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2021 MLB Draft Prep, Week 5: On not trusting pitchers

It’s hard to assess college pitchers, at times, for where they fit in the draft.

Ryan Cusick
Photo by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

An important part of doing something is admitting which part or parts you struggle with. When I assess a hitter, I have benchmarks. Does this guy remind me of a Mark Zagunis-type of bat-first outfielder? Start with the third round. Is he doing far better than a major conference’s pitchers? Give him a two, with a possible upgrade to a first-rounder. However, when it comes to pitching? I know pitching is important, but I struggle to assess who will upgrade more than the hitters as professionals. Nonetheless, I try to assess value levels to velocity, durability, walk and homer avoidance, and go from there. Nonetheless, I don’t even remotely trust pitchers.

Give me a selection of three or four college games starting at the same time with quality pitching, and I’ll be able to assess the better hitters in those games. The Friday games usually have the best starter going, so my choices there are wide and varied. Occasionally, teams will have two draft-legitimate arms, and push one to Saturday. By Sunday, the options are further and farther between, so any good Sunday arm is a treasure.

A bit over a week ago, Virginia sent Mike Vasil to the mound in Charlottesville against Notre Dame. Vasil has mid-90s velocity, and was fantastic in his first three outings. The Fighting Irish had already won their first three Atlantic Coast Conference series this season. Would a team with a limited number of significant draft options (as describes Notre Dame) be able to handle Vasil? In a mild shocker, senior first baseman Niko Kavadas pounded a three-run homer, his fifth of the year. The first baseman also lit up Wake Forest’s Ryan Cusick earlier in the season, and Cusick might well be off the board at 21. Either way, after a strikeout to start the second inning, Vasil was finished for the day. Not good for me in assessing him. Worse for him, particularly pending any prognosis. I can’t trust pitchers.

Among my rather essential weekend source materials is from Prospects Live. They provide an article every Friday highlighting which key pitchers will be pitching in which weekend games, and with which probable start times. For instance, McCade Brown is a starter for the Indiana Hoosiers who wasn’t considered a first-round option (as in, top 24 picks) three weeks ago. Now, he might be. In a month, he could be a top ten selection guy, or he might have slumped to Round Eight. For me to do my job properly, I have to get a read on him, in a game, and be able to justify in words, which round and why. Per the notification, his scheduled start was on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m. CT. Not that I can’t check out other games, but being aware of Brown is a key part of me answering for what I expect to happen. Brown struggled against an offensively-challenged Purdue squad, because baseball.

One of my Friday choices was Cusick, mentioned above. On Friday, he was sitting at 97 and 98 early and regularly against a reasonably good Georgia Tech team. Cusick has a few flags. His change is negligible, so far. He’s had weeks where he isn’t MLB good, and there were two weekends he didn’t start. My job is to assess if my respect of his velocity, which is mid-90’s well into his start with reasonable (though not omnipresent) control and command, justify the possibility of him being a reliever. Even though I don’t trust pitchers, I’m good with him at 21.

Someone asked me about Tommy Mace this week. What would be necessary for him to become a first-round guy? Mace has fewer reliability flags, but doesn’t throw as hard. He totally seems like a guy who could be a third-starter type if he stays healthy. Health hasn’t been a concern yet, for Mace. Could Mace be a better MLB pitcher than Cusick? Definitely. Is Mace worth a pick at 21? Perhaps, over the long haul, he might be a great value, there. However, the draft is in July. If Cusick stays healthy and develops his change, he could be a complete beast. Left on the draft board at 21, he’s worth that “inside straight draw”. As far as Mace, I’ll hold off on him until the second pick. As such, he’ll be in my batch of 36 or so players on my second round board.

For now.

Here is D1 Baseball’s Friday Digest, a roundup of the week’s action.

Andrew Hoffman is the Illini’s Friday night guy/ace. Here is a nice compilation video of a successful inning of his against Minnesota. After watching this, I added him to my 11th Round list. Acceptable velocity, and an ability to keep hitters off balance. He backed this up with a nice six-inning stint against a ranked Michigan squad in a surprising Illini win on Friday. First baseman/catcher Jimmy Obertop took him deep twice for home runs. Obertop is on my third round list. Hoffman debuts this week on my Seventh Round list.

Tennessee outfielder Jordan Beck adds to the possibilities during a walkoff.

Jaden Hill has a filthy change-up. I haven’t committed to him as being on my first- or second-round list, but he’ll be on one of them.

I enjoy it when a well-hit ball carries farther than the announcer expects. This guy isn’t on my lists yet. Maybe I’ll have to take in a Rice game. Smacks of the Keston Hiura moment during his draft season.

Jack Leftwich. Third-round grade. Against a soon-to-be good pro hitter.

Notre Dame keeps it rolling with an extra-inning walkoff.

Do the Minacci.

Kumar Rocker. Good and fun.

All 27 outs of Jack Leiter’s no-hitter. He won’t see pick 21.

More Leiter:

Pitcher’s duel, condensed into ten minutes. Greenhill (Auburn) 6th Round List. Hoglund (Ole Miss) Second Round list.

Jud Fabian should go top five.

Trying to run on Henry Davis... He’ll go top ten.