College : : Story
Wednesday, April 19, 2017

College Spotlight: Week 9

Brian Sakowski         David Rawnsley         Vincent Cervino         Matt Arvin         Mike Rooney        
Photo: Vanderbilt Athletics

Perfect Game College Player Database

Every week during the 2017 college baseball season we will be pulling at least one report, and corresponding video when available, of a player entered into the College Player Database. This week we will share several reports on players from the Florida/Vanderbilt, Mississippi State/South Carolina and Louisville/Georgia Tech series, among a few others. All of the reports entered into the database can be found in one, easy-to-find place as linked above, and can also be accessed off of the individual PG player profile pages.

To access all of the reports you will need a College Baseball Ticket (CBT) subscription. To learn more about the CBT and to sign up today please visit this link.

Kyle Wright, RHP, Vanderbilt

Heading into his start against Florida on Friday night, Vanderbilt's Kyle Wright had been having a down season, both by his standards and the industry standards for a prospect who had a great deal of 1:1 hype coming into the 2017 season. Granted, the concerns amongst the industry were legitimate given the performance, but what Wright displayed on Friday night in Nashville certainly put him back on the very small list of 1:1 candidates.

With a near-ideal pitcher's body, Wright stands 6-foot-4 inches tall and weighs in at 220-pounds, a well-proportioned and athletic physicality with very good strength throughout. The delivery features a very slightly closed toe at landing but Wright's hips are aligned and he has no trouble getting downhill online and over his front side consistently and efficiently. The arm action is likewise mostly clean, reaching back into a slight hook that takes his back elbow a bit high, but he accelerates out of the hook with plus arm speed and ease, and his arm is in a good position at foot strike. He repeats both his delivery and arm stroke consistently, and had plus control/average command in this game.

Wright's stuff is extremely good, but the sequencing and command with which he deploys his four-pitch arsenal is what was able to set him apart, in conjunction with the best delivery and arm action of the top collegiate arms in this class. His fastball worked 92-95 mph for the entirety of his 99-pitch complete game shutout, with average arm-side life and quality command. He was able to keep the fastball down in the zone and work to both sides with the pitch, and could elevate at will as well. His primary off-speed pitch, though he used three quite a bit, was his curveball. A legitimate plus pitch thrown in the 80-83 mph range, the pitch has 11-to-5 shape and hammer break with no hump out of the hand, and Wright was able to both throw it for a strike (which he did often), as well as bury it down and out of the zone to get swinging strikes over the top of it.

While the majority of Wright's pitches were that fastball/curveball combination, he also used a slider and changeup to great effectiveness. The slider – which he did not throw for a strike – was thrown in the mid- to upper-80s with extremely sharp, late tilting action to the glove side. Wright used it exclusively as a put-away pitch with two strikes, specifically to righthanded hitters, and he was successful in getting several swings-and-misses over the pitch. It's an above average pitch that features swing-and-miss action, and the effectiveness of it was extremely evident simply by the fact that he got whiffs on it even when it wasn't even close to being called a strike.

The changeup was an average pitch, thrown in the mid-80s with conviction and good arm speed, featuring quality fading life down in the zone. He was able to throw it for a strike consistently and it has a chance to be a weapon for him against lefthanded hitters.

On the whole, Wright absolutely looks like a potential Role 6 starting pitcher at the major league level, a very quality No. 3 starter on a good team. He's going to miss bats and with the command I saw last night, he'll limit walks as well. The delivery and body are both built to withstand 200-plus inning demands, and he should have no issue moving relatively quickly through the minor leagues. It would be surprisingly if he lasted past the top five picks in this June's MLB Draft.

Other Vanderbilt players added to College Player Database:

• Chandler Day
• Jason Delay
• Drake Fellows
• Reed Hayes
• Jeren Kendall
• Matt McGarry
• Patrick Raby
• Matt Ruppenthal
• Will Toffey

Alex Faedo, RHP, Florida

Florida's Friday starter, Alex Faedo came into the '17 season with a great deal of hype as one of the top tier pitching prospects in this year's draft class, a class seen to be especially loaded with collegiate arms. He's performed well under that scrutiny for the most part this season, though he didn't have his very best start against Vanderbilt on Thursday night in Nashville.

Faedo tossed six mostly strong innings, allowing six total runs, though only two were earned on seven hits and one walk to go along with seven strikeouts. Vanderbilt essentially small-balled him to death early on, picking up various runs on an error by the third baseman and several RBI groundouts following another error. 

Faedo is an XL-framed, physical presence who has done a very good job transforming his body over the past few years from when he first stepped on campus. The arm action, while highlighted by plus arm speed, is a cause for concern with scouts seeing as he features a prominent, deep hook through the back with a very high back elbow – an elbow that is still noticeably cocked high at footstrike. His delivery doesn't incorporate a whole lot of lower half usage, and as a result most of the velocity he generates comes directly from the arm itself, and that coupled with the less-than-ideal arm action definitely gives scouts reason to be concerned moving forward. 

