The top of the 2015 first-year player draft was a bit light on arms, especially when compared to some of the pitching-rich player pools of recent drafts. Despite this adjusted outlook of expectations, the approach to the mechanics report cards will be the same as for last year's draft: grades will be limited to power and stability (rather than the five-subject report card that is often used on Raising Aces), with the usual caveats that my exposure to each pitcher falls under a wide umbrella of sample size—some of these guys I have seen multiple times both live and on video, whereas there are others who I have not witnessed personally.
No. 4, Texas Rangers – Dillon Tate, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
Tate has a few outstanding quirks to his delivery that, while not a concern in a vacuum, create potential obstacles to his performance. He has a big leg kick, which in itself is often a positive trait of a pitcher's delivery, but Tate has a bit of wobble during the lift portion of his motion that indicates a lack of foundational stability (rooted in functional strength). He directs his stride at a closed angle, but just before foot strike Tate swings open the saloon door of his front leg to finish with a slightly-open stance when he hits foot strike. Again, the open stride does not have to be a negative, but it carries a couple of risks that have both impacted Tate as an amateur.
First, he struggles to repeat the positioning of his lower half, an aspect that is characteristic of other saloon-door pitchers such as Ubaldo Jimenez and Dellin Betances (both of whom are more extreme). Second, the heavy hip-rotation that is paired with the strategy will often cause his upper half to trigger too early in the kinetic chain, as if there is a loose string connecting his front hip and front (non-throwing) shoulder. Tate has a big rock-n-roll approach to his delivery, leaning back toward second base as part of a vertical load, and his stability is further harmed by a significant drop as he hunches after max leg lift. The power grades are less impressive than his brute arm strength, as the right-hander leans heavily on his lightning bolt rather than utilize his athleticism to lighten the kinetic toll on the throwing arm.
No. 6, Minnesota Twins – Tyler Jay, LHP, University of Illinois
Jay has been a full-time reliever in college, with the small stature and big radar-gun readings to invoke the inevitable comparisons to Billy Wagner. He has a deeper repertoire than the typical power arm at the back of a bullpen, and there have been whispers that he might be converted into a starter. The SP potential would better explain how a modest-sized reliever can be taken with the sixth overall pick of the draft, because his conversion would need to be quick and seamless to otherwise justify both the financial investment of the draft slot and the opportunity cost of bypassing other starters.
Jay has an opposing stride strategy than that of Tate, opting for a closed direction that has him finish to the left of the centerline. The closed stride is not inefficient when taken separately (sound familiar?), but Jay's tendency to throw across his body and inability to reach full extension at release point suggest that the stride is at too closed of an angle for his particular signature. The tactic might help to raise his deception, but it will be an obstacle to pitch command until Jay finds a stride pattern that is more in line with his personal signature. The trait that he and Tate share is a lightning-quick arm that effectively covers for other deficiencies in mechanics, and Jay's physical underpinnings offer a poor support system. Jay utilizes late hip rotation and a large upper-body load to create huge torque, but he frequently delays his trigger too long to facilitate a late arm and missed targets. The stability flashes plus and should improve as he matures, giving him a strong baseline from which to draw, and I could see Jay take off if he finds a release point that is more in line with his signature. But he currently lacks consistency and will invoke considerable spine-tilt on some pitches.
Fulmer has a very fast delivery, shamelessly evoking some evaluators to voice “effort” concerns that are even more exaggerated due to his non-ideal size. Despite the negativity that will likely surround such an approach, Fulmer utilizes his athleticism extremely well and reaps the benefits of a deeper stride and extended release point. He is exceedingly quick through the lift and stride portions of the delivery, and the quick pace is likely to earn a “rush” label from scouts; the big question is whether the Sox try to slow him down or if they leave him to his own devices. Pitching coach Don Cooper adheres to a “stay back” philosophy with pitchers, so it's possible that Fulmer's burst will be quieted by the organization, but I have my fingers crossed that he will be allowed to maintain the power through his minor-league development.
The right-hander has some drop-n-drive in addition to some rock-n-roll to his delivery, elements that dent his balance grade in two of the three planes, but he maintains a stable head position in the all-important X-plane that runs from first through third base. He utilizes a strong delay of trunk rotation after foot strike, allowing his hip-heavy torque to blossom with potential energy. The momentum is strong, but not as quick as perhaps first perceived, with deceivingly rapid leg movements, though the center-of-mass travels toward the target on a less spectacular pace. Fulmer could be a rapid riser, but the organization's developmental agenda for their top pick will take precedence over theoretical readiness. The overall score for stability wavers between a B- to straight-B grade, and he has the upside to score even higher, but his relative consistency paves the way for a motion that is solid across the board.
No. 14 Atlanta Braves – Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente HS (California)
The first high-school arm off the board, Allard impressed on the showcase circuit and proved his mettle against other top prospects by earning the MVP of Perfect Game's All American Classic in San Diego several months ago. He deals with some of the inconsistencies that are typical of young fireballers, but his delivery has the mechanical baselines for quick development while the stuff is already impressive from the south side of the rubber.
The lefty has some post-lift drop to his center of gravity in addition to a hunch-over that gets him leaning over a bit the stride phase, but his overall stability is plus, including posture that flashes 60 or better, but will drop down to the 50 range at times. He generally maintains stability, but the spine-tilt can be inconsistent with a pronounced tendency to get on top of the curve, thanks to a manipulated arm angle courtesy of the extra spine-tilt. His momentum stays on a rather direct line to the plate, continuing forward after release point, but Allard has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to getting an early burst. He can upgrade his mechanical efficiency simply by finding a deeper release point on a more consistent basis, a goal which may need an adjustment to his patterns of lift and stride in order to be accomplished. Right now he has a tendency for a late arm when his delayed trigger is exaggerated, and his curveball follows a manipulated trajectory that big-league hitters might be able to identify out of hand, so I expect a slow-but-stable path of development.
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