SIS Blog

2019 Top College Baseball Draft Prospects: Left-Handed Pitching (Part 1)

Over the next month 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.

Previous coverage:
Catchers
Corner Infield (Part 1)
Corner Infield (Part 2) 
Middle Infield (Part 1)
Middle Infield (Part 2)
Outfield (Part 1)
Outfield (Part 2)

With 31 position players already covered in previous posts, this next installment focuses on the top tier of left-handed pitchers. There are only eight lefties in our top 50, but they have all done enough at the college level to warrant being drafted in the first four or five rounds.

This group is headlined by two likely top-15 picks, with two other guys who should come off the board early on Day 2. Nick Lodolo has the most upside of any college pitcher in this class, but he still has a lot of development left ahead of him. Zack Thompson, John Doxakis and Ethan Small are more floor over ceiling, but are all coming off of a 2019 season in which they dominated SEC competition.


Nick Lodolo, LHP
Texas Christian University (JR, 2019)
L/L 6-06, 185 lbs
Date of Birth: 02/05/1998

Fastball- 55 (65) Slider- 55 (65) Changeup- 45 (55) Command- 50 (55)

Written by Harris Yudin

Analysis
Despite being drafted 41st overall by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2016, Nick Lodolo decided to put off professional baseball in favor of a career at TCU. He flashed moments of brilliance over his first two years in college, but allowed his ERA to inflate over 4.00 both seasons. He has enjoyed a breakout junior campaign, however, and even with a couple of rough outings in Big 12 play, he still managed a 2.18 ERA across 91 innings over the regular season, compiling 113 strikeouts with just 19 walks in the process. His 5.95 strikeout-to-walk ratio led all Big 12 pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched.

Operating out of a low three-quarters arm slot, Lodolo has a unique but smooth delivery that he repeats surprisingly well– he has made significant strides in this area over the last three years. He has an athletic build and a lean, wiry frame — a combination that oozes projectability — and he uses his length to get good extension and deception, the latter more so against lefties.

Lodolo’s repertoire is headlined by a low-to-mid-90s fastball with late life. He has touched 96 on occasion, and given his frame, he is expected to pack on at least 20 pounds over the next few years, which should allow him to add a couple of ticks. His best secondary pitch is a wipeout breaking ball that he manipulates and can tailor to the current situation and batter, getting both called strikes and chases against both lefties and righties. He throws it with a cutter grip but calls it a slider, and the fact that he can change its shape and use it in different ways suggests a possibility of turning it into two separate pitches at the next level. He also works in a rare changeup, mostly to righties in an effort to keep them off-balance, and while it is largely a work in progress, he has flashed the potential to develop it into at least an average offering.

Lodolo’s control is mostly good, but it can get away from him at times, particularly with the fastball. He commands each of his pitches pretty well, but the command will need to catch up to his stuff if he wants to maximize his overall arsenal. He has a habit of taking too long to settle in, often struggling in the first inning, but even when he doesn’t have his best stuff or is let down by a subpar TCU defense, he has demonstrated the ability to keep his composure and stay level-headed.

Outlook
Lodolo is widely considered the top arm in the 2019 draft class — albeit a relatively weak class, pitching-wise — and while he has the raw tools to back it up, he has a long way to go to reach his full potential. If he can turn that changeup into an above-average major league pitch and command all of his pitches more consistently, the talented lefty could one day find himself atop a big-league rotation. On the other hand, failure to make these improvements would likely lead to a future in the bullpen, where he has the fastball-slider combination to be an electric late-inning option.

Projection: Potential front-line starter with two plus pitches and inconsistent command.

