If you are thinking about college baseball and pitching development in the state of Florida, the first school on one’s mind would be the defending national champion Florida Gators. After all, the Gators have produced three first-round picks in the past two drafts and could possibly produce two more this year in Brady Singer and Jackson Kowar. Despite that quality of pitching, the school that has produced the best pitching talent from Florida or just about any school over the past decade resides a little more than 90 miles southeast of Gainesville.
A private school with a total enrollment slightly over 4,000 students, Stetson and their former coach Pete Dunn have produced two of the game’s best pitchers in two time AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and the Mets’ Jacob deGrom. While Coach Dunn is retired now, another arm that he recruited prior to leaving is waiting in the wings in 2018 with a chance to become the school’s highest drafted player ever in right-hander Logan Gilbert.
At 6-6 225 lbs, Gilbert shows off the frame of a top of the line starting pitcher with an arsenal that flashes along those same lines. For three seasons with Stetson and two summer league seasons, he has continually shown that the stuff is too much for college-aged hitters. To illustrate the point, over that time cumulatively between Stetson and two summer gigs, he’s thrown 265.2 innings with a 1.042 WHIP, 310 strikeouts, and a 2.24 ERA in his career. The way that he’s able to do this is with a fastball that works anywhere from 89 MPH in a two-seam version at it’s low and up to 97 MPH with the four-seamer, regularly sitting in the 92-95 range.
The righty has excellent extension showing an ability to drive the ball to the lower part of the zone while showing late life. Next to the fastball are a pair of breaking balls in his low 80s slider and a low to mid 70s curveball. The curve is the better of the two pitches with depth and two-plane break that shows off a 12-6 or 11-5 shape, earning swings and misses with the pitch. The slider trails behind the curve and could dwarf into more of a cutter in the pro ranks or fall behind to a fourth pitch. Despite long levers, Gilbert easily repeats his mechanics and that extension allows the fastball to player up with its movement.The changeup doesn’t get used as that would be a gift to college competition but it shows fade in the low to mid-80s. That pitch will need to take a step forward to become a front of the rotation potential with the plus fastball and curveball combo.
Combining his total package of size, put away curveball and current fastball along with its projection Gilbert has the possibility of becoming a front of the rotation starter (#2) with a backend floor. An absolute no-brainer for the team at the 18th selection should he be available to the Royals.
The Hot Commodity vs The Known Commodity
The hot name currently moving up draft boards is Jordyn Adams, a two-sport star with a football ride to UNC who blew up the NHSI with his 80 speed and developing hitting skills. Currently flying up the draft radar and being seen by teams floating inside the Top 20, Adams screams Royals prospect with comparables to Byron Buxton. Showing off power and impact speed while hitting against upper-level competition despite limited reps with football taking his time, Adams will likely draw a hefty price tag to buy him out of his football scholarship. While that’s a very Royal-esque player, I prefer Joe Gray Jr. of Hattiesburg, MS high school and the Evoshield Canes summer program.
Sort of a victim of too much exposure, Gray’s stock hasn’t risen to the level some thought it would be a couple of years ago. Still, Gray has plus bat speed, plus running speed that will allow him to stick in center and a plus-plus arm there. Having already shown an ability to make adjustments at the plate Gray shows an acumen to adjust to pro ball in the future. Yes, Adams is hot and may show some flashy tools but pro ball is often about adjustments and a players ability to slow the game down which is something Joe Gray has already shown an ability to do. I liken this comparison to a pair of outfielders I liked in last year’s draft in Bubba Thompson and Calvin Mitchell, while Thompson flew up draft boards late, getting selected by Rangers with the 26th pick Michell had to wait until the 50th selection by the Pirates.
As it stands currently, Mitchell is raking in the South Atlantic League while Thompson waits to break. Time will tell which turns out to be the better pick but teams shouldn’t shy away from the player they have seen already make adjustments because that’s a trait he has already shown he can use.