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April 10, 2013

Scouting the Draft

The Red-River Rivalry

by Jason Cole

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The Heavy Follows

Jonathan Gray | RHP | Univ. of Oklahoma
6-foot-4/239 pounds | R/R profile | Draft day age: 21y 7m

Scouting video: https://vimeo.com/63452520

At this point, it’s an understatement to say that University of Oklahoma ace Jonathan Gray has some serious draft helium. Not regarded as a consensus first-round pick when the season began, Gray was generally known as an arm-strength righty who could flash big velocity out of his 6-foot-4 frame. But every aspect of Gray’s game has ticked up this year, including his fastball, secondary stuff, and control. With just under two months before the MLB Draft kicks off, the 21-year-old currently projects as a top-five overall pick and a legitimate candidate to go off the board first.

Gray flashed three quality pitches on Friday night against the University of Texas, working with a present 7 fastball, 6 slider, and 4+ changeup that should be 5+ with further refinement. He produced easy velocity, sitting comfortably between 93-97 mph and reaching 98 a handful of times. There shouldn’t be any questions about his strength; he still worked at 93-95 mph, even after surpassing the 100-pitch mark in the seventh inning.

While the Oklahoman is having little trouble finding the strike zone this season, there are some concerns regarding his already-large body and the stiff front side/landing leg in his delivery. He showed a tendency to fall over his front leg and off to the first-base side on occasion, causing his command to suffer. There was also an odd approach to pitching against the Longhorns hitters, as he relied heavily upon his slider and often pitched backward despite having 98 mph in the tank whenever he needed it. Of course, many––if not all––of those pitch calls were coming from the dugout, so it’s difficult to judge his sequencing.

Although the breaker-heavy approach made for a different scouting look, it quickly became apparent that Gray knows how to use and manipulate his late-breaking 82-87 mph slider. His command of the offering was spotty at times on Friday, but he located it to some impressive spots when necessary––backdoor to lefties, back-foot to lefties, across the plate to righties—and even threw some risky sliders that ran over the inner half to right-handers with two strikes. Despite the elite velocity, most of Gray’s eight strikeouts were a result of his ability to intelligently place the plus slider.

Gray’s 79-82 mph changeup is clearly his third-best pitch, but that’s not saying much considering the two major-league plus (to plus-plus) offerings already in his arsenal. He consistently showed the slightly fading change for strikes with a feel for deceptive arm action. Like many young pitchers, he does slow and drop his arm on occasion, but it should be at least an average third pitch down the line.

In terms of pure stuff and collegiate results, it’s difficult to match Gray’s résumé at the top of the draft. His impressive spring has put him in the mix with some of the nation’s best collegiate arms, including Stanford’s Mark Appel and Indiana State’s Sean Manaea. While the body and delivery come with some question marks, he absolutely has the mature stuff necessary to rise quickly through a minor-league system and pitch in a big-league rotation.

Corey Knebel | RHP | Univ. of Texas
6-foot-4/205 pounds | R/R profile | Draft day age: 21y 6m

A three-year collegiate closer, Knebel is carrying on the tradition of Longhorns stoppers with pro potential, following in the footsteps of Huston Street, J. Brent Cox, and Chance Ruffin. By the numbers, the righty has been every bit as successful as his predecessors. He’ll also flash legitimate late-inning stuff at times, though the general inconsistency of his stuff and command makes him hit-or-miss for scouts. On Saturday, Knebel showed a mixture of stuff and command that would play in the back end of any big-league bullpen. Just one day later, he was shelled for three runs before getting stuck with a blown save and a loss. The overall package may lead to a second-to-fourth round projection come June.

Scouting video: https://vimeo.com/60057527

Notes: Herky-jerky delivery with standard three-quarters arm slot; despite effort and energy in mechanics, repeats well enough and throws strikes; within-the-zone command has room to improve; spotted up perfectly with the fastball on Saturday, but was loose on Sunday; sat 94-97 mph on both days; four-seam fastball lacks life but can pitch on a steep downhill plane from 6’4” body; occasional two-seam fastball at 91-93 with slight arm-side run; breaking ball flashes plus; power 83 mph curve with late two-plane break and excellent depth on Saturday; inconsistent and slider-like a day later; shows late-inning potential at his best, but may end up as a fast-moving mid-relief or seventh-inning type if he can’t channel it more often.

