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Red Sox Draft Preview: Right-handed pitchers

A look at the righties to look for in next week’s draft.

2020 Boston Baseball Writers Dinner Photo by Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

We are still waiting to see whether or not there will be baseball this season, with the coming week being the big step in that process. Either way, though, the MLB Draft is still coming, and in fact is quickly approaching. Scheduled for June 10 and 11, we are less than two weeks away, so it seems like it’s time to turn our focus at least partially towards what the Red Sox will do. Of course, it’s not a normal draft with only five rounds this year, and Boston also missing their second rounder. Over the next four days, we will be looking at some players who could be available for the Red Sox’s first pick. Today we move on to the right-handed pitchers. This list was helped by the top draft prospect lists from Baseball America and FanGraphs.

Mick Abel, Jesuit HS (OR)

As a non-expert in the world of the draft, Abel is probably my number one realistic target at this point. It would certainly be a slide if he makes it to number 17 as the big righty is ranked 11th by Baseball America and 9th by FanGraphs. Teams are going to be more hesitant on prep pitching this year without as much scouting information, though, and Boston could benefit. Abel is in a particularly tough situation with Jesuit not getting a single game in this spring. Throwing from the right side, he has gotten up in the upper 90s with the fastball but at this point sits more in the low-to-mid 90s. He pairs that with a very good slider and a changeup with real potential. In a normal draft year, Abel is likely a top ten pick as long as things don’t go sideways in the spring, but it remains to be seen how not playing at all this spring affects him. The Red Sox could potentially get a steal here.

Jared Kelly, Refugio HS (TX)

When you think of Texas baseball prospects, you think of the big righties that can come in and deal on the mound. Kelly is the latest of those types, and is committed to the University of Texas if he does not go pro. He’s expected to be a first rounder and sign, though, and could in fact go before Boston picks at number 17. The big righty has shockingly easy velocity, getting up to the 97-99 mph range while, in Baseball America’s words, looking like he’s playing catch. Kelly also possesses an outstanding changeup, though the breaking ball needs some development. Of course, as a prep pitcher nobody is expected to be a totally finished product. There’s big upside here, and just like with Abel the Red Sox could get a top 15 talent thanks to the weirdness of this season.

Nick Bitsko, Central Bucks East HS (PA)

There’s a cluster of right-handed prep pitchers right in the range for the Red Sox, and while Bitsko is the last one ranked on Baseball America (coming in at number 19 and number 16 at FanGraphs) he’s actually projected to go first in this group in their latest mock draft. Obviously like the other two mentioned here Bitsko has the challenges of being a prep player in a year without much, if any, spring ball, but he’s an even more challenging prospect as he relatively recently reclassified to graduate early and be part of this class. Last summer, scouts were watching him as if he was a 2021 prospect. Bitsko has the big fastball you look for from big righties like himself to go with a curveball and a changeup. He’s committed to the University of Virginia if he does not sign.

Cade Cavalli, University of Oklahoma

Cavalli is the first college player on this list — there are other college righties ahead of Cavalli in the class, but they won’t be in play at 17 — and he comes in at number 22 on Baseball America’s list and number 17 for FanGraphs. This is kind of cliche scout talk, but this Sooner just looks like a pitcher. He stands at 6’2” with a sturdy frame and extremely clean mechanics while getting up above 95 on the fastball with a really good slider to go with a solid curveball and changeup. However, he’s never really been able to consistently put it together. There is concern about a lack of deception in the delivery that leads to his fastball playing down, and control has been an issue at times as well. That could drop him out of the first round, but if teams are scared enough of the prep class and see a tweak that could add just a bit of deception, he could sneak up.

JT Ginn, Mississippi State University

Ginn is an absolutely fascinating prospect coming from the college ranks as a draft-eligible sophomore, ranked at number 23 on BA and 25 on FanGraphs. He was a first round pick just a couple of years ago by the Dodgers but decided to go to college, and many had him as a top-15 talent heading into this spring. He did get to play early, but left with an injury after just three innings and it was later revealed he needed season-ending elbow surgery. With no minor-league season, though, is this the exact time to take a chance on an injured pitcher? When healthy, he has shown a devastating fastball/slider combination as well as a developing changeup, and he has shown the ability to maintain his stuff as games go on. The injury is obviously not something to just be waved away, but there’s real potential here for this risk to pay off for whatever team takes the chance.

Cole Wilcox, University of Georgia

Wilcox is another draft-eligible sophomore who was liked coming out of high school but his commitment to Georgia caused him to fall. He comes into this draft ranking 24th on BA’s list and 18th on FanGraphs’. He’s a big kid, listed at 6’5”, 232 pounds and he shows that size on the mound with a high-90s fastball that can get up to triple digits. He was having a huge start to his season, too, before it was canceled, with scouts seeing improvements with his control. However, it was obviously a small sample size, so there is still some doubt. He also has a very good slider and a changeup with potential to develop into at least an average offering.

Carmen Mlodzinski, University of South Carolina

Mlodzinski had a little bit of hype coming out of high school, but after an injury-shortened 2019 in college he really put himself on the map last summer on the Cape. Now ranked 25 on BA and 46 on FanGraphs, he’s likely a bit of a reach for the Red Sox but interesting nonetheless. He disappointed a bit with his strikeout stuff in his handful of starts this spring before the season was banged, but he still continued to show off a fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s with big-time sink that generates a ton of ground balls. He also has a curveball and a changeup, though the secondaries need some work as well. There’s a relatively high floor here with all the ground balls he generates and we’ve seen some upside on the Cape, but he’s probably not a guy to really watch at 17. If the Red Sox had a second rounder, he’d be a name to watch there.

Slade Cecconi, University of Miami

Cecconi was expected to be grabbed out of high school back in 2018, but an injury his senior year scared teams enough to have him slide and honor his commitment to Miami. Now, he’s back in the first round conversation. Ranked 32 on BA’s list, they have him being selected 23rd in their latest mock. He’s a little bit of a project for a college arm, but Cecconi has everything you’re looking for, including a big fastball, a starter’s frame, and potential for a full arsenal of secondaries with a slider, cutter and changeup. Now it’s just about consistently having everything working at once and being able to command the strike zone. That’s much easier said than done, of course, but a team with strong pitching player development skills could make the most of this package. Of course, that generally hasn’t described the Red Sox in the past.

Chris McMahon, University of Miami

We end our list with a pair of teammates, as McMahon is a rotation mate of Cecconi’s for the Hurricanes. According to Baseball America, McMahon is the type of pitcher who could appeal to the more analytically-inclined scouting departments as some of his metric readings are extremely impressive and outpace some of his college performances. His best pitch is the fastball, which consistently plays above its velocity, and he pairs it with a solid changeup/slider combination. He’s probably a bit of a reach for the Red Sox at 17, but we’ll see if Bloom’s influence could perhaps make them reach for an analytic-darling type of player with the team’s first pick with him at the helm. (Although, of course, Bloom doesn’t have as big of an impact on drafting as many might think.)