Ceiling: Madison Bumgarner
Floor: Andrew Miller
Draft Expectation: Top-10 Pick

Zack Thompson, LHP
University of Kentucky (JR, 2019)
L/L 6-03, 225 lbs
Date of Birth: 10/28/1997

Fastball- 55 (60) Slider- 55 (60) Curveball- 50 (55) Changeup- 50 (55) Control- 45 (55)

Written by Kyle Price

Analysis
Thompson is a three-year starter for Kentucky, coming out of the bullpen his freshman year in addition to being a mid-week starter. Injuries have been a concern for the Wildcats’ lefthander since coming out of high school, when he failed a post-draft physical for a shoulder issue after being drafted in the 11th round by the Rays. He also missed two months of his sophomore season due to an elbow injury that didn’t require surgery. He overcame any injury concerns in 2019, tossing 90 innings across 14 regular season starts and displaying the ability to consistently go deep into games– he’s thrown at least six innings in 12 of those starts, including two complete games. In addition to the increased workload, Thompson has been pretty dominant as a junior, striking out 130 batters with a 2.40 ERA and a .184 batting average against.

Thompson has a medium, athletic build with a strong lower half that generates good drive towards the plate. He has a high three quarters release point and finishes bent over his lead leg, typically following through facing third base. His delivery is very smooth and repeatable, which is why he is able to go deep into games while maintaining velocity and movement, and should translate well into a lengthier season at the pro level.

Thompson features a solid, four-pitch mix with a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup. His fastball and slider work very well off each other, with his fastball topping out at 96 mph but sitting 91-93 with good run. His slider is another plus pitch that can be cutterish at times in the low-to-mid 80s, and could ultimately develop into two different pitches. His curveball, like his slider, has a very good spin rate, is very loopy but doesn’t play as well off his fastball. He mostly uses his changeup to keep hitters off-balance, and he has the potential to develop it into a fourth above-average pitch.

Besides injuries, control is Thompson’s biggest concern, as walks have been an issue throughout his career at Kentucky. While he was able to get a lot of hitters to chase and create swings and misses in college, hitters at the next level should be able to lay off some of those pitches, draw more walks and increase his pitch count.

Outlook
Thompson might be the most polished left-handed pitcher in this draft, and could have the highest floor. However, his frame and build have little room for growth, which could limit his ability to add velocity and break to his pitches. He seems to have put the injuries behind him, and his biggest concern is his control, but that should improve as he makes his way to the majors. At worst, he should be a back-end starter, but he has the makings to be a very solid number two.

Projection: Future mid-rotation starter with four potential above-average pitches.

Ceiling: Jon Lester
Floor: Tyler Anderson
Draft Expectation: Top-15 Pick

John Doxakis, LHP
Texas A&M University (JR, 2019)
L/L 6-04, 215 lbs
Date of Birth: 08/20/1998

Fastball- 50 (55) Slider- 50 (55) Changeup- 45 (55) Control- 55 (60)

Written by Dominic Asta

Analysis
John Doxakis has excelled in his role as the Aggies’ Friday night starter this season. He has posted a 2.01 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 89.2 innings as a junior, besting his sophomore year numbers of a 2.70 ERA and 92 strikeouts. Doxakis has shot up draft boards this season by dominating in SEC play and increasing his strikeout numbers. With the potential for three above-average pitches and good control, he should hear his name called in the first couple of rounds in the upcoming draft.

Doxakis has a large frame with a strong lower half and room to add weight. He has a repeatable delivery and a low three-quarters arm slot. He works quickly through his windup with a high leg kick and a drop-and-drive delivery towards the plate. He keeps good balance over the rubber and is consistent with his stride and plant foot. He starts in the middle of the rubber and strides directly towards home plate, creating good extension.

Doxakis works his fastball in the upper 80s and low 90s with great arm-side sink. He may only have average fastball velocity, but the pitch plays up because of the movement and his unique arm slot and extension. He has the frame and strength to project an increase in velocity on his fastball, which flashed mid-90s as a reliever his freshman year. His slider is his strikeout pitch, and has great depth and late action. He throws the pitch mostly in the low 80s, but can manipulate the velocity and shape. He has the ability to throw the slider for strikes and also back-foot the pitch to righties for strikeouts. His changeup is a work in progress that flashes above-average potential with good fade, thrown with the same arm speed as his fastball. He does not throw it very often, but it has good velocity separation from his fastball, sitting mostly 81-84.

