The next in our series of college pitchers is University of South Carolina right-hander, Braden Webb.
Webb has been on scouts' radars since his high school days as the top prep pitcher in Oklahoma's class of 2014. Webb injured his elbow early in his senior season requiring Tommy John surgery. He went undrafted following the injury in 2014. Instead of enrolling at South Carolina, Webb took time off to rehab his injury. The Cleveland Indians saw enough during his rehab to roll the dice on Webb in the 38th round in 2015, but he elected to pitch for the Gamecocks in 2016.
Already old for the class of 2014, Webb turned 21 in April. His lost 2015 season leaves him with the unusual distinction of being a draft-eligible freshman. Most of the major media sources have Webb as a top-100 talent in this season's draft class with our own cookiedabookie slotting him in at 84.
Webb has taken the SEC by storm in his freshman season. Prior to Tuesday's Regional Championship game, Webb is 10-5 with a 3.39 ERA over 16 starts. In 93.1 innings, he has 122 strikeouts against 46 walks. The stats alone provide a quick and dirty understanding of Webb's profile as a college arm with great stuff, but control issues.
Listed at 6-2, 195 pounds, Webb features a high waist and strong frame. At age 21, he offers less hope for physical projection than the typical college freshman.
His fastball typically sits in the low-90s and frequently touches 95-96. The pitch features good life and is a key piece in the repertoire that has him second in the SEC in strikeouts.
The pitch that truly distinguishes Webb from his collegiate peers is his curve ball. It is a true 12-6 offering with big break and excellent depth. The curve projects to plus and gives Webb a second pitch capable of missing bats.
Webb also utilizes a solid change up on occasion. It is a distant third pitch in terms of the frequency of its usage, but it shows average potential. There is enough here to hope that he can round out a starter's arsenal in the professional ranks.
He works from a side step and overhead windup before exploding toward the plate with good momentum and torque components to his delivery which help to fuel his excellent velocity. He sometimes has issues with the timing of the separation of his hands which can correspond with his wavering command. There is a bit of stab in the back of his arm action as well. He works from a high three-quarters release point which requires some spine tilt to achieve.
The question marks on Webb come from his command profile and concerns over his durability. His delivery features some effort. As his 4.38 BB/9 rate will attest, Webb occasionally loses the strike zone. Given his control issues and injury history, it seems fair to question whether Webb will be able to realize his potential as a mid-rotation starter or require a move to the bullpen down the line.
Webb is competitive and has shown surprising composure in his first exposure to the nation's premier college conference. As a freshman, Webb has more leverage than the typical college prospect in terms of his remaining eligibility. He seems to love being part of the South Carolina program. It's easy to wonder about his signability under the circumstances. He has the potential to go as high as the second round due to his combination of great stuff and success in the SEC.
Video courtesy of Perfect Game's Jheremy Brown