The MLB draft is less than a month away! Now that the draft cycle is in full swing, here is the latest edition of “BYB writes about every mock draft possible,” featuring the fine folks at Prep Baseball Report. While mostly focusing on the high school side of the game, as their name implies, their draft experts put together a full first round mock on Tuesday. One of their experts projected that the Tigers will take outfielder J.J. Bleday from Vanderbilt, while two others predicted the Tigers would go with lefthander Nick Lodolo, arguably the top arm in this year’s draft.
We have already written a quick article on Bleday, and will follow up with a full profile soon, so let’s focus on the new name here. Lodolo is a 6’6 lefthander from TCU that was a supplemental first round pick back in the 2016 draft. He spurned the Pirates to go to college, however, and has established himself as a potential top-10 pick in a very weak pitching class.
Lodolo is the No. 8 prospect on MLB Pipeline’s draft rankings, and No. 7 overall on Baseball America’s top 400 list. He stands 6’6, and throws at a steep downhill plane. His fastball sits in the low 90s but has touched as high as 96 mph this year. Pipeline notes that he has shown more consistency this spring, and the stats back that up. He has a 2.34 ERA in 12 starts for the Horned Frogs this year, down from a 4.32 ERA last season. His strikeout rate has held steady at over 10 per nine innings, but he has nearly cut his walk rate in half while allowing fewer hits to boot.
Even after a strong showing this spring, Lodolo still has more upside in his profile. Pipeline notes that Lodolo has three potential plus pitches, with a curveball and changeup that sound better than your run-of-the-mill SEC righthander -- a profile the Tigers have not shied away from in the past.
“He showed inconsistent feel for spinning a curveball in the past and is focusing instead on a tighter slider in the low 80s that has become a solid offering. He also sells his changeup well and it has good action at the plate, giving him three pitches that all can grade as plus at their best.”
There are still some warts to his profile, though. Lodolo is still more potential than production at this point, and according to FanGraphs’ latest update, he has struggled down the stretch with TCU. He is already approaching his career high in innings pitched, which could also lead to some fatigue going forward.
While Lodolo could turn out to be a good pitcher going forward, many Tigers fans would prefer to see the team take a position player with their first round pick this year. The club has a plethora of young arms in their pipeline, but few top-end position players, and this year’s draft class is particularly skewed towards talented prep and college position players, Bleday included.