Nick Lodolo, LHP, Damien High School (La Verne, CA)
When you read that a prep arm has a “projectable frame” there’s approximately a 98.4 percent chance you’re talking about Lodolo. The TCU commit stands 6-foot-6, 180 pounds at present, with long limbs and proportions that suggest the ability to eventually wear another 20-30 pounds comfortably and without compromising his physicality. His movements have their share of youthful awkwardness, but there’s enough grace and fluidity to expect him to mature into a well above-average athlete.
His mechanics are raw, though it’s already an extremely easy delivery with little violence and average arm speed. His front leg will drift during the drive right now, and he doesn’t generate consistent momentum or hip rotation as he pushes off. There’s a lot of length in the motion that leads to a late arrival to his three-quarters slot and subsequently, he struggles with arm-side command. And while his posture is consistent through the takeaway, he also showed significant spine tilt through his release that further complicates his ability to repeat; he delivered just seven first-pitch strikes to the 18 hitters he faced on this night. Corralling his length into a more repeatable delivery will be a significant hurdle for him in developing his command, but that’s not exactly an uncommon thing to say about a young, long lefty. He worked 1.6 to 1.75 out of the stretch, and his cadence was very easy for high school base runners to time off his set.
He showed a strong two-pitch foundation for his arsenal in this start. His fastball already sits 88-90 mph, topping at 91, with outstanding plane and some sink. When he’s on time, he can really drive it down and attack the lower portion of the zone, and there was enough life on the pitch to miss a few bats in the upper quadrants as well. He shows a natural feel to spin the baseball, with a curveball at 71-74 that will move on two planes. The good ones feature sharp, late vertical break and 1-7 shape, and he generated ample ground ball contact with the offering. He slows down just a bit with the pitch right now, taking his arm-swing deeper and gathering an extra tick of momentum, but it’s not an issue that should affect him long term. He did not show a changeup in his four innings.
There’s a lot to dream on with Lodolo. The command profile will take longer than most to round into form (if it ever does), but it’s not at all difficult to squint and see an innings-eating mid-rotation starter.
Andrew Calica, OF, UC Santa Barbara
Having viewed Calica across a couple seasons, he’s shown similarly in each look. He stands a listed 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, though it’s a more compact body type than the listing may suggest. His quickness is the first attribute that sticks out, as everything he does is done with short, rapid bursts of energy. His hands are virtually stationary off his back shoulder at set, and that’s pretty much right where they stay throughout his load phase. That creates an incredibly short, direct path to the ball, though one that limits his ability to create leverage. It’s a linear bat path that can generate some mild leverage when he turns on a ball, but the hips stay closed frequently, and it’s an arms-heavy swing that doesn’t fully utilize his lower half. Excellent hand-eye coordination produces a high-contact stroke geared towards hard line-drive contact, and he shows an advanced command of the zone that helps his hit tool play up into potential plus range down the line. In addition to coaxing walks, Calica will also aggressively seek out hit-by-pitches on balls off the inside corner, and it’s a discernable enough skill to project it out as a legitimate component of his on-base profile.
Calica pairs the strong hit tool with plus straight-line speed and takes instinctual routes in center field. He breaks decisively in the outfield and has several times shown himself particularly adept at reading contact in front of him and breaking in on balls. There’s above-average arm strength too, with throws that hold their lines and carry well. It’s a sum-of-its-parts package, with strong on-base ability, some ability to affect the game on the bases, and quality defensive potential that can play with versatility at all three outfield spots. When you add all of it up, that’s an excellent fourth outfielder baseline, and there’s room for more if they approach translates and he can find some additional pop.
Garrett Hampson, SS, Long Beach State
Hampson boasts some physicality not altogether unlike that of Calica; he presents as a spark plug of a player, with quickness and athleticism up the middle. He stands a fairly maxed 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, though you wouldn’t know it from the swing. The setup is vertical and balanced, with an open front side and violent bat waggle above his back shoulder. He hitches his hands into an abrupt wrist cock that can make for an inconsistent launch point, with a mild bat wrap and high back elbow. The lower half features an aggressive leg kick, though he lands steeply on his front side, and there’s less transfer of weight all the way through the hitting zone. The swing is quick and whippy, though his path is steep and leverage non-existent. He’ll be hard-pressed to drive the ball with authority barring some mechanical adjustments, though the barrel control and demonstrated bat-to-ball ability suggests an average hit tool at present with some room to grow.
Speed is Hampson’s best tool. The raw foot speed grades out to at least plus and plays up thanks to efficient breaks out of the box and notably instinctual reads and jumps on the bases. Three clocks on him ranged from sub-4.0 to 4.1, and in each case he seemed to leave the box as quickly as the ball. The startup is impressive, and he has potential to impact the game with his speed. In the field he shows quick feet and some lateral agility. Soft hands, a fluid transfer, strong body control, and instincts (there’s that word again) all help him to compensate for an arm that is borderline at best for the left side. His range showed adequately, but at the professional level this is likely a player who profiles better at second base.
Shane Bieber, RHP, UC Santa Barbara
Bieber’s lanky frame features long, flexible limbs and just enough width in his shoulders to suggest room to add some needed muscle. His delivery is accordingly athletic and compact, starting from a three-quarters set and moving quickly through a moderate leg kick and shoulder tuck that has him showing his numbers to the hitter. He drops on his back leg and drives into a massive stride that brings his center of gravity down while helping him generate huge extension out in front of the rubber. Over-striding was a big problem early on in this start, leading to a loss of plane that, coupled with an arm that gets flat through his hip rotation, can leave him long & late to his high three-quarter release. He calmed down through the middle innings, executing pitches with much better consistency and precision to the bottom of the zone.
