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Updated: Aug 23rd, 2010
Grading the Top Pitching Prospects at the Aflac Game
By: Blaine Clemmens |

San Diego - The term "tools" is not generally applied to pitchers but I suppose you could classify a pitcher as a 5-tool pitcher if he has 1) Fastball Velocity 2) Fastball Command 3) Breaking Ball 4) Change-up 5) Pitchability

Fastball velocity is akin to raw power and fastball command is as important as being able to hit for average.  The breaking ball is like arm strength (nice to have but only usable if other parts of the game are there), while the change-up is like fielding (without it the rest of the game has to be GREAT).  The last one, pitchability, is like being able to run, which is icing on the cake and can make a player a complete player.  Something like that. 

Truthfully, I actually think pitchability and being able to hit for average are more closely related but the effectiveness of a pitcher basically starts with his ability to pitch with the fastball and the effectiveness of a position player pretty much starts with his ability to hit.  The other things that are evaluated for a pitcher and EVALUATED under a microscope are arm action and delivery but those are part of the mechanics of pitching.

In any case, here are how I evaluated the Aflac pitchers, relative to those five pitching tools:

BEST FASTBALL

Now, one thing I didn't say yet is that fastball velocity is GREAT to have, but velocity is not the only thing that makes a good fastball.  There is movement, life, command, etc. that ALL play into the effectiveness of a fastball.  The easiest spot to start with is the radar gun so in that respect the top pitchers were RHP Archie Bradley (6'4" 225, Broken Arrow HS, OK), RHP Dillon Maples (6'3" 197, Pinecrest HS, NC), and RHP Dylan Davis (6'0" 200, Redmond HS, WA), all of whom touched up to 96 mph. 

Four other pitchers were up to 95 mph and it stands to reason that any of them might have reached a 96 mph on a different scout's radar gun.  Those four were RHP Michael Kelly (6'5" 195, West Boca Raton HS, FL), RHP Jose Fernandez (6'4" 220, Alonso HS, FL), LHP Daniel Norris (6'2" 170, Science Hill HS, TN), and RHP Robert Stephenson (6'2" 180, Alhambra HS, CA). 

For me, the top fastball belonged to Bradley, not only for his velocity (he basically sat 94-95 for his two innings), but because he was spotting it to both sides of the plate and it simple looked like a big league fastball.

Honorable Mention: RHP Dillon Maples (FL), RHP Dylan Davis (WA), LHP Jake Cave - Kecoughtan HS (VA), RHP John Magliozzi - Dexter School (MA)

BEST FASTBALL COMMAND

I have already said how well Archie Bradley (OK) was spotting his fastball and John Magliozzi (MA) was also really hitting his spots.  LHP Henry Owens (6'7" 200, Edison HS, CA) really couldn't have been much better than he was and his performance started with good fastball command. 

However, based on how he buzzed through the West hitters in the bottom of the 9th inning, LHP Jake Cave (VA) is the pick for me in this category.  Cave missed on two pitches that I recall very vividly because he absolutely nailed his spots only to have the ump not give him the call.  He could not have missed by more than half an inch and he showed that command on both sides of the plate.  Even more impressive was that he was so razor sharp in a save situation, in the Aflac All-American Classic.

Honorable Mention: RHP Archie Bradley (OK), RHP John Magliozzi (MA), LHP Henry Owens (CA)

BEST BREAKING BALL

This could be broken into two categories, the curveballs and the sliders, but I am going to keep it just to the best breaking ball.  A game like the Aflac All-American Classic is really all about the fastball for the pitchers because that is where scouts start for the upper rounds of the draft.  However, there were a few pitchers with some nasty breaking stuff and that elevates them to another level of prospect status, if they also have the fastball. 

