The 2016 draft was pitcher-heavy at the top, with six of the first nine players off the board coming from the mound (and seven of the first 12). It was an especially rich class of high school arms, and the intrigue was thick among the 2016 arms, from a teenager who hit 102 mph on the radar gun to prep lefties with big-league-ready mechanics and top-10 picks who are on the road to recovery from major surgery. Yesterday, we broke down the first three arms taken in the draft, so let’s jump to the remaining pitchers selected in the top half of the first round and break down some of the arms to which MLB franchises are pinning their hopes and dreams.
Note: All of the clips in this article are from the draft videos at MLB.com. In a few cases, the pitcher’s draft video only contained pictures, so these players will not have any GIFs included with the breakdown.
No. 7, Miami Marlins – Braxton Garrett, LHP, HS (AL), 6’3” 190 lb
He might lack the height advantage of fellow top-end southpaws A.J. Puk and Jason Groome, but Garrett brings a projectable frame to the mound. Garrett was coached by his father in high school, an aspect that can be both a blessing and a curse, in that he likely has advanced knowledge of his craft but could be resistant to change. The last aspect is a bit more glaring, considering that Garrett has a non-ideal mechanical profile that the Marlins may want to adjust during his development.
Garrett has a very well-balanced delivery, particularly from first movement through first strike. His X-plane balance is particularly strong, with very little displacement of the head side-to-side during his lift and stride. His Y-plane is also an asset, with very little drop to his center of gravity after max leg lift. The only knock to his stability is potentially in the X-plane, as Garrett invokes heavy flexion of the spine into release point, and in some of the footage that I have seen the left-hander has finished out in front. He finishes with relatively strong posture and minimal spine-tilt left to right, but the extra flexion leaves him vulnerable to some inconsistencies during the later phases of his motion.
The power is somewhat lacking, however, an element which is rarely seen near the top of a draft in the modern age of radar gun obsession. He doesn't make much progress toward the plate during the early phases of his motion, lifting his leg straight up while staying centered over the rubber before kicking his momentum into gear toward the target once he hits max leg lift. The sequence is not ideally efficient and may need to be addressed in order to iron out his timing before he reaches the majors, though his left-handedness buys Garrett some leeway when transitioning from windup to stretch. He also offers modest hip-shoulder separation due to late hip rotation, culminating in a somewhat open stride. The southpaw stands out due to his breaking ball, a pitch that has outstanding depth, but the out-of-hand trajectory differs from his fastball and he will need to maintain exceptional spin on the pitch in order to fool advanced hitters.
No. 8, San Diego Padres – Cal Quantrill, RHP, Stanford, 6’3” 185 lb
The son of former major leaguer Paul Quantrill, Cal earned a top-10 selection in the 2016 draft despite barely having pitched on the last two years as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery. Teams have not been shy about draft TJS pitchers in the first round over the last few years, but until we see big-league success from the likes of Jeff Hoffman and Lucas Giolito, the strategy will be unproven despite the overall tendency for clubs to take these damaged arms higher and higher in draft. It’s a bit odd that a pitcher’s draft stock can seemingly be influenced heavily by a good or bad run leading up to draft day, yet one who sits on the shelf is often viewed positively despite the reality that many pitchers never fully regain their pre-surgery form. At the very least, it creates an additional wrinkle in the pitcher’s development path, especially with teams being especially cautious with workloads on the way up the ladder. Suffice to say, I'm a skeptic, particularly when so many incredible arms remain on the board.
Due to Quantrill’s limited mound-time over the past couple years, the scouting footage at MLB.com consists of just still-shots of his former delivery, hence the lack of video clips in his breakdown. He pitched just three games for Stanford last season and has yet to pitch in 2016, leaving us to imagine how well he has transitioned post-surgery. I assume that the Padres did their homework, and Quantrill was in the discussion for the top pick in the draft before he was hurt, but the same can be said for a handful of players whose draft stock has fluctuated greatly over the last 15 months.