The stuff was very good, however. His fastball sat in the 91-94 mph range for the entirety of his start, peaking at 95 mph twice at different points throughout the contest, and he demonstrated average control of the pitch. Vandy collected a good amount of hits but, to be fair, Faedo did do a good job of keeping the contact on the ground for the most part, notably aside from a Jeren Kendall bomb to right-center field in the fifth inning. The fastball command wavered somewhat in that he often left the fastball up in the zone, and as such, the command earns below average grades in this start. He'll show the ability to work it down in the zone and to both sides and there's hope that he can eventually have average command overall. 

His slider is among the best breaking balls in the '17 draft class, trailing perhaps only the hell demon slider that UNC's J.B. Bukauskas possesses. It's thrown with extreme trust and conviction in the mid-80s, peaking at 87 mph, with extremely sharp, two-plane snap. He was able to get a significant amount of swings and misses on the pitch, especially against lefthanded hitters in this outing, diving it under their hands and generating empty swings over the top of it. The shape stayed pretty consistent throughout the start, though he did show the ability to show more of a true downer look at times. 

He threw his changeup more and more as the game went on, anywhere from 83-86 mph, and it flashed 55 on the 20-80 scouting scale, though most were average. He'll occasionally drop his arm slot a bit and guide the changeup, which is reasonable given that it is his third pitch, but the feel for it is evident and it may end up a third above average pitch for him in time. He's able to mix and match the three pitches effectively, and is especially willing to throw the slider in any count against any hitter. 

By in large, Faedo's ceiling looks to be that of a quality mid-rotation starter who can miss a good amount of bats with that slider while keeping hitters honest with a quality changeup and above average velocity. The concerns brought about by his arm action lead to durability concerns, and those concerns could keep him from being selected in the top half of the first round. Either way, he looks like a sure first rounder at present, but it remains to be seen just how high he'll end up being selected.

Other Florida players added to College Player Database:

• Dalton Guthrie
• Austin Langworthy
• Deacon Liput
• Jackson Kowar
• Garrett Milchin
• Brady Singer

Clarke Schmidt, RHP, South Carolina

Clarke Schmidt was often overshadowed by his older brother, Clate, a 2011 Perfect Game All-American, in high school, but as is so often the case, circumstances can change and younger brother now looks like a potential first round draft choice this June.

This outing won't go down as Schmidt's best of the year but it did carry out over eight innings and 114 pitches against a very hot Mississippi State team.  One inning was Schmidt's undoing, as his mechanics got out of sync with an early front side and his defense made a key error on a potential double play ground ball.  Impressively, Schmidt made the adjustment and retired 19 straight hitters afterwards.

There is little question that Schmidt can work as a finesse pitcher with advanced command for his pitches but it is also noteworthy that the solidly built righthander didn't throw a fastball under 92 mph the entire game and he didn't really throw too many of the 92's.  His last two pitches were 94 and 93 and he topped out at 95 in multiple innings.  Schmidt's fastball is pretty true at times, especially when his front side is early, but he has command of the pitch from an extended three-quarters release point.  It would be easy to see him developing a sinker/cutter combination with that arm slot in the future to create more movement and different looks for hitters.

Schmidt's out pitch is a low-80s slider that comes out of his hand pretty much exactly the same as his fastball and has late and sharp bite to it. One would ideally like to see more power to the pitch to be a true slider but hitters didn't see the pitch at all it seemed, as there were many feeble swings on it even by Mississippi State's best hitters.  Schmidt also mixes in a changeup occasionally but it's at the same speed as his slider and doesn't carry much deception at this point.

As enjoyable as it was watching Schmidt perform, the best news of the day was afterwards when talking with his parents.  Clate Schmidt was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2015 and underwent extensive chemotherapy afterwards.  Dwight and Renee Schmidt reported that he passed his 15-month check up in January completely cancer free and is now back to throwing in the mid-90s in the Detroit Tigers extended spring training camp.  Maybe older brother will catch back up eventually.

Other South Carolina players added to College Player Database:

• Carlos Cortes
• Wil Crowe
• Adam Hill
• Josh Reagan
• Hunter Taylor
• L.T. Tolbert

Brent Rooker, OF/1B, Mississippi State

Rooker has been one of the most dominant players in college baseball this year and barring a complete collapse, will be on everyone's short list for Player of the Year honors. He's hitting .432-15-57 with 15 stolen bases and a 1.489 OPS though 38 games and carrying a very good Mississippi State team.

The first thing to note about Rooker is that he's a very good athlete and just not an older hitter with adult strength (Rooker is already 22 years old after redshirting his freshman year) beating up on younger pitchers. Rooker was a finalist for Mr. Football in Tennessee in high school and was a starter on a state finalist basketball team. He looks like a big leaguer in his uniform at a narrow-waisted 6-foot-4, 220-pounds and is playing primarily first base for the Bulldogs because of team positional needs rather than being a liability in the outfield. He ran 4.4 and 4.45 from the right side on two ground balls to shortstop in this series despite his aggressive swing.