To have the "best" breaking ball, I was looking for not only action of the pitch (how hard it bites) but also feel of the pitch.  It is one thing to be able to throw a nasty breaking slider or hard curveball, but to be able to throw it for strikes and to also be able to use it for strikeouts, that is another thing.  There is also a difference in throwing a breaking ball for strikes and being able to get late action in the strike zone.  If a pitcher can get late action in the zone, that is a swing and miss type breaking ball or the kind that a hitter can only take. 

I think RHP Dillon Maples (FL) has a chance to have the best breaking ball (a power curveball) but he was not commanding it.  RHP Jose Fernandez (FL) also has a chance to develop a power slider and the huge roundhouse curveball of LHP Henry Owens (CA) was also impressive. 

LHP Daniel Norris (TN) has a hard true slider while RHP Ricky Jacquez (5'9" 160, Franklin HS, TX) has a hard biting overhand curveball that is going to be a plus pitch.  LHP Philip Pfeifer (6'0" 187, Farragut HS, TN) showed a wicked slider that is death on left-handed hitters and makes me think he has a great future as a specialist out of the pen someday.  For that matter, RHP John Magliozzi (MA) also have an above average curveball and feel of it too.  However, for me, the best breaking ball was the slider (80-82 mph) of RHP Archie Bradley (OK).  Bradley used the slider early in the count for strikes and late in the count to put away hitters. 

Honorable Mention: RHP Dillon Maples (FL), LHP Philip Pfeifer (TN), LHP Henry Owens (CA), RHP Ricky Jacquez (TX)

BEST CHANGE-UP

This pitch is one that not too many high school pitchers master before pro ball or major college baseball.  To see a kid with a plus change-up that also has the type of velocity to be named an Aflac All-American, well, that is even rarer.  The reason we don't see too many young hard throwers with good change-ups is simple; they don't need one to beat high school hitters. 

There were three to four pitchers with good change-ups in this game but the top one belonged to LHP Jake Cave (VA).  I felt like I was watching White Sox LHP John Danks when he is on his game, which if you have not seen him, is a 92-93 mph heat and a filthy change-up thrown with plus arm speed.  Same thing with Cave.  He was spotting his fastball then seemingly pulling the string with his change-up which is a swing and miss type of change. 

Honorable Mention: RHP Tyler Beede - Lawrence Academy (MA), LHP Daniel Norris (TN), RHP John Magliozzi (MA), LHP Henry Owens (CA)

BEST PITCHABILITY

This category is really the separator between those that CAN pitch and those that CANNOT pitch.  Now, we are talking about young pitchers and a few of these kids will gain more pitchability as they get older and develop.  However, to a large degree I feel that if a pitcher, at the age of 16 or 17 or 18 is showing feel of the ball and pitchability now, he is only going to get better.  You can generally see pitchability at a really early age and it is not at all dependent on velocity.  In some respects, you will find more pitchability guys among pitchers with below average fastballs, in terms of velocity.

As much as I liked RHP Archie Bradley (OK), LHP Henry Owens (CA), Jake Cave (VA), and I enjoyed watching them an awful lot, the pitcher with the best pitchability, in my opinion, was RHP John Magliozzi (MA).  He simply showed me feel of three quality pitches and the ability to mix them all. 

Owens is a close second in this category and long term, I think he and Bradley will emerge as the top two pitchers from this year's Aflac game (I see Bradley has a potential #1 SP and Owens as a STRONG #2), but for now, I would go with Magliozzi.  His delivery is completely repeatable, he has a good backside arm action, keeps the ball down, and can go to any of his pitches at any time.

Honorable Mention: LHP Henry Owens (CA), RHP Archie Bradley (OK), LHP Jake Cave (VA)

About Blaine Clemmens
There are few people with the knowledge of baseball on the west coast like Blaine Clemmens has. Blaine has worked as an area scout for the Atlanta Braves in California, was the recruiting coordinator for the University of San Francisco, and was a scout/writer for Team One Baseball and Perfect Game. Blaine serves as the National Scouting Director on the west coast and helps cross-check east coast players.
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