I refuse to grade out his delivery until we see Quantrill at full speed in game action with his new UCL, but prior to getting hurt Quantrill was a pitcher with B- stability (bordering on a C+) and B+ power in his delivery. He had some rock-roll with a back-side collapse, and his high angle of shoulder abduction combined with a decent degree of spine-tilt to give him a high arm slot yet compromised his command. His stuff was good enough to invoke empty swings against college hitters even when he missed his spots, and the high slot was certainly appealing to some scouts, but I see a pitcher that bears a little too much resemblance to former Stanford arm Mark Appel—and that was before Quantrill went under the knife.
No. 9, Detroit Tigers – Matt Manning, RHP, HS (CA), 6’6” 185 lb
Yet another pitcher whose listed height would fit in with an NBA forward, Manning fits right in with this class of pitcher—in fact, his dad is former NBA player Rich Manning. Matt had a late start to his high school baseball season because he was playing for the school basketball team, but he has shown enough skills on the diamond to warrant the top-10 selection by the Tigers.
The right-handed Manning starts on the first-base side of the rubber but strides quite closed, and the result is well-aligned with his target as the front foot finishes on the imaginary centerline from rubber to home plate. He remains stable in all three planes, and though nothing stands out as exceptional, the lack of weaknesses in his balanced delivery serves as one of his greatest strengths as he has the baselines to repeat a powerful motion. His vertical balance has a bit of up-down during his stride and there is a little bit of side-side wobble, but overall Manning brings plus stability to the table, finishing with strong posture that helps to add extension to what is already a deep release point.
The right-hander already brings mid-to-high-90s heat, and the projectable frame offers the potential for more. Manning starts slow with his momentum from the windup, but he directs his energy forward toward the target directly from first movement. He has a little hop to his delivery that adds a dose of momentum, giving him an overall charge to the plate that is both powerful and efficient. Manning offers a very strong transfer of energy, as he uses the lower-half effectively to build momentum before he explodes with torque after foot strike, thanks to a solid delay to his trigger of trunk rotation. He also incorporates a load with the upper-half to give him a recipe for excellent hip-shoulder separation, with an overall power profile that is bordering on an A- grade.
No. 12, Boston Red Sox – Jason Groome, LHP, HS (NJ), 6’6” 220 lb
Groome has the best delivery in the first round of the draft, bar none, so to see him slip this far represents a potential bargain for the Red Sox. Groome is advanced beyond his years, with the power to back up his mid-90s fastball and the stability to encourage outstanding pitch command. He has the frame to fit prototype and the high-velocity repertoire that scouts covet, especially in a southpaw. He's also young, not turning 18 until late August of this year. If there's a caveat to his stuff, it’s that his curveball comes out of the hand on a higher plane than his fastball, which could be a hindrance to his productivity as he climbs to the higher levels of pro ball.
His delivery is very simple, yet efficient, and the eye-pleasing motion starts with excellent balance. His balance in the Y-plane is nearly perfect, with minimal up-down movement of the head during his motion despite staying tall throughout the delivery. Many pitchers are tall into max leg lift before dropping their center of gravity during the stride phase of the motion, and those who are stable in the Y-plane typically start low with additional flex in the knees, but Groome starts tall and remains tall throughout the motion, and he does so without the stiffness and lack of athleticism that often accompanies pitchers who stay tall. He maintains athleticism with enough knee-bend to keep his head height consistent with the slope of the mound. His balance in the X-plane is nearly as strong, with a very slight hunch into max leg lift being the only strike against him, but that’s nitpicking, especially for a high school pitcher. He finishes with incredible posture, especially considering that we’re talking about a 6’6” kid who is still growing into his considerable frame.
Groome has the power that one would expect from a pitcher with a mid-90s fastball, and though his momentum is relatively modest, he gets his energy going towards the plate from the start of his motion and has found a timing pattern that he is able to repeat. I might like to see more speed down the slope in a vacuum, but the most important aspect of momentum is to have a repeatable timing pattern, which Groome appears to have mastered at a young age. The greatest asset in Groome’s power profile is his torque, with a combination of big upper-body load and delayed trunk rotation that produces incredible hip-shoulder separation. His velo will play at the highest level right now, but the power indicators combined with his age and build create the very real possibility that he could add velocity over time.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now