innings, allowing 23 hits, walking 18, and striking out 77.

At 6’1”, 195 pounds, Leiter has a solid pitching body with room for him to possibly add more mass. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot, with a little bit of crossfire in his delivery. He turns his back and hips well and gets some deception from the turn and the deep arm circle behind his back. The mechanics are clean and don’t have any obvious injury red flags.

His fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s, topping out at 95 MPH. He is able to maintain the velocity early on, but has shown some trouble keeping his velocity as he tires, backing up into the high-80s/low-90s. The pitch has natural sink and arm-side run, does sometimes flatten up when he throws it up in the zone. In addition to his fastball, Leiter throws a high-quality curveball, a high-quality slider, and a changeup that he already has an advanced feel for, though it is nowhere near as effective as his two breaking balls. The curveball, which projects to be a plus pitch, sits in the mid-to-high 70s and has knee-buckling 12-6 drop. He can command it and throw it for strikes in the zone or bury it in the dirt to get batters to go fishing. His slider, which may be an above-average pitch with a little more refinement, sits in the mid-80s and has sharp, sudden horizontal break, acting almost like a cutter. His changeup sits in the low-to-mid-80s and, while he really doesn’t throw the pitch much, projects to be a fringe-average-to-average pitch with more work.

Leiter has a commitment to Vanderbilt, and commitments to Vanderbilt are notoriously difficult to buy out. Leiter supposedly has a high asking price, and a short list of teams he would be interested in playing for if the price is right- though there is evidence to suggest that the Mets are one of those teams and that the slot value of pick 12 is within his asking price.

Nick Lodolo

Born: LaVerne, California

Age: 21 (2/05/1998)

Height/Weight: 6’6”/185 lbs.

Position: LHP

Bats/Throws: L/L

School: Texas Christian University (Fort Worth, Texas)

A three-time letterman at Damien High School in his native La Verne, California, Nick Lodolo was considered one of the top high school talents available in the 2016 MLB Draft. The Pittsburgh Pirates drafted Lodolo with their pick in the first competitive balance round, selecting him 41st overall, but the team was unable to sign him, making him the highest unsigned draft pick in the entire draft. With a slot value of $1,576,000, the Pirates offered the left-hander a $1.75 million over-slot bonus, but he declined, honoring his commitment to TCU.

Lodolo posted a 4.35 ERA in 78.2 innings in his freshman year, allowing 76 hits, walking 28, and striking out 72. He was only slightly better in 2018, posting a 4.32 ERA in 77.0 innings with 80 hits, 28 walks, and 93 strikeouts. The southpaw seems to have ironed out the inconsistencies and difficulties that plagued him in seasons past as he has had an extremely dominant junior year, at times leading or finding himself among the league leaders in the Big 12 in most pitching categories.

While Lodolo stands 6’6”, his frame has yet to really fill in. Tall and lanky with broad shoulders, he is all but certain to add more muscle mass to his 185-pound body. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot, with a quick, slingy delivery. His arm action is clean, with a short arm action in the back.

The southpaw sits in the low-to-mid-90s with his fastball, topping out at 96 MPH. He stays on top of the pitch, throwing it with has downward angle, and is able to impart in it arm-side life thanks to his arm slot. He is able to command the pitch, throwing it for strikes all over and outside of the strike zone. He complements the pitch with two secondary pitches that both project to be average or better. His slider, which sits in the low-to-mid-80s projects to be a plus pitch, features late, sweepy break. His changeup, which sits in the mid-80s, has arm-side fade and tumble, and Lodolo is able to throw it without slowing his arm and telegraphing the pitch.

Brennan Malone

Born: Matthews, North Carolina

Age: 18 (9/08/2000)

Height/Weight: 6’3”/200 lbs.

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: IMG Academy (Bradenton, Florida)

Originally from North Carolina, Brennan Malone relocated from Porter Ridge High School in Indian Trail, North Carolina to Bradenton, Florida in order to attend IMG Academy. He believed that the sports-centric academy would give him the best chance to develop in such a way that he would be able to either play professionally or collegiately, and the move has paid off. While he certainly was good in his junior year with the Porter Ridge Pirates, posting a 1.36 ERA in 51.1 innings with 76 strikeouts, the right-hander has been absolutely phenomenal over the course of this season, allowing only a pair of earned runs over the course of 51 innings.

Malone throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a loose, easy delivery. He drives off the mound, incorporating his lower half, though his upper half and/or arm sometimes drag behind the rest of his body, adversely affecting his command. His big frame should be able to handle heavy workloads and pitching deep into games.

The right-hander has a plus fastball, sitting in the mid-90s and topping out as high as 96 MPH. Thanks to his easy delivery and athleticism, he is able to maintain his velocity as his pitch count rises. In addition to his fastball, Malone also throws a slider, curveball, and changeup, all of which project to be average or better pitches. The slider is his best secondary pitch, flashing plus. The pitch sits in the low-80s and features sharp bite and sudden tilt. The curveball, which flashes average-to-above-average, sits in the mid-70s and features big 12-6 break that can be thrown for strikes or purpose pitches out of the zone. His changeup, which flashes average, features arm-side tumble and the right-hander has increasingly been able to throw it without slowing down his arm action and telegraphing the pitch.

