Draft : : Prospect Scouting Reports
Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Draft Focus: Dustin Driver

David Rawnsley        
Photo: Perfect Game
Every weekday leading up to the 2013 MLB Draft, Perfect Game will be providing a scouting profile on a notable draft-eligible prospect.  Stay tuned to Perfect Game and be sure to visit the Draft Page for all of the latest info and reports pertaining to the draft.

Dustin Driver Perfect Game profile

Position:  RHP
Height:  6-2
Weight:  210
Bats/Throws:  R-R
Birthdate:  Oct. 11, 1994
High School:  Wenatchee
City, State:  Wenatchee, Wash.
Travel Team:  Marucci Elite
Commitment:  UCLA
Projected Draft Round:  1-1S

Comparing a high school prospect to a Major League player can be an instructive and enjoyable exercise and I try to do it whenever possible to help people “see” what a prospect looks like even if that person hasn’t actually seen the prospect.

One of the misunderstandings of the comp business is when fans think that the comparison implies that the prospect is going to actually perform and achieve like their big league comp. Although you only very rarely want to compare a young prospect to an icon of the game or future Hall of Famer (those two seem to be different today), using well known big leaguers to help paint the picture of what the prospect looks like and his general actions and tools really helps. But to say “Prospect X” is going to be a Major League All-Star like “MLB Player Y” is not appropriate and not even very respectful to either player.

Just as you shouldn’t compare prospects to Hall of Fame type players (“resembles Greg Maddux in his build and approach to pitching”), there are some players who have become such clichés that they should never be mentioned either. Dustin Pedroia and David Eckstein (sub 5’-10” middle infielders) and Tom Glavine (lefty with fringy velocity and plus command) would head that list.

The general rules of making a good and instructive comparison would include the following:

• The position has to match up
• The body types should be as close as possible
• Which hand they throw and hit with should match up perfectly
• Ethnic background matters but is not essential
• Mechanics and skills should be consistent, whether it be pitching or hitting
• Incorporating the MLB player’s history as a prospect is frosting on the cake

With that preface, let’s address that subject of today’s Draft Focus, Perfect Game All-American right handed pitcher Dustin Driver, the No. 15 prospect on the Perfect Game 2013 class rankings.

I can’t take credit for this comparison and unfortunately can’t remember who threw it out there, but perhaps the best comp for a top prospect in the 2013 class is Dustin Driver to San Francisco Giants right handed pitcher Matt Cain.

(This beats out, in my opinion, other worthy comps such as Rob Kaminsky/Scott Kazmir, Justin Williams/Jason Heyward, Dominic Smith/Todd Helton, Austin Meadows/Jay Bruce, Trey Ball/Von Hayes, Cavan Biggio/Chase Utley, Ryan Boldt/David Dahl, Rowdy Tellez/Ryan Howard and some others I’ve heard or made up myself.)

Driver is a native of Washington who I saw throw five times at four events in a two-month period last summer, and he was very consistent over each of those four high profile outings (PG National Showcase, Tournament of Stars, Area Code Games, PG All-American Classic).

Driver has a strong, well-proportioned 6-foot-2, 210-pound build that has some room to fill out a bit, although not too much, even though he is young in the face. He has very simple pitching mechanics, with good use of his lower half and a high three-quarters arm slot that enables him to consistently get downhill with his pitches. He repeats his delivery well and pounds the bottom half of the strike zone and usually misses low when he misses his spots. His delivery enables him to throw the ball effectively to both sides of the plate. Driver’s build and pitching style make “durable future workhorse” an obvious thing to say.

Driver has pitched in the 91-93 mph range every time I’ve seen him, topping out at 94 mph and rarely dripping below his comfort zone. The velocity is pretty easy and he gets good sinking life down in the zone where he usually pitches. Combine downhill angle with low-90s velocity and sink/run and you have a very good pitch. Driver’s primary breaking ball is a mid to upper-70s curveball that has hard spin and good bite; he hasn’t learned how to use it as effectively at this point as he will in the future but it is a very solid pitch. His changeup is very advanced for a top high school prospect. I’ve seen him do different things with movement, including cutting it to right handed hitters, which indicates he has nice feel for the pitch. Interestingly, in one outing Driver broke out a mid-80s slider I’d been told he was working on in bullpens and it showed plenty of promise.

Now let’s step back and look at the 28 year old Cain, who was the 25th pick in the 2002 draft out of a Tennessee high school and who pitched at the WWBA World Championship in 2001, where he topped out at 90 mph with a couple of quality off-speed pitches.

Cain is also a right handed pitcher, listed at 6-foot-3, 230-pounds with a strong, durable build. The build, and the fact that Cain has never missed a start in seven-plus years in the big leagues, screams “durable workhorse.” He’s a four-pitch guy who throws about 50-percent fastballs and uses his curveball, slider and changeup interchangeably as secondary pitches. Most baseball fans have seen Cain throw with all his post-season exposure and know that he pounds the bottom of the strike zone and doesn’t throw anything straight. His fastball is certainly firm enough but is generally “just” in the low-90s, he gets his strikeouts with movement, location and pitch selection rather than pure velocity. He had a precocious ability to pitch at a young age, debuting in the big leagues at 20-years old, and has steadily improved ever since.

If everything happens right with Dustin Driver, if he stays healthy, continues to develop his off-speed pitches, tweaks his delivery in the proper ways and has lots of good fortune on his side to become a big league pitcher, it is very possible that knowledgeable baseball people will say, “Hey, this guy looks and pitches a lot like Matt Cain.” And that is the ultimate basis of a good comparison between a prospect and a Major League player.

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