2019 Top College Baseball Draft Prospects: Right-Handed Pitching (Part 1)
Leading up to the 2019 MLB Amateur Draft, Baseball Info Solutions will be publishing a series of position-by-position scouting reports from our Video Scouts for the top-50 collegiate draft prospects. Each player is graded by the 20-80 scouting scale, given a comprehensive evaluation, and assigned a floor and a ceiling comparison, which indicate–if a player makes the Major Leagues–the range of the type of player into which he can develop.
Corner Infield (Part 1)
Corner Infield (Part 2)
Middle Infield (Part 1)
Middle Infield (Part 2)
Outfield (Part 1)
Outfield (Part 2)
Left-Handed Pitching (Part 1)
Left-Handed Pitching (Part 2)
Right-Handed Pitching (Part 1)
Right-Handed Pitching (Part 2)
This post covers the first half of a deep crop of right-handed pitchers– 12 in our top 50, several more just barely missed the cut. All six pitchers mentioned in this piece could come off the board in the first two rounds on draft day.
Alek Manoah, Seth Johnson, Matt Canterino and Ryne Nelson all possess electric, mid-to-upper-90s fastballs and one plus breaking ball, but inconsistency and unpolished third pitches make each of them a candidate to end up in the bullpen. George Kirby and Isaiah Campbell have more refined repertoires, and while they lack the raw tools of the other four, their stuff plays up due to superior command.
Alek Manoah, RHP
West Virginia University (JR, 2019)
R/R 6-6, 260 lbs
Date of Birth: 01/09/1998
Fastball- 65 (70) Slider- 60 (65) Changeup- 45 (55) Control- 50 (55)
Written by Quinn Ireland
Alek Manoah has seen his stock gradually rise, from a big-bodied guy with plenty of potential to a dominant arm who is soaring up draft boards. In 2018, he showed flashes of brilliance that have been on display week in and week out this season. He has compiled a 1.85 ERA for the Mountaineers with 135 strikeouts in 102.1 innings. Manoah has pushed himself into top-10 pick consideration in the upcoming draft, and should definitely be one of the top college arms selected.
A 6-foot-6, 260-pound specimen, Manoah boasts a three-pitch arsenal with at least his fastball and slider as plus pitches. He sits at around 94-96 mph, and his command has shown vast improvement from last year. His fastball plays up a tick, as well, as a result of his long stride. It jumps on the batter and has excellent tilt to boot. The slider is used as a strikeout pitch against both left- and right- handed batters, albeit with differing styles. This year, he is using the slider as more of a front door pitch against righties, and has mainly thrown it back foot to lefties. This unique style has led to an uptick in strikeouts and more consistency from the right-hander. His changeup is still under development, and while it has shown flashes, he is going to have to get comfortable throwing it a lot more in order to succeed after college. It has the potential to be slightly above-average, but right now is mostly a change-of-pace pitch that catches hitters off guard.
Since he scrapped the windup and started throwing exclusively from the stretch, Manoah’s command and composure have both seen swift improvements. Concerns over stamina and moving to the pen have seemingly been put to rest because of his sheer dominance this year, although a move to the pen could fast track him to the majors.
Manoah will not make it out of the first round, and will probably hear his name called within the first 15 picks. His dominance of solid Big 12 competition has made teams take notice of his talent, and a lot of teams are going to have to take a long, hard look at the power right-hander from West Virginia on draft day.
Projection: No. 2 starter with big strikeout numbers and All-Star potential.
Ceiling: Josh Johnson
Floor: Adam Ottavino
Draft Expectation: Top-15 Pick
George Kirby, RHP
Elon University (JR, 2019)
R/R 6-04, 200 lbs
Date of Birth: 02/08/1998
Fastball- 55 (65) Curveball- 50 (55) Slider- 45 (50) Changeup- 50 (55) Control- 55 (60)
Written by Dominic Asta and Harris Yudin
George Kirby has been the most dominant starter in a very impressive Elon rotation this season. He has posted eye-popping numbers over his last two seasons, including a 2.75 ERA across 81.1 innings with 107 strikeouts and just six walks as a junior– his 17.5 strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best in all of Division 1 by a wide margin. He has very few, if any, red flags, and should become the first first-round pick in Elon baseball history.
Kirby has a large, projectable frame with room to add weight and strength. He has a smooth, repeatable delivery with short, compact arm action. He throws from a three quarters arm slot and gets good extension with his long limbs. He gets most of his power from his upper body, and does not utilize his lower body in his delivery as much as he could.
