Dustin Driver | RHP | Wenatchee HS (Wenatchee, WA)
The Basics: 6-foot-2, 210-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 8m; University of California – Los Angeles commit
Brings to the table: A sturdy build and easy, low maintenance mechanics. Driver spent most of the summer dealing a heavy low-90s fastball which he spotted to both sides of the plate. He shows comfort with a curve that can show 11-to-5 or 12-to-6 action depending on his release. His high three-quarters release gives him a good slot from which he could spin either a curve or a slider, though he currently only features the former.
Made a name for himself when: He spiked multiple 94 mph readings at the Area Code Games in August, after sitting primarily 90-92 throughout the summer. His ACG outing also saw Driver showcase both secondaries—his 77-78 mph curve and 82-83 mph change-up—as potential average or better offerings down the line.
Figures to get attention: In the first sixty picks or so next June, provided everything runs smoothly in the spring. In order to improve his stock, Driver will have to show more consistency throughout the duration of his starts, and with his breaking ball in particular. The top arm in the northwest is listed on Marucci Elite’s roster down in Jupiter and should draw a huge contingent of evaluators hoping for an impressive multi-inning look should he toe the rubber.
Connor Jones | RHP | Great Bridge HS (Chesapeake, VA)
The Basics: 6-foot-3, 190-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 8m; University of Virginia commit
Brings to the table: Command of a solid fastball/changeup combo and a hybrid breaking ball slowly progressing towards a true plus offering. Moving forward, Jones has the arm slot, arm speed and feel to take his breaking ball in either direction: a sharp 10-to-4 curve or a true slider with late bite. Like clockwork, his fastball sits 88-91 mph, routinely bumping 92/93. His offspeed of choice is a low-80s changeup that comes with deception and some late drop. A UVA commit, he already boasts the signature “crouched” Wahoo delivery mechanics.
Made a name for himself when: He cruised through two innings to close out the Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field. Jones mixed all three of his offerings well, grading average across the board, and had one of his most successful outings of the summer from a command/control perspective. With some projection remaining in his frame, an easy arm and a deceptive motion that he can repeat, Jones was easily one of the top two showings on the bump and further solidified his standing as one of the top right-handed arms to watch next spring.
Figures to get attention: As high as the top two rounds, with signability and the profile of his arsenal come May the two largest determinative variables. Jones was one of the summer’s most consistent performers and most Mid-Atlantic evaluators should be comfortable at this point with Jones as a player. In perhaps his last big stage performance before the spring, Jones tossed a three-hit shutout for the Evoshield Canes yesterday afternoon at Perfect Game’s WWBA World Championship in Jupiter.
Brett Morales | RHP | King HS (Tampa, FL)
The Basics: 6-foot-2, 190-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 6m; University of Florida commit
Brings to the table: The potential for three average or better offerings, highlighted by a low-80s changeup that he turns over well. Morales has a classic “phone booth” delivery (meaning he stays compact enough for his step-in and leg kick to fit comfortably within the confines of a phone booth) with a high release that helps him to work downhill. He tends to slow his arm down on his curve, but even in its adolescent stage it comes with solid spin and shape. As he learns to throw it harder, it should come with a little more bite.
Made a name for himself when: He tossed two innings at the Under Armour All-America game while showing some of the best pure stuff at the event. Though potential top ten overall picks Clint Frazier (OF, Loganville HS [GA]) and Austin Meadows (OF, Grayson HS [GA]) ultimately got the better of Morales, the quality of his stuff, as well as his ability to effectively wield it, was readily apparent. The Florida commit showed poise with runners on, maintaining his timing and pacing while staying quick to plate (generally 1.23-1.32 seconds).
Figures to get attention: In the first three rounds of next June’s draft. Morales is one of the top arms in the southeast and showed enough this summer to force the Carolina area scouts to check in on him regularly between March and May. If he is able to simply maintain his stuff he profiles well as an early Day 2 selection. If he sees any bump in his stuff, he could push for attention as high as the late- to supplemental-1st round.
Chris Oakley | RHP | St. Augustine Prep (Richland, NJ)
The Basics: 6-foot-7, 225-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 9m; University of North Carolina commit
Brings to the table: A big body with emerging arm strength to match. Oakley currently sits 88-92 mph with his fastball, bumping as high as 95 with the 4-seamer. His breaker is a mid-70s curve still in its early stages of development, and he’ll flash an upper-70s changeup, as well. Oakley has an easy arm but will need to clean up his landing some and more generally work to keep his upper- and lower-halves working together more consistently.
