Minors | General | 12/4/2019

PG in the Pros: AL East

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Adam Hall (Perfect Game)

As part of Perfect Game's recurring PG in the Pros series David Rawnsley will take a look at some of the top prospects in minor league baseball and their impact on the sport prior to their professional careers. This will be done in a six-part series, one feature for each division in Major League Baseball while identifying one of the top prospects for each team. Links are provided below to past installments of the PG in the Pros series for other reports on prospects, both past and present.

2019-20 PG in the Pros series:  AL West
| AL Central

Baltimore Orioles

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14
– Kevin Gausman, Dylan Bundy
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15
– Hunter Harvey, Chance Sisco, Christian Walker, Josh Hart
PG in the Pros, 2015-16
– Mychal Givens
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Ryan Mountcastle
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Cedric Mullins
PG in the Pros, 2018-19 – DL Hall

Adam Hall, SS

Canada is better known in baseball talent circles for strong-armed pitchers and power hitters but in Adam Hall they had one of the better athletes in the 2017 high school class. But that does come with a caveat, as Hall was born and initially raised in Bermuda before moving to Canada in part to help further his baseball career.

Hall, who had already committed to Texas A&M, made his mark with Perfect Game at the 2016 PG National Showcase. One thing that stood out in general at that event was the overall speed, as 35 athletes ran 6.60 or under in the 60-yard dash, including six at 6.30 or less. Hall was right there with them, running a 6.29 that included a supremely quick-twitch 1.45 10-yard split. His overall report from the event, which afterwards included an invitation for the PG All-American Classic, went as follows.

Slender middle infielder's build with some wiry strength. Outstanding runner, 6.29 in the sixty. Quick feet with very good footwork, especially to his backhand, on defense, quick transfer and release on his throws, fields out front with soft hands, plenty of arm strength to stay in the middle of the infield. Righthanded hitter, hits from a wide base with a busy hand load, very quick hands to the ball, uses his lower half well, has leverage at contact and the ball comes off the barrel hard, flashed some pull power when extended. Quick-twitch athlete with lots of tools and skills.

Hall’s speed, overall athleticism and projected ability to stay at shortstop make him an obvious top prospect, but those quick hands referenced in the report made it look like he might develop some intriguing power of at least the gap-to-gap variety when he matured physically.

Canadian players can sometimes be hard to see play during their senior year but Hall played in Jupiter with the DBacks Langley Blaze and then with the Canadian National Junior Team during the spring, so he was well scouted leading into the draft. The Orioles picked him in the second round with the 60th overall pick and signed him for a $1.3 million bonus.

Boston Red Sox

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Jackie Bradley, Henry Owens, Garin Cecchini, Blake Swihart, Mookie Betts
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Rafael Devers, Matt Barnes, Brian Johnson
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Michael Kopech
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Andrew Benintendi
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Michael Chavis
PG in the Pros, 2018-19 – Bobby Dalbec

Tanner Houck, RHP

Houck grew up in Collinsville, Illinois and played for the St. Louis Pirates in the summer and fall but didn’t play on the national circuit, appearing only at the 2013 17u WWBA National Championship and no major showcases. He was ranked 276th in the final Perfect Game 2014 class rankings but created enough interest with scouts during his senior year that the Blue Jays took a flier at him in the 12th round.

Houck was an immediate success at Missouri, starting from the first weekend of his freshman year and going 8-5 with a 3.49 ERA in 100 innings while striking out 91 hitters against only 12 walks. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound righthander’s fastball was steady in the mid-90s to go with big sinking life and a sharp slider, and he was even touching some upper 90s early in games. If the 2017 draft would have been held in 2015, Houck would have very likely been one of the top few selections.

The next two years Houck’s raw stuff wasn’t quite as electric, although he was still healthy, throwing strikes and getting outs. His fastball was more normally in the 90-93 mph range without quite the bite and power on his slider as he had shown as a freshman. Scouts began to question Houck’s mechanics, which included a low three-quarters arm slot and cross-body release out front to go with a pronounced arm hook in back, all usual signs of a future reliever. Houck’s record as a junior – 4-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 14 starts – didn’t help matters.

The Red Sox, who were pretty strongly focused on mature college pitchers in the draft at that time, took the chance on the profile and picked Houck with the 24th overall pick in 2017 and signed him to a $2,614,500 bonus.

New York Yankees

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – J.R. Murphy, Tyler Austin, Greg Bird
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Ian Clarkin, Rob Refsnyder
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Aaron Judge
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Justus Sheffield
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Nick Solak
PG in the Pros, 2018-19 – Clarke Schmidt

TJ Sikkema, LHP

Sikkema came from a small, rural Iowa town and was a regular participant in the Perfect Game run Iowa Spring and Fall Leagues despite playing multiple sports during high school. He had a polished three-pitch arsenal and the ability to throw strikes and use all his pitches despite his small-town upbringing, which attracted the attention of plenty of Midwestern colleges. He threw at one PG showcase, the 2015 Midwest Top Prospect Showcase, and received a PG Grade of 9.

Large frame with present strength throughout. On the mound shows a longer arm action from a three-quarters slot. Creates coil at balance point and shows numbers. Reaches from the well and tends to show to ball early at times. Creates plus downhill angle with good arm-side run on fastball. Shows command of fastball with the ability to work edges of the zone. Fastball has heaviness and produced soft contact, ranged from 80-85 mph. Tends to lose some direction at times with runners on due to front leg swing. Slider has 2-to-8 shape with good depth and hard bite, maintained tight spin with slider on back door offerings as well. Flashed a very deceptive changeup with a similar arm slot and arm speed as the fastball, topped at 75 mph. Knowledge of pitching with the ability to mix and match pitches in positive and negative counts. Elbow slot dropped in later innings. Projects to be a solid next level pitcher.