Kirby features a four-pitch mix with an above-average fastball, a changeup and two distinct breaking balls. He commands his fastball to both sides of the plate and has good arm-side run on the pitch. He operates mostly from 91-94 mph, but will flash 95-96 in shorter outings. He gets most of his strikeouts on his fastball, often challenging hitters up in the zone. Kirby should be expected to add velocity once he fills out and adds strength to his big frame. His changeup is his most reliable secondary pitch, thrown with fastball arm speed. It flashes good arm-side fade, and he will throw it to both righties and lefties. His curveball and slider will show above-average potential at times, but are not consistent with break and shape. The curveball, which comes in around the upper 70s, looks to be the better of the two pitches at this time, while the tighter, mid-80s slider has proven more erratic. Despite not currently having a plus secondary pitch, Kirby’s stuff plays up due to his control of the strike zone and command of all four pitches.
Kirby has faced weaker competition over the last few years than most of the other college arms in this draft class. However, he dominated the Cape Cod league in 2018, allowing just two earned runs across 15 innings on the summer, striking out 28 batters and walking just four. As long as he can continue to build up his secondary pitches as he gains experience against tougher opponents, there shouldn’t be concerns about Kirby remaining a starter at the next level. He has mid-rotation upside, and could hear his name called within the first 20 picks of the 2019 draft.
Projection: Mid-rotation command artist with developing breaking balls.
Ceiling: Rick Porcello
Floor: Trevor Cahill
Draft Expectation: Round 1
Seth Johnson, RHP
Campbell University (JR, 2019)
R/R 6-01, 200 lbs
Date of Birth: 09/19/1998
Fastball- 65 (70) Slider- 55 (60) Curveball- 45 (50) Changeup- 45 (55) Control- 50 (55)
Written by Noah Gatsik
Seth Johnson is one of the most interesting prospects in the draft. He was a shortstop his first two years in college, but made the transition to a full-time pitcher in the fall of 2018. Since he has only been focusing on pitching for less than a year, he is not as advanced as most college-level pitchers, and is more of a project. However, he is one of the best pure arm talents, and has as high of a ceiling as any pitcher in this draft. In 59.1 innings pitched this season, Johnson has posted a 4.55 ERA with 28 walks and 76 strikeouts.
Johnson has a medium frame and a strong lower half. He is very athletic and fields his position very well. He displays a smooth and very repeatable delivery out of a three quarters arm slot that looks effortless. He throws on a downhill plane with impressive loose and free-easy arm action. He generates above-average extension and has a very relaxed finish. He also shows above-average deception while throwing all his pitches out of a similar release point.
Johnson’s fastball is electric. He routinely sits in the 92-95 mph range, often hitting the mid-to-upper 90s and topping out as high as 98. The ball really explodes out of his hands and gets in on hitters quickly. He throws a heavy ball that has some tailing action. It is not just a flat fastball that relies solely on speed. He shows an advanced feel to elevate his fastball to generate a lot of swing and miss. His slider is his best secondary offering. He throws it hard — typically in the mid 80s — with sharp, downward movement. He also throws more of a looping curveball that shows 12-6 tendencies with a reported velocity range of 78-83 mph. His development of a changeup is going to be what dictates his future. It shows signs of developing into a plus pitch, with late fade and sinking action with reported velocity ranging from 83-86 mph.
He actually displays far better control than one would think for someone who has been a full-time pitcher for less than a calendar year and also has the type of arm Johnson possesses. He likes to attack hitters and is frequently in or around the zone. When he misses, he tends to miss up with his fastball and down and out of the zone with his secondary pitches. His command is what he needs to work on the most. Fortunately, logic would dictate that as he gets more experience pitching, as well as help from professional coaching staffs, he will be given all the tools necessary to develop the command to take that next step as a pitcher.
Johnson really is one of the most intriguing players in this draft class. He displays the arm talent and raw stuff to develop into a potential front-line starter. He also has a pretty safe floor as a reliever, where his plus velocity would play up and he can focus on being just a two-pitch pitcher. He is more of a project than most college arms, but if he’s able to reach his full potential, he can end up being the steal of this draft.
Projection: Mid-rotation starter with flashes of ace potential and a floor of an effective reliever.