Rooker was relatively quiet in this series against the talented South Carolina pitching staff but did blast a first game home run directly to center field off a 92 mph Clarke Schmidt two-seam fastball that moved over the middle of the plate instead of the inside half, allowing Rooker to get his arms fully extended. But that was one of the few fastballs that Rooker saw the entire series, as the Gamecock pitchers consistently went away with sliders, throwing three or four straight in multiple at-bats. Rooker adjusted a couple of times on the third straight such pitch and ground a few singles into left field, but there were also a significant number of swings and misses that expanded the strike zone and put some doubt into a scout's mind about his ability to recognize this pitch.

It is worth noting that Rooker has had huge success in wood bat summer leagues the last two seasons, hitting .360-10-33 in the New England Collegiate League in 2015 and .303-3-22 in the Cape Cod League last summer. He has a pro style swing that is short and direct and generates his power through raw bat speed rather than length and strength.

Rooker's profile as a righthanded hitting corner outfielder who will turn 23 years old in November is not a great one, at least for someone thinking that Rooker might be a premium pick in June. But the combination of achievement, athleticism and raw bat speed is very significant, too. Many teams will be looking to find that middle ground.

Other Mississippi State players added to College Player Database:

• Ryan Gridley
• Jake Mangum
• Konnor Pilkington
• Riley Self

Devin Hairston, SS, Louisville

One of the calling cards heading into the 2017 season for Hairston was his ability to be an impact defender at a premium position, and his performance on Thursday night in a win over Georgia Tech did nothing to dissuade that notion. Hairston has quick instincts at shortstop, with clean defensive actions and the ability to exchange and release the baseball quickly. The arm strength is a bit below average but his quick actions allow him to make up the time.

Not only a defensive specialist, Hairston is an impact player with the bat as well as he hits third for a talented Louisville team. The approach isn’t very power oriented but is more of a line drive approach to all fields. The bat profiles well as a leadoff-type hitter as he is able to control the bat well and drive hits to both the pull side and the opposite field well.

Hairston collected three hits on Thursday including two line drives and an infield single. The infield hit allowed him to show off his above average speed as he clocked times in the 4.2-4.3 second range to first base from the right side. 

Hairston has a strong overall package and profile for a draft prospect. He is also a consistent college performer and has a solid pedigree for teams to base his future performance off of.

Other Louisville players added to College Player Database:

• Drew Ellis
• Lincoln Henzman
• Brendan McKay

Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn

Casey Mize has made a massive jump from his freshman season in 2016 and he is one of the big reasons why the scouting community is getting very excited about the 2018 college class.  Mize needed just 82 pitches to shutout Tennessee out over 6 complete innings in this outing in Knoxville.

Mize is a very sturdy 6-foot-3, 208-pounds and while not an electric athlete, he easily repeats his solid mechanics.  Speaking of repeatability, Mize has taken his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 59-to-18 as a freshman to an incredible 82-to-8 in 2017.  

Mize is the rare college pitcher with three legitimate out pitches.  His fastball sat 89-93 mph and peaked at 96 in the fifth inning during his start against Tennessee.  His split ranged from 80-86 mph but mostly worked at 83-85 mph.  Mize's slider, which was his best pitch on this night, was 83-87 mph.  While the slider stole the show, all three pitches generated multiple swings and miss.

The difference in 2017 has been two-fold: his slider has tightened up significantly and his split is now a pitch that is in the strike zone.  And the split has been the main catalyst for the meteoric improvement in his ratios.  It looks like fastball out of the hand and forces hitters to commit to swinging.

In a year where there is a ton of hype around the junior class of arms in the SEC, Casey Mize may be the most intimidating ace in the league.  His eight walks tell the whole story.  That low number isn't a result of pin point control.  It is born of hitters frightened at the prospects of facing Mize in a two-strike count.  I suppose there's more than one way to create early contact.

Kevin Strohschein, OF, Tennessee Tech

Strohschein came on like gangbusters during his 2016 freshman season, becoming a first-team Freshman All-American. While he hasn’t quite produced on the level of his freshman season, where he hit .393 with 15 home runs, Strohschein still has all the tools to be a great college player and still enjoying a very good year hitting in the middle of the lineup for a potent Tennessee Tech offensive attack.

At the plate his bat speed stands out, and while he has struggled this year against league average or better fastballs, he has the athleticism and bat speed to be able to improve in that department. Strohschein had a fairly quiet performance in a midweek contest against Vanderbilt, popping up to the first baseman, hitting a hard ground ball to the shortstop, being hit by a pitch and striking out (on a 91 mph fastball that was up and outside of the strike zone). That said, he has good lift and separation in his swing and has shown good pull-side power in previous outings.

Strohschein also has a league average arm, routinely making good, accurate throws from the outfield. His throws have good velocity with low carry, and the arm is good enough to keep him in right field at the next level. However, speed shouldn’t be a huge part of his game down the road, as he recorded a 4.49-second home-to-first time.

Getting valuable experience on the Cape this summer will be key for Strohschein’s future development, and it may evne allow him to open some eyes as a smaller-school offensive force similar to Michael Gigliotti (Lipscomb) last summer and Kyle Lewis (Mercer) in 2015.

Other Georgia Tech players added to College Player Database:

• Ryan Flick
• Alex Junior

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