Joe Rizzo, SS/3B, Oakton (VA) High School
Rizzo enters the spring as the top prep bat in the state of Virginia following a summer on the showcase circuit. The South Carolina commit and Perfect Game All-American’s calling card is a polished offensive game for a non-hotbed high-school bat, though questions linger about his future defensive home and remaining projection.
Rizzo’s frame is fairly mature. Listed at 5-foot-11, 215 pounds, there’s not much room for additional physical development. Rizzo holds his listing in a “hitterish” manner, with compact features and short arms that will make it easier for his swing to stay inside the ball. His lower half is thick—though he’s currently the shortstop on his high school team, he’ll immediately move off the position at a more competitive level. His swing gets the most out of his strength, utilizing a wide, slightly open hitting base with a crouch at the knees from the left-hand side. He closes off his front side with a fairly tall leg kick trigger, with minimal movement in his hand-load before the pitch.
Over the summer, his hit tool was ahead of the raw power. Encouragingly, Rizzo’s raw power and ability to clear his hips to turn on an inside pitch has improved since then. It was a pleasant surprise to see Rizzo consistently sending towering drives deep to his pull side in batting practice—diminishing concerns about having enough raw power when he moves to a corner position. His potential to develop a strong hit tool is evident, as Rizzo showed a short path to the ball and impressive hitting IQ. He adeptly works counts and isn’t overeager to swing early in the at-bat, while demonstrating good plate coverage and an ability to stay on outside pitches, using the opposite field with authority.
While there is offensive upside and polish, scouts question the defensive profile—with first base lingering in the back of everyone’s mind. His range will be limited at any position on the left side of the infield, and his arm is closer to average than above. That said, I’ve seen him consistently finish plays—he’s not quick-twitch nor is he rangy, but he’s a sound defender who makes the plays he does get to competently. He’ll always need to work to maintain his body and defense throughout his career, but he can at least start at third base at the next level, and take it from there. His frame could make catching an option, though as a bat-first player, there’s an argument to be made that a move behind the plate could cause deterioration in the best aspect of his game.
Rizzo’s blend of both hit and power tools were intriguing, with a ceiling of 50 grades on both, perhaps tick better on the hit. However, solid-average offensive ceilings can scare clubs off when they’re attached to this type of body and defensive profile. How amenable he is to slot money in a certain round could be the determining factor between him signing this Draft or going to South Carolina.
Zac Gallen, RHP, University of North Carolina
Gallen is no stranger to the scouting community, pitching on the Cape this past summer and anchoring the starting rotation of a highly competitive UNC club. He’s a proven competitor who pounds the zone—a higher-floor pitcher who has the ability to move quickly through the low minors. That said, questions remain about Gallen’s ceiling, and if his stuff and frame profile as a reliable big league starter.
Gallen is a lean 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, with long, trim extremities. He uses his levers effectively to create deception through the delivery, though his frame has a narrow appearance that leaves one wondering about his durability as a pro starter—especially considering how quickly his velocity declines through an outing. He throws out of a semi-windup with a fairly tall leg-lift, taking a short and closed stride to the plate that gives his ball natural downhill angle from a slightly crossed-off finish. Adding even more deception is a very high and closed front arm which causes hitters to pick up his high three-quarters slot a tick late. He repeats his delivery well, demonstrating consistent ability to finish his motion with extension and balance in order to fill the zone with all his pitches.
He started the outing working at 91-93—a range of velocity that would make him more attractive to clubs if he was consistently able to maintain it. He worked 87-93 throughout the outing, though by the third inning he settled in to a consistent 88-91. While his velocity declines through his starts, Gallen’s fastball movement and command do not. His short stride allows quality downhill plane, and he consistently pounded the bottom quadrants of the zone with above-average sinking and running life. While his slider won’t be a pitch that misses bats at 80-83 with 50-grade tilt, he’s able to pitch effectively with his breaking ball by landing it for consistent strikes. Over the summer, Gallen did well to mix his sinker and slider with a low-80s change—though he’s seemingly coming off the changeup in his junior season. He doesn’t have a pitch that profiles to get swings and misses, and he’ll have to keep hitters off balance through wrinkles and sequencing as a result. For one of these wrinkles, Gallen mixed in a small handful of fringy low-70s curveballs with soft rolling action on top of his slider.