Ceiling: Ben Sheets
Floor: Luke Jackson
Draft Expectation: Rounds 1-2
Matt Canterino, RHP
Rice University (JR, 2019)
R/R 6-03, 222 lbs
Date of Birth: 12/14/1997
Fastball- 50 (55) Slider- 55 (60) Curveball- 50 (55) Changeup- 40 (50) Control- 50 (55)
Written by Dominic Asta
Matt Canterino has been in the Rice rotation since the beginning of his freshman year. He has proven to be very durable, throwing over 90 innings and improving his ERA each season. He has dominated opponents while pitching in Conference USA, and looked even better pitching against great competition in the Cape Cod League this past summer. He features a four-pitch mix and solid control. With a thin crop of college arms in the draft, Canterino stands out for his solid, raw stuff and big, durable frame. He has the chance to sneak into the first round, but will certainly be gone by the end of the second round.
Canterino has a thick, durable frame with a strong lower half. He uses a funky, repeatable delivery with a high three-quarters arm slot. His delivery has an interesting hitch before he delivers to the plate. As he brings his stride leg up, he jerks his hands and leg away from his body before he separates his hands, pauses and strides towards the plate. With these mechanics, Canterino has a long arm circle and good explosion off the mound. He repeats his unique mechanics well, keeping balance over the rubber and his upper body in sync with his lower body, while also adding some deception. Teams may try to tinker with his mechanics by increasing his arm speed or having a more direct path to home plate in order to increase his velocity.
Canterino operates with a low-90s fastball with the ability to bump the velocity to the mid 90s at times. He has a big, mid-70s 12-to-6 knuckle curve with which he will often start at-bats. He struggles with snapping it off consistently and will leave the pitch up in the zone. When he commands it well, it has serious depth and break, making it a great asset. The development of his mid-80s slider this season has given him another great weapon for the future. The pitch has very tight spin and looks like a true cutter at times. He can show more lateral movement on the pitch, and can also throw it in the upper 80s. Canterino effectively uses his slider on the inside part of the plate to lefties, and has more consistent command with it than he does his curveball. He has a seldom-used changeup that he will flash a handful of times a game to keep the hitters from sitting on his fastball. The pitch is below average at this point, and he does not show a good feel for it. The development of this pitch will be key in determining how high of a ceiling he will have.
After walking 49 batters in 96 innings his freshman year, Canterino has greatly reduced his walk numbers the past two seasons, walking only 23 batters in 99.1 innings this season. He has better command of his fastball and slider at this point, and while his delivery may never allow him to have plus plus control, he should be able to develop above-average control of all of his pitches.
Canterino has shown the ability to be a workhorse-type starter while also dominating in college. He has held opponents’ batting averages to below .200 every season at Rice, accumulating 348 strikeouts in 289.1 innings in the process. He has pitched very well against stiff competition in the Cape Cod League, generating a 2.59 ERA with 29 strikeouts in 24.1 innings for the Falmouth Commodores. His funky, high-effort, delivery and an underdeveloped changeup could be red flags for some teams, but Canterino has proven his delivery works and his pure stuff is good enough to get hitters out at any level.
Projection: Mid-rotation arm with promising breaking stuff and a floor of an effective long reliever.
Ceiling: Matt Cain
Floor: Joba Chamberlain
Draft Expectation: Rounds 1-2
Isaiah Campbell, RHP
University of Arkansas (RS JR, 2019)
R/R 6-04, 225 lbs
Date of Birth: 08/15/1997
Fastball- 60 (65) Cutter- 55 (60) Curveball- 50 (55) Splitter- 50 (55) Control- 55 (60)
Written by Dominic Asta
Isaiah Campbell has shown flashes of dominance in his time at the University of Arkansas. He has also dealt with elbow injuries that forced him to redshirt his sophomore season after only 0.2 innings. He had an up-and-down 2018 that ended in 75 strikeouts over 69.2 innings. He had an impressive start against Florida in the College World Series last year that showed his top-of-the-rotation potential. He was drafted in the 24th round in the 2018 draft, but decided to come back for his redshirt junior year. Campbell has produced a 2.37 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 95 innings this season. His superb 2019 season and his durability has helped solidify him as a top-three round draft pick.
Campbell is a big-bodied, athletic, 6-foot-4, 225-lb righty that has strengthened his body from last season. He has a smooth delivery with some lean back in his motion, a big leg kick, and a high ¾ arm slot. Campbell repeats his delivery well and gets good downhill extension. He has a long arm circle and a direct path to home plate. Campbell could increase his velocity by throwing with a stiffer front side at the next level.
