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2017 MLB Draft: Sam Carlson, RHP, Burnsville, Minnesota

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No high school pitcher from Minnesota has ever been drafted in the first round. Sam Carlson might change that in 2017.

High school pitchers from cold-weather states offer both benefits and challenges for major league teams. On the one hand, they tend to have less mileage on their arms than pitchers from warmer climes, in theory reducing their injury risk if workloads are managed properly once they get into pro ball.

On the other hand, the same lack of mileage means they are often less polished and less developed overall compared to their peers who get to pitch more. Scouts also don’t get as many looks at northern pitchers: rainouts, coldouts, and snowouts are the spring bane of baseball evaluators.

This is especially true in the upper Midwest and no high school pitcher from Minnesota has ever been drafted in the first round. Sam Carlson might change that in 2017.

THE BASICS

Sam Carlson is a high school pitcher from Burnsville, Minnesota. A year ago he was an intriguing 6-3, 180 pounder with an upper-80s fastball and good projectability. He also had a commitment to the University of Florida, where the Gators have a long track record of recruiting from this part of the country. Last summer his velocity began to increase and he’s taken another large step forward this spring.

Born December 3rd, 1998, he’s grown an inch and filled out his build, now checking in at 6-4, 205.

STRENGTHS

We start with his fastball, which improved from 87-89 last spring to 90-93 over the summer to 91-95 (with reported peaks at 96-97) this year. The fastball isn’t straight and has impressive action low in the strike zone, yet he’s also able to command the pitch and hit his spots. He may not be done growing and it’s possible there’s another tick left on the heater.

His secondary pitches are quite advanced especially given his background. His change-up is ahead of his slider but both flash plus. He repeats his mechanics well, throws strikes, has a mature mound presence, and is a strong overall athlete who would also be a prospect as an outfielder. He’s been an active showcase player so scouts have had decent looks at him, although his improvement this spring came perhaps sooner than expected.

WEAKNESSES

Not many. Like all high school pitchers there’s an unavoidable risk of injury, and some observers worry that he throws across his body a bit too much. So far it hasn’t been an issue.

OVERALL

Eighteen months ago it looked like Carlson might go off to the University of Florida, develop into an ace, and be a top pick in the 2020 draft. He improved enough last summer to boost that timetable, and there was talk in January that his home-state Minnesota Twins were targeting him with picks 35 (comp round A) or 37 (second round) in the June draft.

Carlson’s gains this spring make it quite unlikely he’ll fall far enough for the Twins to get him. He’s moved into top 20 contention and has a shot at the Top 10, projecting as a dominant starter, perhaps second only to Hunter Greene among high school right-handers.

Very good video from Perfect Game

An interview video