Made a name for himself when: He topped out at 95 mph at East Coast Pro, putting an exclamation point on a summer that saw his velocity steadily rise from event to event. While throwing for the Phillies squad, Oakley dropped in the occasional slurvy mid-70s curve, serving primarily as a change-of-pace pitch. While repeating mechanics can be a herculean task for big-bodied preps such as Oakley, he exuded comfort and confidence on the mound, keeping his body in sync and consistently hitting his release point. He would again climb to 94 mph a little over a week later at the Perfect Game All-American Classic.
Figures to get attention: Late in the spring cycle. New Jersey’s high school season can be hit-and-miss when it comes to scheduling and weather, so high level evaluators will likely be forced to make late trips to Richland to catch Oakley. The focus will be on his mechanics and ability to maintain his stuff after turning over a lineup. There’s little left in the way of physical projection so Oakley’s long term value will be tied to his ability to fine tune his mechanics and more consistently execute on his secondaries.
Jordan Sheffield | RHP | Tullahoma HS (Tullahoma, TN)
The Basics: 6-foot-1, 180-pounds; right/right profile; draft day age 18y 0m; Vanderbilt University commit
Brings to the table: A power fastball that routinely clocks in the low-90s and can climb as high as 94 mph. Sheffield’s best secondary is a hard low- to mid-80s slider with good tilt and depth (he will also occasionally tighten it into a mid- to upper-80s cutter with similar trajectory). Sheffield’s curve serves as his best change-of-pace pitch, with a velocity delta of about 10-13 mph off his fastball. It is a third legit weapon with utility as a chase pitch he can bury or a freeze offering he can drop in the zone. His changeup is unrefined, but he has little use for it at this point, considering the quality of his other three offerings.
Made a name for himself when: He toed the rubber at the Perfect Game National Showcase and showed four quality offerings, including two potential plus pitches in his fastball and slider. Though he lacks the prototypical size of a power arm, he is able to create some plane out of a high release, and there is certainly no mistaking the force he generates through his quick arm. He has a short arm circle on the back side, which adds some deception as he transitions to his release.
Figures to get attention: Somewhere in the top hundred picks, provided he is open to signing. Historically, Vanderbilt has been one of the more successful college programs around when it comes to holding on to their commits, so it will be interesting to monitor Sheffield’s standing as we progress closer to the draft and word of bonus demands begin to make their way to organizations. Sheffield could profile either as a four-pitch starter or a power relief arm, depending on which team ultimately pulls the trigger on him come June.
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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.
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So much can change with these kids in such a short time, and many of them are still growing while at the same time trying to harness consistent mechanics. Most of the players lack the functional strength to repeat the delivery (or even maintain balance), but then you have guys like Sheffield that look like they are all brute-strength right now.
Quick question: Was Driver consistently exaggerating the over-the-top arm slot on curveballs, or was it just a SSS fluke of the video?
Thanks for the awesome analysis.
Decker - I also saw the arm speed difference between the fastball and the curveball.
Jones - The crouched delivery appears difficult to repeat consistently. How big of an issue is this? Also, as he can't take the time to torque his body in the stretch, is he susceptible to a loss of velocity?
Morales - Will the slow pace of his delivery become harder to repeat later in outings as he tires? Also, it appeared that his finish was more exaggerated toward 1st base on breaking pitches. Is this an issue? Is it worth correcting?
Oakley - Lifting the back foot from the windup would appear to affect the consistency of his delivery. How big of an issue is this?
Re: Morales - I believe the difference you are spotting in finish on breaking balls is likely a perceived characteristic created by limited sample size of video, but I'll keep my eye out the next time I see him throw. Morales is deliberate in his motion, but I have not seen it negatively affect his pacing; he hits his checkpoints so far as I've seen.
Re: Oakley - If you are referring to his step-in, leading to his leg lift, I would say it's a non-issue so long as his balance is adequate (which it generally has been). If a drafting org or Coach Fox and staff want to quiet some of the lower-body movement, however, it would be an easy fix.
Thanks for reading and for the thoughtful comments.