Malone has a commitment to the University of North Carolina.

Alek Manoah

Born: Miami, Florida

Age: 21 (1/09/98)

Height/Weight: 6’6”/260

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: West Virginia

The brother of former Mets draftee Erik Manoah, Alek played alongside his brother as a sophomore on South Dade High School’s 2014 Class 8A championship team, originally starting as the team’s slugging first baseman. After his brother was drafted in the 13th round of the 2014 MLB Draft, Manoah started to pitch more for the South Dade Buccaneers, and eventually saw his fastball tick up into the mid-90s as a senior. Manoah’s mammoth frame and electric fastball generated plenty of interest from college baseball programs, and Manoah ultimately signed a letter of intent to pitch in the Big 12 for West Virginia University. He went undrafted in the 2016 MLB Draft, and headed to Morgantown, West Virginia to pitch for the Mountaineers.

Manoah shuffled back and forth between the bullpen and the rotation for his first two seasons at West Virginia. As a freshman in 2017, Manoah started 10 games and made 9 appearances out of the bullpen, posting a 3.07 ERA in 55.2 innings pitched with 45 strikeouts and 33 walks. Manoah spent more time pitching in relief as a sophomore, throwing 54.0 innings between 15 relief appearances and 8 starts. While his command remained a little shaky, Manoah saw his strikeout rate improve dramatically in his sophomore season. After striking out 7.28 batters per nine innings and walking 5.34 batters per nine innings as a freshman, Manoah struck out an elite 10.00 hitters per nine innings and walked 4.67 batters per nine innings as a sophomore. Following the 2018 season, Manoah took his talents to the Cape Cod Collegiate League, where he pitched primarily as a starter for the Chatham Anglers. Manoah blossomed on the cape, posting a 2.70 ERA in 33.1 innings pitched across seven starts, with 48 strikeouts and 11 walks. After his dominance out of the rotation in the Cape Cod League, Manoah returned to the Mountaineer’s rotation for his junior season in 2019, and as their Friday night workhorse, has been dominant, posting gaudy numbers.

Manoah throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and generates plenty of sink and downward angle on his pitches. Conditioning improvements have helped Manoah repeat his delivery much better this season, leading to improved command of his pitches, and a slight uptick in fastball velocity. While Manoah’s command has improved dramatically during his three seasons at West Virginia, the tall righty will need to further refine his command in professional ball. He has a tendency to overthrow both his fastball and his slider at times, which has led him to numerous wild pitches this season.

The right-hander throws one of the hardest fastballs in this year’s draft class, sitting in the mid-to-high-90s, topping out as high as 97 MPH. He generally settles into the lower end of that spectrum, but is able to reach back for more when he needs it. He complements his heater with a mid-80s wipeout slider that he picked up and improved upon while pitching in the Cape Cod League. Manoah also mixes in a changeup, but has primarily relied upon his fastball and slider to get Big 12 hitters out this season. The change sits in the mid-80s and has slight tumble, mainly being reserved as a weapon against tough left-handed hitters.

Jackson Rutledge

Born: Benton, Louisiana

Age: 20 (4/01/1999)

Height/Weight: 6’8”/240 lbs.

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: San Jacinto College (Pasadena, Texas)

A graduate of Rockwood Summit High School in Fenton, Missouri, Jackson Rutledge posted a 1.19 ERA in his senior year, pitching 41.0 innings allowing 37 hits, walking 28, and striking out 84. He was well scouted by multiple teams, but his strong commitment to the University of Arkansas resulted in all 30 Major League Baseball teams passing over him in the 2016 MLB Draft.

His time as a Razorback was limited. Considered an important part of the bullpen to start the year, Rutledge lost coach Dave Van Horn’s confidence and was eventually used less and less, being left off of the University of Arkansas playoff roster completely. He developed arm soreness in March, which didn’t help things, but his wildness and ineffectiveness was more to blame. He ended up pitching 15.2 innings, mostly in relief, posting a 3.45 ERA with a 6.3 BB/9 rate, 8.0 K/9 rate, and just about as many hits allowed as innings pitched. Having lost the confidence of his coach, the right-hander transferred to San Jacinto College for the 2019 season.

The big 6’8” right-hander throws from a three-quarters arm slot. He uses a short arm action, but it doesn’t compromise his fastball velocity or the bite on his breaking balls. Given his size, he throws his pitches with angle. Also because of his size, Rutledge sometimes has problems with his control, as pitchers with big bodies sometimes have trouble with.

His fastball sits in the mid-90s, touching as high as 99 MPH, and he has the ability to carry that velocity deep into ballgames. When the pitch is higher in the zone, it has riding life, and when it is lower, it has sink due to the angle it is approaching batters at. He complements his fastball with a slider, curveball, and changeup. The slider sits in the upper-80s and features wipeout depth. His curveball, which sits in the low-80s, has devastating 12-6 break. Both pitches flash plus at times, but Rutledge has been inconsistent with them and they play closer to average than plus more often than not. Rounding out his arsenal is a changeup, but the pitch is still a work in progress and is firm and flat.

