We’re into the truly elite talent, any of whom Toronto would be very fortunate to grab, with prep right-hander Lance McCullers coming in at No. 3. Like we did last year, we’ll also be hosting a live chat throughout the entire first round again starting at 7 p.m. ET, so make sure to pop by.
The players on our list are not who are considered to be the “best” players in the draft, but rather who could realistically be around when the Jays take the podium and who we would like to see the Blue Jays go after, with an emphasis on the latter.
Other articles in the series:
No. 1 – Lucas Giolito
No. 2 – Max Fried
No. 4 – Zach Eflin
No. 5 – Corey Seager
No. 6 – Courtney Hawkins
No. 7 – Chris Stratton
No. 8 – Richie Shaffer
No. 9 – Nick Travieso
No. 10 – Lucas Sims
No. 11 – Andrew Heaney
No. 12 – Joey Gallo
2012 MLB Draft Preview
No. 3: Lance McCullers
RHP/SS | 18 years old / 6’2” 205 lbs
Born: October 2, 1993 in Tampa, Florida
High School: Jesuit HS (Tampa, Florida)
College Commitment: Florida
Baseball America Rank: 13 (8th among pitchers)
ESPN/Keith Law Rank: 25 (11th among pitchers)
- 2012 Rawlings 1st team All American
- Strong commitment to Florida, where both grandfathers played sports (football and basketball)
- McCullers serves as a volunteer on behalf of Challenger Baseball, the Special Olympics, Metropolitan Ministries, the Head Start Program and as a Bakas Equestrian Center assistant for intellectually challenged children
- Donates his time as part of a literacy-outreach program, as a motivational speaker for middle school children and as part of multiple food drives in association with Jesuit High School
- Follow him on the Twitter at @LMcCullers_23
Stats (via MaxPreps.com):
Slow motion of McCullers’ delivery from the 2011 Perfect Game tournament:
From the 2010 Under Armour All-America game at Wrigley Field in August 2010, via Baseball Factory:
In my scouting report on Corey Seager a couple of days ago, I made note of how genetics and having family with professional baseball experience is a huge plus. Baseball genes are absolutely something Lance McCullers can boast, as his father of the same name pitched in 306 games across parts of seven years in the major leagues. Senior wasn’t just another guy, he was a very good pitcher, as his career 3.25 ERA and 1.29 WHIP can attest. Additionally, of his 306 appearances, he was credited with a game finished (i.e. he recorded the final out) in 155 of them.
His father’s baseball career was cut short by arm injuries, as he was overworked in his first few years with San Diego and threw only 49.2 innings after his age-25 season. While Senior’s story is a sad one, it allowed him to be a much better father and coach to his son. Knowing the problems associated with overworking a young and underdeveloped arm, McCullers had his pitching kept to a bare minimum until he was physically mature. In fact, he rarely started games prior to the 2012 season, which has both positive and negative side effects. On the plus side, his arm “has a lot of bullets left in it”, but from the negative perspective, there’s simply not enough information on him as a starter as scouts would like.
When given the opportunity to see McCullers pitch, it becomes obvious why he’s rated as one of the best high school prospects in the draft. His fastball sits 94-96 mph while touching 98-100 mph, and is a legitimate 70 pitch. Beyond the velocity –- which he can maintain deep into games –- the fastball has plenty of movement, making it extremely difficult to square up. McCullers’ best breaking ball is a power curveball that runs abnormally fast at 82-85 mph and has also been graded as a 70 pitch. The velocity is so extreme that the pitch has been classified as a slider by some, but the tight spin and depth of break are both reminiscent of a curveball, and McCullers himself defines it as such. He throws a secondary curveball at a more traditional velocity of 79-82 mph, but it’s more of a get-me-over pitch. McCullers’ fourth offering is a changeup that he seldom threw in high school, though it does have good diving action when it’s not being overthrown –- a problem that creeps up with some frequency.
His pitchability has improved as he’s been allowed to focus more on pitching, but he still has some pretty serious struggles with command. It should be emphasized that McCullers only became a starting pitcher this year, so while he may be nearing physical maturity, he still has a lot to learn when it comes to the finesse and intricacies of pitching. On the mound, he pitches with power and aggression, something teams don’t want to eliminate, but may want to throttle back.
McCullers is an above average athlete and has a strong 6-foot-2 frame. He uses his leg strength well in his delivery, as he drops and drives to get a lot of momentum and a downward plane on his pitches. The arm action from the 3/4 slot isn’t ideal, however, as scouts are concerned with the amount of effort he exerts, which has led to the starter versus reliever debate. McCullers is also viewed as a top prospect at the shortstop position, which adds yet another variable to the equation.
The University of Florida has granted him permission to be a two-way player -– allowing him to both hit and pitch -– so any team hoping to have McCullers pass on his commitment may need to give him the Casey Kelly provision. Kelly, a former Red Sox and current Padres prospect, was allowed to spend half of each of his first two years in affiliated ball hitting, and the other halves pitching. After it became clear his future was on the mound, he gave up the bat and has spend the last two-plus years completely focused on pitching.
Why the Blue Jays could be interested:
The Blue Jays could and should be interested in McCullers because he’s one of the best talents in the entire draft, and his personality is just as elite. Entering the year he was one of the top draft prospects in the country, and as evident by his 2012 statistics, he’s done nothing to tarnish that honor. His drop in ranking –- down to the teens by most accounts –- has more to do with the explosion onto the scene by guys like Lucas Giolito and Carlos Correa than it does any fault with McCullers’ game.
McCullers stated in an interview earlier this spring that he wants to be an MLB star, not a draft star, so going to college for the purpose of becoming a top-five pick is not something he has intentions of doing. Whether he signs or walks will depend upon the specific situation with the team who drafts him. He has strong family values, and if he and his parents see the team as a good fit, he’ll join the professional ranks. As a disclaimer, McCullers is represented by Boras Corp, which could make many teams a bit uneasy, especially considering the unusual circumstances with it being the first draft of a new CBA. Such an affiliation could be just what the Blue Jays need for McCullers to fall into their lap at 17th overall.
The draft coverage here at Jays Journal will keep coming leading up and into the MLB Draft -— stay tuned here and on Twitter as Jared (@Jared_Macdonald) and I (@KyleMatte) continue our top 12 draft target series leading up to the first round on the Monday, June 4th.