Sikkema wasn’t drafted but immediately started showing firmer stuff once on the Missouri campus. He was used primarily as a long reliever as a freshman, gaining Freshman All-American honors by going 8-2 with a 2.72 ERA and four saves while working 79 total innings. He spent more time as a starter over the next two years, although he still made occasional appearances out of the bullpen and went 7-3, 1.32 with two saves in 88 innings as a junior.

That mixed role throughout his college career gave scouts plenty to think about when slotting Sikkema in the draft. His very deceptive, multi-piece delivery looked like a prototypical reliever’s and he had experience and success in that role already, but his three-pitch and well-established ability to throw strikes (only 69 walks in 237 college innings) more fit a starter’s profile.

The Yankees seem to pay more attention to raw stuff and results than standard scouting profiles, especially with young pitchers, and they liked Sikkema the most, picking him with the 38th overall selection and signing him for exact the slot value of $1,952,300.

Tampa Bay Rays

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Jake Odorizzi, Andrew Toles
Before They Were Pros, 2014-15 – Justin O’Conner, Nathan karns, Taylor Guerrieri, Justin Williams
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Blake Snell, LHP
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Ryne Stanek
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Josh Lowe
PG in the Pros, 2018-19 – Brendan McKay

Shane McClanahan, LHP

McClanahan was a regular at Perfect Game tournaments during high school, playing mostly with SWFL out of his hometown of Cape Coral, Florida. He was a very athletic southpaw with a notably young face and body and was listed at 6-foot-1, 145-pounds until he began filling out late in high school. With the additional strength came addition velocity, not surprisingly, and McClanahan was pitching in the upper-80s and flashing low-90s during his last year in high school. His solid three-pitch mix and obvious physical projection put him on the prospect map and Perfect Game had him ranked 91st in the final 2015 class rankings and the New York Mets made him a 26th round draft pick out of high school.

McClanahan injured his elbow at South Florida as a freshman and redshirted in 2016 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Like many young pitchers, McClanahan came out of his rehab with more strength and velocity but less command of his pitches. He started getting notice right from the start of his redshirt freshman season in 2017, working in the mid-90s with a power slider and quality changeup and eventually going 4-2, 3.20 with 104 strikeouts in 76 innings.

At the beginning of the 2018 spring season, McClanahan’s stuff had moved up another notch, with the ability to hit upper-90s when he wanted it and even touch 100 mph. Any discussion about potential No. 1 overall picks and certainly top 5 picks in March of 2018 certainly included McClanahan’s name.

As the spring progressed, though, McClanahan’s stuff grew inconsistent and his command even more so, with many outings where he was unable to get through more than four or five innings due to an elevated pitch count. Overall, his season record was 5-6, 3.42 with 120 strikeouts in 76 innings but 48 walks. In 29 college starts over two seasons, McClanahan averaged 5 2/3 innings per start.

While it was obvious that McClanahan’s stock was dropping a bit headed into the draft, it was still a surprise that a lefthander with his dominant stuff and high ceiling potential fell as far as he did, with the Tampa Bay Rays being the beneficiary by grabbing McClanahan with the 31st overall pick and signing him for a $2,230,100 bonus.

Toronto Blue Jays

Before They Were Pros, 2013-14 – Marcus Stroman, Aaron Sanchez, Daniel Norris, Chase DeJong
PG in the Pros, 2015-16 – Rowdy Tellez
PG in the Pros, 2016-17 – Sean Reid-Foley
PG in the Pros, 2017-18 – Anthony Alford
PG in the Pros, 2018-19 – Bo Bichette

Nathan Pearson, RHP

Pearson threw in 14 Perfect Game events in high school, including the 2011 BCS National Championship prior to his freshman season, mostly while playing for SCORE International. He steadily progressed from throwing in the low-70s to the low-90s over his four high school seasons and topped out at 93 mph at the 2014 WWBA World Championship at the beginning of his senior year. He also threw at the 2014 Florida Top Prospect Showcase garnering the following report.

Extra large frame with very good lower half strength. Big hip turn delivery with a full, long arm action in back, slow overall pace until release, extended three-quarters arm slot with a loose extended arm out front, some energy at release and will tend to fall off to the first base side. Fastball topped out at 89 mph, gets good arm-side running action and will ride above hitters hands up in the zone. Slow curveball with a soft sweeping break, may be best suited for a slider in the future, developing changeup. Has a power pitcher's body and arm and should continue to improve. Good student, verbal commitment to Florida International.

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Pearson wasn’t drafted out of high school and went to Florida International as a freshman, working out of the bullpen and going 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA in 33 innings. He transferred to Central Florida CC for his sophomore year and saw his stuff explode while working as a starter. Pearson went 5-2, 1.56 with 118 strikeouts in 81 innings and worked steadily in the 93-97 mph range during games while frequently touching triple digits. His curveball was showing signs of being a future plus pitch and he walked only 23 hitters in 81 innings with a smooth and repeatable delivery. After Pearson’s season ended, he threw at a very well attended workout for scouts and touched 102-103 a couple of times on some guns.

If anything, scouts were a bit slow to catch up to Pearson during the early spring but by draft time he was certainly a hot commodity. He lasted until the Blue Jays and the 28th overall pick and signed for a bonus of $2,452,900.

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