Dillon Overton | LHP | Univ. of Oklahoma
6-foot-2/160 pounds | L/L profile | Draft day age: 21y 8m

Coming off a strong performance in the fall, Overton entered this season as the Sooners’ top arm. He has since been passed by Gray, who undoubtedly has the higher ceiling, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the southpaw has disappointed. Overton currently has a 2.35 ERA in nine appearances (eight starts) on the campaign, and he turned in a strong performance against the rival Longhorns on Saturday. The 21-year-old hurler tossed eight innings of one-run ball, yielding five hits, walking three, and fanning six. There’s a lot of baseball to be played before the early-June MLB Draft, but Overton has a chance to go in the second-to-fourth round range.

Scouting video: https://vimeo.com/63498147

Notes: Lean body, though he appears north of his listed 160-lb. weight; high leg kick; standard three-quarters arm slot; very good athlete; smooth delivery; repeated well; mature presence on mound; managed the game and appeared in control throughout; loose, quick arm; maintained fastball velocity at 89-91, T92 into the late innings; may be a slight tick more velocity in there; lived down in zone and worked the corners; can turn his 79-80 mph changeup over; advanced feel and a potential 5+ or 6 offering; maintained arm speed on the change well for a youngster; dropped arm slot on it occasionally; showed ability to manipulate break and speed on his curveball; slider-like and flat at times; true curve with solid depth at others; 75-80 mph; present below-average offering with average potential; pitchability lefty without a sexy ceiling, but he could move somewhat quickly with a back-end rotation profile.

Names to Watch

Adam Choplick | LHP | Univ. of Oklahoma
6-foot-8/261 pounds | L/L profile | 2014

Massive southpaw with broad shoulders; appears to be a good-enough athlete despite his size; some present issues with repeating and finishing delivery; fastball sat 88-91 mph, touching 92; worked up and above zone frequently; hides the ball pretty well; fastball can jump on hitters; 74 mph curveball was loose but had okay shape with slight two-plane action; rudimentary feel for 77-78 mph changeup; command very loose with all three pitches; raw in basically all aspects, but any young, 6-foot-8 lefty with arm strength is worth watching.

C.J. Hinojosa | SS | Univ. of Texas
5-foot-11/190 pounds | R/R profile | 2015

Scouting video: https://vimeo.com/63531178

Hinojosa was undoubtedly the top position prospect on display in this series. All-around talented player with excellent baseball instincts; good bat speed; mature pitch recognition and overall plate approach; has some pop for a smallish middle infielder; plus arm from shortstop; good actions; high-maintenance body; weight has already fluctuated multiple times during freshman season; range and average-at-best speed has been up and down as a result; potential to be a high pick in 2015, but must watch body to ensure that he sticks at shortstop.

Dillon Peters | LHP | Univ. of Texas
5-foot-11/200 pounds | L/L profile | 2014

Peters is a short lefty who earned a reputation as a ‘bulldog’ on the mound during his high school days in Indiana. Pitched to that report in this look, taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning; maintained velocity throughout; sat 89-91 and touched 92 in the sixth inning; cut some fastballs (likely unintentional) in the upper-80s; slight late life to heater; fastball-heavy approach, but flashed three usable pitches; curveball 76-79; changeup a bit firm at 84-85 with some fade; stuff has a chance to play up a notch with tough, strike-throwing mentality.

Erich Weiss | 2B/3B | Univ. of Texas
6-foot-2/200 pounds | L/R profile | Draft day age: 21y 9m

Scouting video: https://vimeo.com/63683033

It wasn’t a big weekend for position guys, as Weiss was the top 2013 hitter in the series. Mature feel for hitting; all-fields approach; has trouble going the other way with authority, however; lacks power despite excellent frame; generates top spin and fly balls tend not to carry; has pretty quick hands; intriguing hit tool, but lack of power and positional questions raise concerns about ultimate profile; iffy instincts and actions at third base, though he’s shown improvement; has also played some second base this season.

Jason Cole is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Mature,  Over-the-top Delivery

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