Quinn Priester

Born: Cary, Illinois

Age: 18 (9/15/2000)

Height/Weight: 6’3”/210 lbs.

Position: RHP

Bats/Throws: R/R

School: Cary-Grove High School (Cary, Illinois)

A commonly held belief in baseball is that players from cold weather states generally take longer to realize their potential or simply do not have as high potentials because they aren’t able to play as much as their fellow prospects from warmer climates. In the case of Quinn Priester, it is quite clear that the cold has done nothing to diminish his ability. Even more astonishing, prior to walking on to coach Don Sutherland’s Cary-Grove Trojans as a sophomore, the right-hander had never had a professional coach before, teaching himself the fundamentals of pitching and developing into a pitcher heads and shoulders more talented than the majority of his fellow high schoolers. In his first year pitching professionally, he posted a 1.07 ERA in 32.2 innings, allowing 16 hits, walking 14, and striking out 44. His time on the mound was limited in 2018 because of forearm tendonitis, but Priester recovered and has dominated the Fox Valley Illinois conference, leading his team to a playoff berth with a 1.04 ERA in 46.2 innings, allowing 25 hits, walking 8, and striking out 73.

The right-hander throws from a three-quarters arm slot, with a loose and easy delivery. He throws across his body at times, trying to get extension on his pitches, and sometimes has trouble finding the strike zone as a result.

His fastball sits in the low-90s, touching as high as 97 MPH with riding life. In addition to his true, four-seam fastball, Priester also throws a two-seamer that sits in the high-80s-to-low-90s and features a spin rate of 1700 RPM, meaning it has exceptional sink and run. In addition to throwing one of the best sinkers in the 2019 MLB Draft class, the right-hander also throws one of the best curveballs. Sitting around 80 MPH, the 11-5 breaker has tight spin and good depth, regularly registering around 2,500 RPM. Rounding out his arsenal is a developing changeup that evaluators are confident can become at least an average pitch.

Priester has a commitment to Texas Christian University.

Zack Thompson

Born: Selma, Indiana

Age: 21 (10/28/1997)

Height/Weight: 6’3”/210 lbs.

Position: LHP

Bats/Throws: L/L

School: University of Kentucky

Playing for the Wapahani High School Raiders in his native Selma, Indiana, Zack Thompson was about as dominant on the mound as a high school player can be. For his entire varsity career, the left-hander posted a cumulative 0.98 ERA in 185.2 innings, posting a 0.64 ERA as a sophomore, a 0.49 ERA as a junior, and a 1.88 ERA as a senior. He set multiple pitching records for the Raiders, such as most strikeouts in a game, with 20, and most strikeouts in a career, with 405. The Tampa Bay Rays drafted the southpaw 330th overall with their 11th round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, and Thompson would have likely been given a hefty over-slot bonus to sign with them, but he failed his post-draft physical. As such, he honored his commitment to the University of Kentucky.

Thompson had an excellent debut for the Wildcats, posting a 3.45 ERA in 75.2 innings as both a reliever and starter, allowing 50 hits, walking 38, and striking out 96. His sophomore year was much more problematic, as he missed two months because of an elbow issue that ultimately did not require surgery. The elbow issue limited him to just 31.0, and he was not all that effective when he was able to take the mound, posting a 4.94 ERA with 24 hits allowed, 20 walks, and 42 strikeouts. When he returned in early May, he looked none too worse for wear. He briefly appeared for the Brewster Whitecaps in the Cape Cod League, but returned to full action in his junior year at Kentucky. The left-hander has put his injury woes behind him, not missing a start, working deep into games, and posting excellent numbers.

At 6’3”, 210 pounds, Thompson is likely physically maxed and unlikely to add much mass, but the southpaw has a strong, durable pitching frame. He throws from a three-quarters arm slot with a relatively simple delivery, driving off of his back leg with a big stride and utilizing his lower half well. His arm action is generally clean, and he hides the ball behind his back well. He is able to repeat his mechanics, and is a strike thrower.

Thompson’s fastball sits in the low-90s, topping out at 96 MPH. He is able to change speeds with the pitch, working at the lower end of the velocity band and rearing back to hit the upper reaches of it at will. The pitch has arm side life, and when thrown down in the zone, sink that plays up thanks to the downhill angle he throws from. He complements his fastball with a slider, curveball, and changeup, giving him a true four pitch mix. His slider is his best secondary offering, a low-to-mid-80s offering that flashes plus. The pitch features sharp tilt and late break and is a weapon against left-handers and right-handers, though he occasionally overthrows it, essentially turning it into a flat cutter without much velocity or movement. His curveball, which projects to be an average offering, sits in the mid-70s and features 11-5 break. He is able to throw the pitch for strikes or to utilize it as a purpose pitch out of the zone to get batters to go fishing. Rounding out his arsenal is a mid-80s changeup that also projects to be an average offering. Thompson is able to maintain his arm speed and slot when throwing it, and the pitch has solid fade and tumble.