With the 2018 Draft fast approaching (June 4-6 on MLB Network and MLB.com), we take a closer look at the top prospects in this year's class.
Name: Casey Mize
Rank on Draft Top 200: 1
Weight: 195 lbs.
Stats: 14 G, 95 IP, 9-4, 2.94 ERA, 133 K, .189 AVG
MLB comp: Jason Isringhausen
Tools (Future grades on 20-80 scouting scale)
Fastball: 60 | Slider: 60 | Splitter: 70 | Control: 60 | Overall: 60
Raw and undrafted out of an Alabama high school three years ago, Mize has blossomed at Auburn and not only is a lock to join Gregg Olson (1988) and Frank Thomas (1989) as Tigers selected in the top 10 picks, but he's also the prohibitive favorite to go No. 1 overall. He has the best combination of stuff and control among college pitchers in the 2018 Draft, and he has proven he can stay healthy. Shut down last spring at Auburn and again during the summer with Team USA with a tired arm and a flexor strain in his forearm, he has had no issues this year.
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 92-97 mph fastball that he commands exceptionally well despite its running life. His mid-80s slider has taken a step forward this spring, consistently grading as a plus offering.
Mize has an athletic frame and a clean delivery, so there's no glaring flaw that can be blamed for his health concerns. He pounds the strike zone, ranking first in NCAA Division I in K/BB ratio (12.1) and fourth in walks per nine innings (1.0) as a sophomore and posting similar numbers as a junior. Scouts also love the way he competes on the mound.
Fun fact: If taken by the Tigers in the first round at the top, Mize would become the first player since Stephen Strasburg in 2009 to go from undrafted out of high school to become the eventual No. 1 overall pick. He's also looking to join an elite class of Auburn first-rounders that includes Hall of Famer Frank Thomas and current Auburn hitting coach Gabe Gross ... Mize didn't have a favorite MLB team growing up, but he did idolize Derek Jeter. In that vein, he said the ballpark he's most looking forward to pitching at is Yankee Stadium, despite it being one of the Majors' most hitter-friendly.
He said it: "I didn't have a problem picking [the split-change] up. I threw it in high school some, and when I got to Auburn, we changed the grip on it. I picked it up pretty quick. That wasn't a challenge for me ... The addition of the cutter was huge. I redefined my slider with a new grip and new release, and the new grip on the split, I'm definitely a lot different; especially mentally, too. There have been a ton of changes from when I first got to college."
They said it: "There are plenty of other guys that throw 95-96 in college; we have four or five of them ourselves. [The splitter-change], plus his command and confidence, those have been the three big bullet points for me." -- Auburn head coach Butch Thompson