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MLB Draft 2017: Blayne Enlow’s velocity loss has his draft stock crashing

The Louisiana prep pitcher initially looked like a first rounder, but scouts are now backing away.

Chicago White Sox v Detroit Tigers Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Louisiana’s Blayne Enlow entered the 2017 spring season looking like a lock to be selected in the first round. His run of 13 scoreless innings for the U.S. National team helped lead them to a gold medal in the Pan-American Games last October. It also put him front and center among this season’s crop of prep pitchers.

A modest decline in his raw stuff this spring has tempered the excitement around him, but Enlow is still a potential first round pick. The question is whether he will be interested in signing should he fall to a team late in the round.

Strengths

Enlow’s most attractive quality was initially thought to be his fastball, which, at least until recently, showed out in the 92-94 mile-per-hour range. That’s quality velocity for a prep pitcher, but not particularly outstanding for a righthander. However, that velocity has waned this spring, raising some questions about his viability as a future starter, as well as about his injury risk and the overall ceiling of his fastball.

John Sickels of Minor League Ball holds more faith that Enlow’s velocity will rebound as he matures, and keys in on Enlow’s best offering, his curveball.

As good as the fastball can be Enlow’s best pitch is actually his curveball, which is one of the best breaking pitches in the entire class, high school or college. The curveball has been too much for most prep hitters to handle and as a result he doesn’t use a straight change-up very often.

Sickels isn’t alone in raving about Enlow’s curveball. The 12-to-6 hammer draws 60 grade (plus) reviews from just about every scouting service surveyed. The fastball-curve combination is impressive even if elite velocity hasn’t really been on display.

Enlow stand 6’4 and weighs 180 pounds, so there is substantial projection left for him as he fills out. As a result, teams may be less put off by some minor velocity loss this spring. He has an easy delivery and consistently throws strikes at an excellent rate for his level. His changeup draws average grades at this point, but his length and ability to spin the curveball, coupled with good extension, should bode well for his ability to develop the pitch with pro instruction.

There’s a lot to like here, but you have to squint a touch harder to see it than with recent prep picks beyond the middle of the first round. Tigers’ prospect Beau Burrows, for example, was taken with the 22nd pick in 2015, while displaying a similar quality breaking ball, and better fastball velocity. Strength of draft classes, of course, do vary from year to year.

Weaknesses

Right now, the key weakness surrounding Enlow is definitely the diminished velocity he’s displayed this spring. He’s been well known and well scouted for several seasons now, and it can be especially damaging when a heavily watched player experiences a decline in his raw stuff. Added to the generalized concerns over where his velocity will eventually stabilize at as he matures, is the specter of an injury risk. While these things can be fickle to an absurd degree, as it’s not uncommon for a prep pitcher’s velocity to fluctuate much more than a more seasoned commodity, it’s still a real concern to teams who may have initially viewed Enlow as an easy first round selection.

As a scout who requested anonymity told BYB’s Jacob Markle,

Enlow is falling because the velo is down this spring. He looked like a first rounder last summer when he was 90-94 with a hammer; but it’s been more consistently 88-91 or so this spring. He still very well may go in the comp round/early 2 and get paid overslot, though, kinda similar to Joey Wentz or Kyle Muller last year.

The other potential issue may be his signability. As Sickels notes:

Strongly committed to Louisiana State University, Enlow is considered a potentially difficult sign, although not an impossible one if he is drafted where his talent warrants.

With signs that Enlow may be unwilling to sign unless he is drafted toward the middle of the first round rather than the end, teams with the later picks in the first round will have to weigh whether he’s worth the risk incumbent in any prep pick with a strong college commitment. With the velocity decline added to the mix, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Enlow slip into the upper reaches of the second round. Most likely, a team that does its homework and feels they can sign him is still liable to take him in the late first round.

Outlook

For the Detroit Tigers, Blayne Enlow feels like a real reach at their first pick, No. 18 overall. After consecutive selections of high school righthanders with better projection and raw velocity, Enlow feels like a step back from the likes of Beau Burrows and Matt Manning. If the Tigers go to the prep pitcher well again, Sam Carlson or Shane Baz feel like better picks (if available). As a result, it seems very unlikely that we will see Enlow with a Tigers cap on when the 18th overall pick is announced.

Currently, MLB Pipeline has Enlow ranked 29th overall. Other services have him even lower that that, down into the second round. When a prep prospect’s stock tumbles like this, and they show signs of being perfectly willing to forego pro ball for a few seasons, the drop in their stock may become more precipitous than expected. Should Enlow slip out of the first round, a team with a high pick in the second might take a chance that overpaying for that slot might entice Enlow to pass on attending LSU. When the dust settles, you can probably expect Enlow to end up a Tiger, but one of the Louisiana State variety.