November 1, 2012
Scouting the Draft
High School Left-Handed Pitchers
Part four of our first draft series takes a look at five left-handed high school arms who made a name for themselves this past summer. The goal of the series is not to cover every name worth knowing for next June, but rather to serve as an introduction to the draft class for those who have not yet begun following the action, and to pool in one place a rundown of some of the top performances over the past three to four months once we start parsing the class in more detail.
Trey Ball | OF/LHP | New Castle HS (New Castle, IN)
The Basics: 6-foot-6, 180 pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 18y 11m; University of Texas commit
Brings to the table: Athleticism on the mound with a projectable frame and arsenal. Ball ended the summer at 88-91 mph on his fastball and already shows some feel for an upper-70s 1-to-7 curve and an 80-81 mph change that he turns over well. He will occasionally show a fringy slider that is still in its infancy. The Indiana two-way talent makes use of his long limbs with a solid stride and good extension, helping his current fringe-average velocity to play up. He repeats his delivery well and his athleticism should aid him in tweaking his mechanics as he progresses. Throwing out of a three-quarter slot, Ball does a good job of creating tough angles, especially for hitters out of the left-handed box.
Made a name for himself when: He clocked consistent August outings over 90 mph with his fastball at the Area Code Games and the Under Armour All-America game. While not yet knockout pitches, each of his curve and change were solid weapons, and he utilized them often enough to give evaluators a feel for their promise.
Figures to get attention: Early and often this spring. Ball is a legit early- to mid-1st round talent both ways, with a fair amount of physical projection remaining. That means area scouts could be looking at a big jump in his game over the next nine months, be it on the mound or as a position player.
Ian Clarkin | LHP | James Madison HS (San Diego, CA)
The Basics: 6-foot-3, 190 pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 18y 4m; University of San Diego commit
Brings to the table: The makings of a solid three- to four-pitch mix from the left side. Clarkin currently sits in the low-90s with his fastball and has worked to try and create some downhill plane to help offset the straight-ish trajectory of the pitch. His curve hovers between a true 1-to-7 and a more sweepy 2-to-8 breaker, and can be a swing-and-miss pitch when he is able to bury it. Clarkin will also mix in an upper-70s slider and a changeup in the 79-81 mph range. He often fails to finish, causing his fastball to drive up in the zone.
Made a name for himself when: He capped off the summer with solid showings at the Area Code Games and the PG All-American Classic, topping out at 93 mph at each event. Clarkin was consistently strong throughout the summer while seeing a bump in his velocity from 87-89 (topping 91 mph) at the Perfect Game National Showcase in June to his multiple 93 mph registers in August.
Figures to get attention: Along with fellow San Diego-based lefty Stephen Gonsalves (discussed below). As a lefty already sitting on the happy side of 90 and with some projection remaining in both body and stuff, Clarkin has an excellent shot to come off the board at some point on Day 1 of the draft. His ability to spot his pitches and more consistently hit his release point (particularly with his curve) this spring could determine whether his name is called towards the beginning or the end of Day 1.
Stephen Gonsalves | LHP | Cathedral Catholic HS (San Diego, CA)
The Basics: 6-foot-5, 200 pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 18y 11m; University of San Diego commit
Brings to the table: Lots of projection and the potential for an above-average fastball-curveball combo. Gonsalves has long limbs and fairly long, sweeping arm action that can cause him problems with consistency in his secondaries. At its best, his curve is a solid average pitch right now with good depth. As he works to more regularly execute his release and standardize his arm speed, it could grow into a true plus offering. Like many young and big-bodied arms, Gonsalves needs to make sure he has all of his moving parts working in harmony. While he generally scores well in control, he can often struggle to command his fastball to the quadrants.
Made a name for himself when: He mixed an above-average 1-to-7 curve with a series of well placed fastballs during USA Baseball’s Prospect Classic. This was a beneficial outing for Gonsalves’ draft stock, as some evaluators were a bit down on the lack of progress in the lefty’s stuff between last fall and June. Gonsalves remedied that by showing a crisper breaker and more aggressiveness on the inner-half – both previously areas of perceived weakness.
Figures to get attention: Along with fellow San Diego-based lefty Ian Clarkin (discussed above). Gonsalves lacks Clarkin’s “now” stuff, but makes up for it with a slightly more projectable frame and a more consistent breaking ball. As is the case with Clarkin, Gonsalves sees much of his stock tied to an expected climb in velocity, and scouts will be checking in on him often this upcoming spring to monitor his progress.
Robert Kaminsky | LHP | St. Joseph Regional HS (Montvale, NJ)
The Basics: 5-foot-11, 191 pounds; both/left profile; draft day age 18y 9m; University of North Carolina commit
Brings to the table: A power arm in a slightly undersized frame. Kaminsky showed some of the best pure stuff throughout the summer, highlighted by a fastball that routinely sat in the 88-91 mph range (touching 93) and a power curve with 2-to-8 shape that he wields as a freeze offering and a chase pitch with equal effect. He also shows very good deception with an upper-70s change that will be a weapon against righties at the next level. Kaminsky has a strong mound presence and shows a high degree of comfort with his offerings. His high-three-quarter slot helps to create some downhill plane on his fastball, which will be important since the pitch can often come out straight.
Made a name for himself when: He followed-up a very strong performance at the Perfect Game National Showcase at the Metrodome by flashing above-average to plus with all three of his offerings at the USA Baseball Prospect Classic. Kaminsky’s curve was at its best and he dropped it to both sides of the plate with aplomb. He continued to display an aggressive demeanor on the mound that he wears well.
Figures to get attention: In the top forty or so picks come June, provided no health or performance-related setbacks. Kaminsky doesn’t have much projection remaining in his frame, but already boasts a solid build. His feel and mound presence are both significant positive factors for evaluators in assessing his value. He could be a difficult sign away from Chapel Hill, particularly if he slips to Day 2. He could benefit from the development of a true two-seamer down the line.
A.J. Puk | LHP | Washington HS (Cedar Rapids, IA)
The Basics: 6-foot-5, 205 pounds; left/left profile; draft day age 18y 1m; University of Florida commit
Brings to the table: The type of projectable body scouts dream on, solid present stuff, and the bloodlines to make an evaluator confident that it will all come together down the road. Puk’s fastball was generally 87-90 mph earlier in the summer but regularly registered in the 89-92 range in August. His curve is a mid-70s sweeper with good shape that he brings out of the same arm slot as his fastball. Puk also throws a straight change that is a little too firm right now and will need some developmental attention at the next level.
Made a name for himself when: He regularly popped 90-92 mph at the Area Code Games while showing consistent snap and shape with his breaker. Puk made short work of opposing hitters, as his low-90s fastball played closer to mid-90s due to his long stride and extension.
Figures to get attention: Throughout the spring, but in particular through April and May as evaluators check-in on the Florida commit’s present stuff. Puk has going for him a projectable frame, athleticism (marked in part by two parents who were collegiate athletes), and the beginnings of growth in the quality of his arsenal this summer. As a big body, it may take some time for Puk to fully realize his potential, including how to best utilize the massive leverage he can generate with his long levers. If he makes it to Gainesville, he could be an early favorite to develop into the top overall pick in 2016 when he is once again eligible.
Summer Scouting Series:
Nick J. Faleris is a practicing structured finance attorney and Sports Industry team member in the Milwaukee office of Foley & Lardner LLP. The views he expresses in Baseball Prospectus are his own, and not necessarily those of the law firm.