Bieber works off a sinking fastball that sat 89-90, though the perceived velocity plays up on account of the aforementioned stride and extension. The ball appears late and jumps on hitters, and once he settled in he showed an advanced ability to command the pitch down and to both corner. It’s a heavy pitch with late run that’s tough to barrel when it sits down at the bottom of the zone. He paired it with a slider in the low 80s that he manipulated with both a longer, sweeping version into the zone early in counts and a snappier version with late vertical action. He front-doored the pitch on several occasions and showed a similarly advanced command profile with the pitch. It’s not a bat-misser, but there’s enough action that it can generate weak contact and further aid his groundball tendencies. He sporadically mixed in a change in the 83-85 band as well, though he showed limited feel or consistency with it.
Bieber worked with an incredibly fast tempo all night, and at times he pushed it to a fault, losing rhythm and timing for several stretches of the outing. Everything about his mound presence is quick and fidgety. He was routinely 1.3 to 1.4 to home out of the stretch, with quick feet on his pick-off attempts.
There’s the raw material for a starter, but the profile (slender frame, fringe velocity, command) gives him a narrower path. He looked more in the range of a swingman or middle relief asset who can impact a bullpen by generating on-demand groundball contact and avoiding free passes, but that’s more than enough of a projection to get him drafted in June.
Chris Mathewson, RHP, Long Beach State (Class of 2017)
A sophomore, Mathewson already worked his way into the Friday night slot for the Dirtbags after dropping a cool 1.94 ERA in 13 starts last year. The frame is physically maxed out at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, with a thick middle, broad shoulders, and a strong base. He takes a deep rock to generate early momentum into a moderate leg kick, with a late hand break into a very clean arm action. The arm gets up early in his drive, well ahead of his foot strike, and that creates some slingshot effect as he whips it through his three-quarters slot. There’s also some violence that comes with his extended gather, as he really explodes into his drive. The command wavers accordingly, and he doesn’t end up leveraging his height particularly well to create plane for his pitches. I’m not generally a fan of comps, but between the frame and mechanics there’s some Freddy Garcia in him.
Stuff-wise Mathewson works off a fastball with above-average run and some sink at 88-90, topping at 92. Timing issues with the drive cropped up early and often in this start, as he struggled to command the pitch consistently out of the gate, missing just enough in all directions. Greater consistency came as the outing progressed, and there are ingredients for an average or better pitch here. The secondaries were a struggle throughout this outing, as he fought to break off his slider and get on top of his change all night. The former sits in the high 70s with a looser, rolling shape at the lower end of his band (76-77) and a tighter shape when he gets more snap on it. He can create timing issues for the hitter with this pitch out of his arm slot and delivery, and he generated several chases while ahead. The change at 81-84 lacked a ton of feel, flattening out in the zone too often, though he did generate solid tumble on a handful that left the zone.
Dempsey Grover, C, UC Santa Barbara
A draft-eligible redshirt sophomore, Grover is a solid receiver with a firm glove that snatches and holds effectively around the zone, and he showed solid fundamentals in his blocking technique. The arm has above-average velocity, though it played down in this look on account of sloppy, too-fast footwork. He logged a 2.06 on a live chance and ranged from 1.97 to 2.11 in three between-inning clocks. I saw no red flags to suggest he can’t stay behind the dish.
Grover hits from an extremely wide base with a minimal leg lift and fluid weight transfer. He’ll get to his front side early and collapse out the back, and the swing lacks leverage to drive the ball despite natural strength on his frame. He impressed down the line, busting it to a 4.06 time from the right side. I’d need to see more before I got too excited, but there’s a nice backup catcher tool kit here.
Chris Rivera, RHP, Long Beach State (Class of 2018)
The Dirtbags’ freshman closer currently leads the NCAA in saves despite underwhelming raw stuff and a motion with some effort and inconsistency. His fastball worked 86-88 with some boring action and deception on account of a closed front shoulder and some cross-fire action. He lives on a combination of groundball and weak fly ball contact at present. His slider is a rolling support pitch in the low 80s that works best to steal strikes, but doesn’t offer enough late bite to miss bats on the regular. Some violence in his drive and a mild head whack, coupled with a tendency to rush with his lower half, left his command vulnerable and inconsistent, but he showed an ability to control the ball in the lower quadrants and stay off barrels in this look.
Colton Eastman, RHP, Cal State Fullerton (Class of 2018) – Eastman spat on a 20th-round selection by the Twins last summer to fulfill his commitment to Fullerton, though given the profile it wouldn’t shock me at all if Minnesota made another run at him in two years. The frame has some projection remaining at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, and he’s athletic on and around the bump. The delivery is supremely repeatable, with good cadence and rhythm into an early hand break, and a free-and-easy arm action to his high three-quarters slot. His posture is consistent and he controls his body through a clean drive.
His fastball currently sits 87-89, topping out at 90. It’s relatively straight, though he’ll generate some subtle arm-side run early in counts. He commands it with precision to all four quadrants, showing an advanced ability to sequence it in and out. He showed feel and an ability to manipulate a changeup that ranged from 78-82, though he fell in love with the pitch and elevated too many over the course of the start. It tunnels well off the fastball plane, though, and it makes for a solid compliment. His curve at 72-75 showed an inconsistent shape, though there was enough depth to suggest room for development.
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