It feels like left-handed pitching is at more of a premium than ever these days, and that won’t be an exception in this year’s MLB Draft. Texas A&M’s Asa Lacy will almost surely be the first pitcher selected in the draft, Louisville’s Reid Detmers and Tennessee’s Garrett Crochet appear to be likely top-20 picks, Dallas Baptist’s Burl Carraway may be the first pitcher from this draft class to reach the majors, and Oklahoma high school lefty Dax Fulton may have more upside than any lefty in the draft.
Here’s the rundown on the top five left-handers in this year’s draft class:
Asa Lacy, Texas A&M
For the second straight year, it appears as if a college lefty will be the first pitcher to come off the board in the MLB Draft, as Lacy — unanimously regarded by experts as the top pitching prospect in this draft class — figures to follow the lead of Louisville’s Nick Lodolo, who went seventh overall to the Reds last June. He’s quite a bit more muscular than the seven-time All-Star, but in terms of his delivery and his fiery disposition on the mound, Lacy compares favorably to Chris Sale and certainly has ace potential at the major-league level.
Lacy had an amazing two-plus-season career at Texas A&M, posting a 2.61 ERA with 224 strikeouts and 68 walks in 152 innings. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound lefty still has a ways to go to get his command where he wants it to be, but the intrigue of his mid-90s stuff delivered from a three-quarters angle is obvious. With the way teams treat prospects nowadays, it’s easy to see Lacy skyrocketing through the minors and being allowed to improve his control at the major-league level.
Reid Detmers, Louisville
If Lacy looks like a young Chris Sale, Detmers is more like a young Madison Bumgarner. Like Lacy, he throws with a three-quarters release, but at a slightly higher angle. While he’s not exactly gargantuan — he’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds — he has a massive presence on the mound, and when you combine that intimidation factor with his stellar command (he walked just 39 hitters over the last 135.1 innings of his college career), it’s easy to see why he’s a highly-regarded prospect despite his low-90s fastball velocity being somewhat pedestrian in today’s game.
Detmers, who features a plus curveball and changeup, has come a long way during his career at Louisville, finishing with a 3.20 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP in two-plus seasons despite a rough freshman season in which he posted a 4.85 ERA and a 1.46 WHIP with 69 strikeouts and 34 walks over 55.2 frames. Detmers’ ceiling isn’t the highest in the world, but with his mature presence and polished repertoire, it’s quite possible that he’ll be the first starter in this draft class to reach the majors.
Dax Fulton, Mustang (OK) High School
Fulton may have the most raw potential of any lefty in this draft class — the 18-year-old is already 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds and throws a low-to-mid-90s fastball with a curveball that is extremely polished for his age and a solid changeup. With that said, it should be really interesting to see how the draft works out for him and whether he signs with a team or ends up honoring his commitment to Oklahoma this fall. He had Tommy John surgery last fall, so on one hand, it might be smart for him to get into an organization right now rather than risking his value and embarking on a college career. But on the other hand, he definitely has the upside to develop into a sure-thing high-first-round pick at OU, and with draft bonuses being partially deferred this year and the unlikelihood that he’ll be a first-round pick, it feels like it’d be a smart move for him to head to college. He’ll be one of the most interesting prospects to watch this week.
Burl Carraway, Dallas Baptist
If you’re a fan of underdog prospects, then Carraway is the guy for you. An undersized (at least by baseball standards) pitcher at 6-foot and 173 pounds, Carraway spent virtually his entire freshman season just learning how to pitch after primarily playing the outfield in high school. He recorded just one out over two games, allowing five runs (four earned) on three hits and three walks. But he turned into a dominant reliever for the Missouri Valley Conference program as a sophomore, posting a 2.81 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP with a ridiculous 72 strikeouts and 22 walks over 41.2 innings (28 appearances). He was just as good during his abbreviated junior campaign, allowing just two runs (one earned) on five hits, 17 strikeouts, and six walks over 9.1 innings.
Carraway, who now throws a mid-90s fastball that can touch 98 MPH along with a plus curveball, still has a ways to go to perfect his command, and the combination of his size and max-effort delivery could create injury risk over the long term. But his ability to overpower hitters (15.6 strikeouts per nine during his college career) is undeniable, and many scouts believe that ability could get the lefty reliever to the majors quickly.
Garrett Crochet, Tennessee
The interest in Crochet as a first-round prospect is rather fascinating considering that he A) was primarily a reliever in college, B) threw just 3.1 innings during his abbreviated junior season as he dealt with shoulder soreness, and C) wasn’t very good at Tennessee, posting a 4.64 ERA with a 1.40 WHIP over 36 collegiate appearances (13 starts). But size and velocity have a way of boosting a young pitcher’s profile — especially when he’s left-handed — so teams will hope they can coach up the 6-foot-6, 218-pound southpaw with the high-90s fastball.
Crochet does have ridiculous potential — his fastball has a high spin rate, and he also features an above-average slider and changeup. But he just hasn’t put it all together yet, and the team that drafts him is going to have to be patient with him and employ a talented, creative group of minor-league pitching instructors so they can refine his command and take advantage of his massive upside.