Pittsburgh Pirates 2018 Draft Preview: Casey Mize

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

The draft is six months away and the Pirates will be picking in the top 10 for the first time since 2013, when they selected Austin Meadows with the compensation pick they received after failing to sign Mark Appel the year prior.  It’s a chance for the Pirates to add a future impact player.

The 2018 MLB Draft will take place on June 4th, and the Pirates will pick number 10 overall.  College baseball is a little over three weeks in now, and there’s some interesting prospects that could be available at picks 10 and 31, the Pirates first round pick and competitive round A pick.  A lot can happen between now and June in terms of rise and fall of prospects, especially relating yo pitchers, but a quick look at some of the college players can be helpful.

Casey Mize, a right-handed pitchers from Auburn University, is one of the more intriguing arms in this draft, and is one of four college pitchers in Baseball America’s recently released top 300 draft prospects.  Mize wasn’t drafted out of high school, though The Baseball News ranks him as a second team All American and a first team All American by Baseball America, and he’ll only be 21 by a month come draft day.

Entering this season, Mize had a career 2.71 ERA in 152.67 collegiate innings as a starter and reliever:

Year GamesStartsInningsERABFK%BB%

The strikeout rate and walk rate in 2017 really stick out, as he walked just nine hitters, half of his 2016 total of 18.  He whiffed 109 hitters, ranking 35th Nationally, and his 11.7 K/9 ranked 16th among Division I pitchers.  Having swing and miss stuff to strikeout a third of the hitters you face while walking minimal hitters is truly incredible.  MLB Pipeline grades Mize control as a 60, to go along with a 60 fastball and splitter, describing his pitch mix as:

"“Mize can get swings and misses with three different pitches, the best of which is a mid-80s splitter that dives at the plate. He sets it up with a 92-96 mph fastball that he commands exceptionally well despite its running life. His mid-80s slider also can be a plus pitch at times.”"

The splitter, displayed here to start the video, and in most highlights is the pitch that he gets a bulk of his strikeouts on.  Slowing the video down gives a look at how long Mize’s arm motion is, and there’s various opinion’s on how his mechanics will hold.  MLB Pipeline describes his mechanics as “athletic frame and a clean delivery” where as Fangraphs writes that it is “a little funky” and also mention that “some scouts are worried about his durability.”  This video from his start against Bryant two weeks ago also gives an indication of how long the motion is, but Mize throws strikes and misses bats, and as Fangraphs wrote “it works for him.”  Looking at that start against Bryant on February 23, shows this breakdown of the nine strikeouts:


The slider (SL) had good movement, breaking down and away from right-handed hitters, highlighted by the strikeouts at time 1:46 and 6:03 in the video against Bryant.  But the main bulk of the strikeouts that start came from the splitter (SF), which brings good downward movement and, for the strikeouts, was sitting about 88 mph.  All six of the strikeouts via the splitter came swinging, and Mize’s split should continue to bring swing and miss results in professional baseball.

Back to the mechanics, though.  Mize is a “little funky,” but the Pirates have no problem with funky.  The last college pitcher the club drafted and signed in the first round was Gerrit Cole, who while at UCLA could have what is considered to be a “funky” motion.  The action on the arm was long, and he would bring his glove arm and elbow up about head height.  His motion with the Pirates (2016 video) was much quicker, and his arm action was much shorter than while at UCLA.  The club made some tweaks to improve Cole’s mechanics despite drafting him first overall and giving him an $8 million signing bonus, a record draft bonus.

The durability concerns that Fangraphs mentioned with Mize come from the career 152.67 innings prior to his Junior season, with just 83.67 in 2017.  He was also shutdown from the collegiate national team this summer with arm fatigue.  Furthermore, Mize had a limited throwing program during fall practices because of forearm soreness.  The best way to combat those criticism and scouts concerns is by having a strong Junior season and producing similar results in the past:

3/2Brigham Young5.333.385.0642.86%4.76%9.5%3/363.0%

Mize is still missing bats, nearly 40 percent of all hitters, and isn’t giving free passes, about five percent (eight percent when factoring in HBP, or uBB%).  He’s throwing strikes two-thirds of the time, and when not striking out hitters, he’s getting more groundouts than flyouts, about 2.6 groundouts per flyout.  There can be some concern in his innings, but Mize threw just 75, 83, and 92 pitches during his three starts, and he ran into some trouble against Bryant and BYU, though his defense didn’t help him any in his last start with two errors, one starting off the three run sixth inning.  The only real concern is he has allowed two home runs already, after allowing just four in his sophomore year.  But with Mize’s control swing and miss stuff, and getting the ball on the ground, that should fall back in line as this season progresses past his three starts.

The 6’3″ and 220 pound right-hander has what the Pirates like in terms of pitchers in size and velocity.   Mize possesses solid secondary pitchers in his splitter and slider that he uses to get strikeouts.  He has suburb control and gets more goundouts than flyouts, and while his mechanics can be “funky,” the Pirates can work on that.  He’s off to a strong start this spring, and can push Florida right-handed starter Brady Singer for the top collegiate pitcher taken.

Next: Chad Kuhl Could Be The Biggest Wild Card In 2018

Mize currently ranks 18th on Fangraphs prospect rankings, eighth by Baseball America, and eighth by MLB Pipeline.  Back in October, Baseball America projected the Auburn ace to go seventh to the San Diego Padres, and in December, MLB Pipeline didn’t project Mize to go in the top 10.

It’s still early in the college season, and the draft doesn’t start until June, but Mize is off to a fast start.  If he doesn’t completely rise up draft boards, he could be there when the Pirates select.  Neal Huntington has only drafted three collegiate arms (Vic Black in 2009, Gerrit Cole in 2011, and Mark Appel in 2012) in the first round, with Cole and Appel being the only in the top 30.  Mize is the type of pitcher the club should look at, given his size, velocity, control, and swing and miss stuff.  He could rise through the system similar to Cole, and help the Pirates when the window is more open with their current top prospects graduating this year or next.

*Numbers from Auburn’s game log and The Baseball Cube