When the casual baseball fan from thousands of miles away hears about a Texas high school pitcher drafted in the early rounds of the MLB Draft, he or she probably thinks of 6-6 right-handers who throw 100 MPH. Visions of Tyler Kolek and scouting reports like Jared Kelley’s… Yes, the Lone Star State is often home to physical, hard-throwing prep righties. It’s also typically home to a prep pitcher who catches helium, most recently guys like Justin Lange and JJ Goss, and rides it all the way up draft boards. Right now, the state doesn’t boast a pitcher who is a surefire, early-round MLB Draft pick. That could change.
2022 Pitchers Who Could Become Top MLB Draft Picks
Among the most exciting aspects about the upcoming high school season is seeing which senior pitchers spent their offseason time wisely and effectively and turned some of their intriguing projection into added strength and performance. Often, pitchers are understandably on fumes at the end of the summer and aren’t built up to air it out all the time in the fall. Some play another sport or take the fall off to rest, lift and work on becoming more efficient and effective. Some grow a little bit more and/or fill out. And some emerge from the fall, to put it simply, different. In a good way.
Being more physical could mean more velocity, better mechanics, holding stuff deeper into outings and more strikes. Or it could mean none of those things. Soon, scouts will go find their answers because the odds are in favor, especially with some of the buzz already building around a few arms, of one of these pitchers to pitch his way into the early round MLB Draft mix.
Right now, the consensus, generally speaking, is that three pitchers stand out above the rest in Texas: left-hander Justin Lamkin (Calallen), right-hander Chase Shores (Midland Legacy) and right-hander Cole Phillips (Boerne). We have them rated No. 2 overall, No. 7 and No. 12, respectively. All three were physical pitchers or projected to be before the offseason, but all three are different types of pitchers. Lamkin is a strike-thrower with three pitches and has advanced execution; Shores is a 6-8 sinker/slider fire-baller who runs his fastball into the upper 90s when he’s right and creates a ton of horizontal movement; Phillips, who signed with Arkansas, is more of the traditional right-hander with a future plus heater, a hard breaking ball with some feel for spin, and a developing changeup.
While Lamkin is, in my opinion, the best current pitcher and prospect among the group, Phillips and Shores have a better chance at creating the type of velocity and highlights that go viral on Twitter. Heck, just look at this recently from Phillips (97 MPH):
— Cole Phillips (@Cole_Phillips_) January 15, 2022
Plus, Shores, a LSU signee, is an imposing presence, who is getting bigger, on the mound and Phillips has clearly spent weight room time effectively. But scouts will want to see more consistent stuff and strikes from both, an area that Lamkin, a future Texas A&M Aggie if he makes it to school, holds an edge in. All three are going to have the opportunity to pitch their way into that top round MLB Draft mix and claim the honor of being Five Tool’s top-rated pitcher in Texas. Okay, so that last part is made up. But in all seriousness, the top pitcher in the state is up for grabs.
The discussion isn’t limited to those three arms, though. While there is a little bit of a gap in our rankings between Phillips (No. 12) and Blake Binderup (No. 29; up from No. 34), there are a group of pitchers who are pushing to join that top tier. In addition to Binderup, Baylor signee Collin McKinney (up to No. 31 from No. 44) created buzz this fall, Texas A&M signee Luke Jackson emerged in the summer as a big-time right-hander and Ryan Dollar, who signed with Houston, was named the Most Outstanding Pitcher at the prestigious Area Code Games.
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In particular, Binderup might possess as much upside as any pitcher in the state, thanks in large part to his impressive athleticism and projectable 6-6 frame, which suggest, along with his simple delivery, that control and command should trend positively. Throw in a slider that flashes and enough changeup feel to get excited, and there are a lot of ingredients for a big jump as a senior. Or perhaps in college. We’ll see. We’ll also see how Dollar follows an outstanding summer. His delivery elicits some thoughts he could be destined for a high leverage bullpen role, but it wouldn’t be the first guy with that profile to carry stuff as a stud starter. We’ll see what the velocity and results look like in those deeper innings because punching out 11 batters in 4.2 innings at Area Code was a LOUD statement.
I don’t know if a player ranked No. 42 on the list qualifies as being a “sleeper,” but Dripping Springs left-hander and Texas A&M signee Brandon Arvidson, a guy that wasn’t even on the pro scouting radar in the summer, will have the attention of many this season. A tall, long lefty who carved up hitters with his fastball-changeup combo this summer and showed two different breaking balls, Arvidson appears to have added some velocity, too.
— Brandon Arvidson (@ArvidsonBrandon) January 24, 2022
Lefties Griffin Herring (LSU signee; Southlake Carroll), Trenton Shaw (Oklahoma State signee; Prestonwood Christian Academy) and Shane Sdao (Texas A&M signee; Lake Creek) are poised for very strong senior seasons, will be fun to track, and will be followed closely by scouts; Bridgeland’s Murphy Brooks (TCU signee) might end up being one of the top performers in the state; and if you’re looking for a few non-Five Tool 55 names I’m especially intrigued by, Nolan Foster (Texas Tech signee; McKinney Boyd), Dominick Reid (Oklahoma State signee; Lone Star), Lucas Davenport (Texas A&M signee; Prosper) and Noah O’Farrell (Sam Houston State signee; Grand Oaks) flashed especially interesting projection in the form of bat-missing stuff and room for noticeable physical gains.
So, while the state might lack a lock to receive a seven-figure offer from a MLB team, it doesn’t lack possibilities to at least create that dialogue in April and May.
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