Approximately 40 scouts and I were in attendance for Sean Newcomb’s recent start against Rutgers, a testament to not only the Hartford lefty’s first-round talent but also his wide array of potential draft-day outcomes. While exceptionally gifted, Newcomb forces scouts and executives to ask themselves deep contemplative questions about scouting and projecting pitchers. At least, he has me asking some.
Sean is a Newcomb of considerable size. At 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, the college junior offers little to no physical projection. The body has, as we say, maxed out. Thick everywhere, but especially in the lower half, Newcomb is drawing physical comparisons to Roger Clemens. It’s the sort of body that scouts can envision withstanding the test of time and innings, 200 of them annually.
Further corroborating that outlook is the way Newcomb’s arm works. Mechanically, everything looks relaxed and easy. Newcomb takes a comfortable stride, generates excellent torque with his hips and brings him arm through with very little stress or violence. There are times when he rushes through his release which exacerbates issues with his already tenuous control and command. This presents the first big question one has to answer when projecting Sean Newcomb. How do I assess his ability to throw strikes? An ease to the delivery indicates that a young pitcher is more likely to have effective control and command one day, but for a soon-to-be 21 year old college arm, “one day” should be here sooner than later, if not showing signs of being here already. Baseball players from the northeast are stereotypically lacking in polish because the weather impacts how often they can get outside and refine their skills. This will likely be a point of contention pro-Newcomb scouts argue for in the draft room when trying to justify Newcomb’s issues as a strike-thrower, and it seems to me to be a justifiable viewpoint.
While Newcomb’s arm works easy, what comes out of it can be quite vicious. His fastball was working 91-95 mph, mostly 92-93, and touched 97 on one scout’s radar gun in the second inning. It gets on hitters quick because of the ease with which the pitch is delivered. It’s a comfortably plus pitch based on velocity and I think it will remain there even if Newcomb loses a tick or two when he goes every fifth day.
The secondary stuff was also impressive, albeit inconsistent. I came away most drawn to Newcomb’s precocious changeup, an already average offering that sits mid-80s with armside action and good arm speed. That Newcomb’s change is already this good is surprising since the change is the type of pitch that improves with time and reps, something which Newcomb hasn’t had as much of as his peers in snowy New England. I have it projected to plus. The breaking balls are less impressive. While the presently fringe-average curveball -– a sweeping, slurvy pitch in the upper 70s –- flashed better and shows some promise, the slider was a short-breaking, inferior offering. I have the curveball projected to average and the slide piece projected a half grade below that. Newcomb’s use of the breaking balls was Webelos level raw. Again, this may deter some organizations when considering Newcomb because you generally don’t want your college draftees to be this raw, but it also might intrigue some clubs who want to see what else is in this arm when it gets into a more stable baseball environment.
As an aside, I’ll say that I think Newcomb’s armslot befits a cutter and I’d like to see him taught one, though some organizations are wary of teaching the pitch to their young arms for fear of injury.
In summation, I project Newcomb to have two 60 grade pitches — the fastball and the changeup — a third average pitch in the curveball and a fringy slider to go along with average control and fringe command. Two-hundred innings of that package equates to a solid No. 3 starter.
Other notes from the northeast:
I ventured to see Cornell right-handed pitcher, Brent Jones, throw at Penn last Sunday. The righty had reportedly been up to 96 mph this spring. He didn’t quite get there for me, sitting 90-92 and touching 94 with a below average curveball in the 76-80 mph range that looked better when it was thrown harder. He has a chance to be a reliever, though my gut tells me he might go back to school for his senior year to see if he can find that plus-plus velocity more consistently next year.
I spent Saturday in Bloomsburg, Penn. to see Stanford commit Colton Hock, a 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher. I had seen Hock pitch at a workout over the winter and came away impressed but fairly sure he’d be going to school. His velocity has seen a bit of an uptick since then and so I made the drive just in case. Hock was routinely 89-92 mph, touching 93. He touched 96 on one gun once and while I suspect it was a technological error, it’s still worth noting. Hock’s overhand curveball was also on display, sitting 78-81 with good depth. He has impressive feel for it and it has a chance to miss bats at the pro level one day. Hock’s delivery has some effort to it and he lives up in and out of the zone a little too much right now. There’s something here but I don’t think there’s enough right now for a team to throw enough money at him that it’ll buy him away from Stanford. I expect to see him plenty when I move out west.