While the command and fastball life that Gallen showed throughout the outing was a positive, there’s no doubt the margin for error against highest-level hitters will be slim. He competes well and gets the most out of his stuff, but I left this outing feeling that a legitimate no. 4 starter would be a bit of a reach. Realistically, he’s more of a no. 5 starter or long-man, with strike-throwing middle-reliever as an interesting fallback. Gallen’s track record as an ACC Friday starter with movement and control of numerous pitches give him a high floor, and he should be a second day selection in this year’s draft.
Todd Lott, COF/1B, Trinity Christian (FL) Academy
I saw Lott at the National High School Invitational. He’s a teammate of interesting two-way draft-prospect J.C. Flowers, and will get some looks from area scouts as a result. The Louisiana-Lafayette commit is a physical beast, carrying his 6-foot-4, 220 pound-frame like a middle linebacker. He hits from a deep right-handed crouch and takes a large step towards the ball before the swing, though his aggressive load minimizes his game power by lengthening his hand path and getting him out on his front foot. Even so, Lott’s ability to whistle the barrel through the zone from a monster frame generates loud contact to the pull side at best, even if the power is more of a crude variety right now. Lott lined up in right field for his team throughout the tournament, showing a 50-grade arm that should give him the chance to start in an outfield corner if his body can stay mobile enough to avoid the “first-base only” label. There’s enough size, physicality, and a chance to grow into more usable power here that a team might take a flyer during the third day of the draft—though he’s the type of player that usually goes through Rookie Ball twice. If Lott heads to school, he’ll be a name to follow in three years as teams reevaluate how much he’s turned size and raw tools into baseball skills.
Josh Stephen, OF, Mater Dei (CA) High School
Stephen probably increased his draft stock more than any individual prep hitter at the NHSI. He raked for Mater Dei and started the tournament 7-for-8 with numerous extra-base hits. A well-built 6-footer listed at 185 pounds, he has a very quiet left-handed swing that generally stayed short to the ball and could hit to both fields. Though he occasionally lengthened his hand path and lunged at off-speed pitches, Stephen’s polished hit tool was on display—as well as more power than his size and level swing-plane suggest is there. An average straight-line runner currently in centerfield, his ceiling might be that of a tweener fourth outfielder at the big league level, but the Southern California commit certainly left scouts buzzing after a breakout performance in Cary.
Brandon Gold, RHP, Georgia Tech University
Gold came to Georgia Tech as a two-way player, but has since emerged as the Yellow Jackets’ Friday starter in his junior season. He competed and posted a quality outing against a good UNC club while I was in the Durham area for the NHSI. He’s an adept strike-thrower with three pitches, though it’s a fringy mix of stuff that is more befitting of an upper-minors organizational starter than a righty with the ceiling of a sustained big-league contributor. Gold’s 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame is narrow and bony; he looks over-listed at 200 pounds. While he didn’t lose much velocity throughout the outing, durability could be a potential issue. His fastball was in the 88-90 range, touching a handful of 91s, with arm-side movement. Gold’s primary secondary offering was a 82-84 changeup that had an average look, occasionally playing very well off his fastball with good arm speed and sell in the front of his delivery. His slider was a 40 or 45-grade pitch in the low 80s, with long, gliding, lateral tilt as opposed to sharp two-plane action.
Colby Woodmansee, SS/IF, Arizona State University
I saw Woodmansee and the Sun Devils on my trip to the Cactus League this March. He’s a trim, lanky 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, and despite his taller height for a middle infielder, he has the lean body proportions and actions to potentially handle shortstop at the pro level. His frame looks like DJ LeMahieu, another extra-tall and lanky infielder who has been able to stick up the middle. Woodmansee showed fairly loose and fluid actions with the glove, with good hands working through the ball defensively. With long levers and a sunken look across an upper-body that lacks strength, Woodmansee doesn’t have standout big-league hitting tools. He hits from a wide base with high hands and a cocked back elbow. His swing path is geared for line drives, though his bat speed can be fringy even now with a metal bat and I walked away with questions about how the swing translates to wood. He’s a gap-to-gap hitter who sprays both fields with below-average raw power. He’ll need to get stronger if he wants to develop enough offense to fit a big league regular profile. Though it was a short look, Woodmansee appeared to be a player with the ceiling of a utility infielder, though one who likely won’t have the offense to be a good bet to start.
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