Doxakis controls all three pitches well and pounds the strike zone consistently. He decreased his BB/9 from 2.8 last season to 2.2 this year, and limited opponents to only four home runs in almost 90 innings of work. He works quickly and has great tempo on the mound.  There are some concerns with his delivery and low arm slot, leading some to project him as a future bullpen arm. He has proven to be very durable in college, through, with a repeatable delivery and above-average control. He should be able to remain a starter at the professional level

Outlook
Doxakis is young for his draft class. He will be only 20 years old when the draft occurs in June. He does not have the raw stuff to be a front-line starter, but he has a high floor, and the frame and pitchability to be a reliable starter. He pitches with tenacity and toughness on the mound and is a great competitor. If he can add a few ticks to his fastball, he has the potential to be a solid mid-rotation guy at the next level. If he is moved to the bullpen in pro ball, he has shown increased velocity in shorter outings in the past.

Projection: Back-end rotation arm with flashes of dominance and a floor of an effective reliever.

Ceiling: Alex Wood
Floor: Tony Watson
Draft Expectation: Rounds 2-3

Ethan Small, LHP
Mississippi State University (RS JR, 2019)
L/L 6-03, 214 lbs
Date of Birth: 02/14/1997

Fastball- 50 (55) Curveball- 45 (55) Changeup- 40 (45) Control- 55 (60)

Written by John Todd

Analysis
Ethan Small is a two-year starter for Mississippi State, having made 15 relief appearances in his 2016 freshman campaign and missing all of the 2017 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery the previous summer. He bounced back in 2018 to make an SEC-high 18 starts as the Bulldogs’ number two, leading the team in strikeouts and ERA, and was taken by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 26th round of the MLB Draft that summer. Small returned to school, however, and has since raised his level of play again, just two years removed from surgery. So far this season, the left-hander is second in the country in K/9 and WHIP, at 15.2 and 0.78, respectively, through 13 starts.

Small has a medium, slightly wiry frame with decent athleticism, some muscle in his lower half, and upper body strength growth potential. He has a full-circle delivery, showing the ball well behind his body before getting to his overhand. He has a cross-body finish well toward third, ending with his back to the plate. He pitches hunched over and lacks some lower body extension to the plate. Despite a bit of lankiness and a long-limbed finish, he has repeatable arm actions and clears out his elbow and body well, limiting elbow stress. Small will vary his windup in advantageous counts occasionally, keeping hitters off-balance by mixing in a full-stop in his leg kick. He has shown, on numerous occasions, a high level of competitiveness, self-confidence and visible passion when challenged by opponents.

He relies heavily on a high-80s-to-low-90s fastball, mixing in a curve and changeup with decent separation. Despite the low overall velocity, Small gets good carry on his fastball and induces a high number of swings and misses. He pounds the zone and shows impressive command to both sides of the plate. The curveball doesn’t always bite consistently, but he controls it well, and it has shown flashes of being a two-plane, hammer-breaking pitch. He doesn’t have a great feel for throwing his changeup for strikes, but he keeps it down and changes eye levels.

Small is a rhythm pitcher who attacks batters and doesn’t waste pitches. He runs on adrenaline and pumps his velo up on out pitches. He’ll need to improve on his ability to getting hitters to chase out of the zone with his offspeed offerings moving forward.

Outlook
Small has made serious improvements in his two years as a starter, suggesting he’s just beginning to scratch the surface of his potential, but his ceiling may be capped by a lack of plus tools. He has two future average offerings with plus control and makeup. Small will win at the next level with his ability to consistently throw strikes from the left side and pitch with command and an attack-minded approach. He should continue to develop as a starter as he works on his offspeed pitches, and projects as a back-end guy with a ceiling of a No. 3. At the very least, though, he could be a high-end left-handed arm out of the bullpen, where he can maximize his velocity in shorter outings and prioritize his two pitches that consistently miss bats.

Projection: Reliable, back-end starter with above-average command and some upside.

Ceiling: Barry Zito
Floor: Brett Cecil
Draft Expectation: Rounds 3-4


Other left-handed pitchers to keep an eye on:
TJ Sikkema, University of Missouri
Brandon Williamson, Texas Christian University
Ben Brecht, UC Santa Barbara
Jake Agnos, East Carolina University

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