With the first overall pick, the Phillies have all the options they want in terms of whom they select. Most mock drafts have them selecting a pitcher, and there are three who are the big dogs in the draft: lefties Jason Groome and A.J. Puk and righty Riley Pint.
Groome is the top lefty coming out of the high school ranks. He will still be 17 on draft day, making him one of the youngest players in this season’s draft. He is a local to the area, going to school in Barnegat on the Jersey Shore. Groome was a coach at a baseball camp ran by Cole Hamels, who spoke highly of the high school senior.
Groome has a tremendous arsenal which is the core of his draft value. His fastball comfortably sits in the low 90s and, considering his younger age, he could still fill out more and add more heat to his fastball. His curveball has good bite, and MLB Pipeline grades it as a plus pitch. He doesn’t use his changeup often, but it is still an effective offering. His command is about what you would hope and he stays around the plate. His delivery showcases his athleticism, and he has “an effortlessly clean finish,” as Hudson Belinsky of Baseball America puts it.
Groome has the overall arsenal of a frontline starter, with some comps as high as Clayton Kershaw. With command already present and more most likely coming, Groome has the best combination of ceiling in floor among all these arms. High school arms come with assumed risk, but Groome has enough in his pitches as is to justify a selection.
Depending who you talk to, Puk’s raw stuff may be the best in the entire 2016 class. His fastball stays in the mid-90s and tops out at 97 on his best days. His slider is a definite plus pitch, and he uses it against both lefties and righties well. His changeup is a work-in-progress now, but it can become at least a major-league average pitch with proper coaching. Puk’s 3/4 delivery is all the better thanks to his height, and he delivers quickly to the plate.
The limit to Puk’s stock is inconsistency. His BB/9 was above four in both 2014 and 2015, and is higher this year at 4.47. His command overall has been spotty, but his simple mechanics could help ease these issues. Puk has also had to fight back spasms that have plagued him over the past calendar year.
Despite the inconsistency, Puk still has still struck out 12 batters per nine innings the past two years at Florida. Anyone who can strike out that many hitters in the SEC deserves a serious look in the draft. If you add in the projection of Puk wrangling in his control with pro coaching, it may come back to bite the Phillies hard if they skip over him.
Also, it should be noted that Puk’s path to the majors could be almost as quick Aaron Nola’s. With plenty of experience at Florida, the Phillies would be smart to start Puk at full-season Lakewood as they did Nola. While Puk needs more honing than Nola did, his path to the majors is most likely the quickest out of anyone in this draft.
Meanwhile, Pint is without a doubt the best right-hander in the class and could contend for being the best high-school draft prospect this year. Pint’s arsenal has all above-average pitches with a plus-plus fastball. Speaking of the fastball, it sits in the mid-to-upper 90s and has dominated the high school competition. His changeup is nothing to scoff at either, flashing plus. His breaking ball is still a strong pitch despite lacking consistency (it becomes a slider or curve depending how he throws it) but it can easily become a plus pitch with honing.
As with his breaking ball, Pint’s delivery lacks consistency. His delivery has a lot of moving parts, especially at the end as he lets go of the pitch. He struggles with finding a consistent arm slot and it leads to inconsistent command.
With honing in the short-season leagues, Pint’s arsenal will help him challenge Jake Thompson as the best pitcher in the system if the Phillies select him. Two plus pitches already gets a pitcher into the conversation as a mid-rotation starter, and it’s easy to see Pint develop with pro coaching.
Pint’s ceiling is the highest between him and Groome and could even be the highest in the class. With several pitchers in the starting rotation set, the Phillies could take a risk and end up with a gem in Pint.
*Image Courtesy Baseball Betsy