Isaiah features an exciting four-pitch mix that includes a low-to-mid-90s fastball that maintains velocity deep into his starts. Campbell should be capable of adding a couple of ticks to his fastball velocity, which he has thrown up to 98 mph, by adding strength to his large frame.Campbell can throw his fastball into the mid 90s and will command it low in the zone and challenge hitters up in the zone with it. He also has a curveball in the high 70s and a cutter/slider in the mid 80s.His cutter has become a great weapon to lefties and has tight spin on it. His curveball has 11-to-5 movement with big break and he will drop it for strike one to start at-bats. He has added a splitter to his repertoire this season and it flashes the potential to be an above average pitch in the future. The pitch is thrown mostly to lefties and shows some late diving action to it. Campbell has the stuff and frame to be a power pitcher at the next level with an above average fastball and cutter as well as a big curveball and developing splitter. He will mix his pitches well and control the strike zone when he is dealing. He has shown improved command in 2019 with a 1.71 BB9 and only three home runs allowed.
Campbell has shown flashes of his potential against some of the best competition in the country. He has alleviated concerns about his health and durability in 2019 with a healthy season. It will be hard to pass on Campbell in June if he continues to dominate the SEC with his impressive four-pitch mix and his ability to throw them all for strikes. Isaiah Campbell has the upside of a No. 3 starter at the major league level and a floor of an effective late-inning reliever.
Projection: No. 3 starter with flashes of dominance with a late-inning reliever floor.
Ceiling: Josh Beckett
Floor: Tommy Hunter
Draft Expectation: Round 2
Ryne Nelson, RHP
University of Oregon (JR, 2019)
R/R 6-03, 184 lbs
Date of Birth: 02/01/1998
Fastball- 65 (70) Cutter- 55 (60) Curveball- 45 (50) Changeup- 40 (45) Control- 40 (50)
Written by Harris Yudin
Ryne Nelson has largely worked out of the bullpen during his time at Oregon, totaling just five starts over three seasons– four of them coming in 2019. He also played shortstop for the Ducks, but struggled mightily at the plate, and has since given that up to focus on pitching full-time. As a junior, he managed just a 4.29 ERA with 104 strikeouts and 41 walks across 65 innings, pitching mostly out of the ‘pen but often handling multiple frames in an outing.
Nelson has a large frame and a long, athletic build, throwing from a three-quarters arm slot. While there is some room for physical maturity, there probably isn’t much left in the tank in terms of velocity, which he mainly generates from his exceptional arm speed and loose, whip-like arm action. His delivery is clean and repeatable, and he uses his length to get great extension toward the plate. The ball explodes out of his hand, making it hard to pick up from such a short distance.
Headlined by one of the best fastballs in the draft class, Nelson’s repertoire also features two breaking balls and a changeup. His fastball sits 95-97 mph and can hit triple digits, and he has shown the ability to maintain velocity beyond his first couple of innings. He likes to attack up in the zone with his four-seam, which has a ton of late life, and bury a less common power sinker in the dirt. His best secondary offering is a hard, sharp cutter that has proven to be a legitimate out pitch. It has late break away from right-handed hitters and can jam lefties up and in. He throws a big curveball with 12-6 movement and a ton of depth. While it is not currently much of a swing-and-miss pitch, it does play pretty well off his high fastballs, allowing him to change a hitter’s eye level. Additionally, he’s broken out an occasional changeup that is passable against college hitters terrified of the fastball, but has little fade to it and will require a lot of work in order to become even an average major league pitch.
Concerns surrounding Nelson begin with his below-average command and control. He misses a ton of bats with both his fastball and his cutter, but sometimes struggles to hit his spots and can get hit hard as a result. He has yet to display the ability to consistently pound the zone, and while this is something he can improve upon in pro ball, he is unlikely to ever be much of a strike-thrower. Nelson is unafraid to attack all hitters, exhibiting a strong competitive streak and pitching with emotion.
Control issues and lack of a refined third (or fourth) pitch likely point to a future in a big league bullpen, but developing into a starter hasn’t been ruled out as a possibility. In order to get there, Nelson will need to transform from a thrower into a pitcher with the help of a professional player development staff. Amidst an underwhelming junior campaign, first-round aspirations have turned into what could possibly be a wait until Day 2, but Nelson still possesses the raw tools and upside to be an impact pitcher at the next level. Regardless of whether a team is willing to give him a shot as a starter or decides to use him strictly in the bullpen, he would certainly benefit from some kind of established, consistent role.
Projection: High-upside arm with two plus pitches and serious control issues.
Ceiling: Mike Foltynewicz
Floor: Brad Lidge
Draft Expectation: Rounds 2-3
Other right-handed pitchers to keep an eye on:
Kyle Brnovich, Elon University
Evan McKendry, University of Miami
Garrett Stallings, University of Tennessee
Levi Stoudt, Lehigh University