Welcome to the first of our 2018 MLB Draft prospect profiles. Given how early it is, I will focus mostly on college talent through the fall. While most have Brady Singer as the top college arm in next year’s draft class, Auburn University righty Casey Mize is a talent that could give him a run for his money.
Mize was a tall, lanky prep righty with a high eighties to low nineties fastball out of Springville, Alabama. He wasn’t ranked by anyone during his senior year, but an Auburn commitment made him an unlikely sign anyway. He had a solid freshman campaign as a swing arm. He threw 69 innings (cue the Beavis and Butthead laughter) over sixteen games and seven starts, with a 3.52 ERA, 7.7 K/9, and 3.3 K/BB. He followed that up with twelve solid innings in the Cape Cod League, with a 3.00 ERA and eleven strikeouts to five walks.
He burst on the radar his sophomore season, with a 2.04 ERA over 83.2 innings. His strikeout rate jumped to 11.7 K/9, and his walk rate decreased to under one per nine innings. He joined the USA Collegiate National Team, but left the team after eight shutout innings due to forearm tightness, something that had also flared up in the spring.
The jump in performance was due to an increase in velocity, topping out at 96 mph, and a refinement of his two offspeed pitches. He’s replaced the changeup of his high school days with a nasty upper-80s splitter, and his curveball with a low-80s slider that flashes plus at times. A 35-pound jump in weight due to added muscle helped his velocity, and his stamina as a starter. Now standing 6’3”, 210, he looks the part of a big league starter, with the smooth mechanics and power stuff that has one dreaming of top of the rotation potential.
Going into his junior season, Mize is definitely a top 20 prospect for me. Right now, the big concern is the forearm, as those issues can often lead to Tommy John surgery. Assuming he can stay healthy, he’s a top ten talent, in one perhaps the best draft class of the past six years.