Even as critical details have started emerging from MLB’s official return-to-play proposal, and last week’s massive changes to the upcoming 2020 MLB Draft (slashed from forty rounds to five), there’s still a thick layer of uncertainty regarding the 2020 season. We’ll find out soon enough what will become of all of this, and from Chase’s update Monday morning, it appears the league’s expectations have become more and more realistic.
In regards to the draft, even in ordinary seasons, it’s tough to get a read on who the Braves may select, but especially this year. However, on Monday morning, ESPN’s prospect guru, Kiley McDaniel, released his first mock draft of the year, predicting the event’s first-round and first competitive balance round (Round A). McDaniel has the Braves going with a high school right-hander at pick no. 25, so let’s look at who it is:
Justin Lange, RHP
- Llano HS (TX) –
- Dallas Baptist commit
Perhaps I should begin with the prospect expert. Here’s McDaniel’s take on Lange:
“Luckily for Lange, after popping up in the fall and going to the top of the priority list for scouts, his season started early enough to get in enough outings that clubs got him cross-checked and saw him go from sitting in the low-90s with his fastball velocity in the fall to hitting 100 mph regularly this spring and 101 mph in a recent bullpen. His raw ability is as good as [Mick] Abel’s, but the scouting track record is very limited, so picking him is a bit of a leap of faith.”
Any kid coming out of prep baseball slinging bullets at 100+ mph should be looked at carefully, and when it comes to high school star pitching prospects, the Braves rarely resist… even when it turns bad (hello Carter Stewart), but Lange looks like your prototypical flamethrower, with plenty of length and a build that will only improve once he starts filling in.
At 6-foot-4, Lange is still quite skinny, although he appears to have put on some serious muscle last fall participating in a baseball performance program (The Velocity Supercharge).
He uses every inch of his height on the mound, extending and finishing over the top with well-above-average velocity, which wasn’t necessarily the case just a year ago. Eric Logenhagen at FanGraphs had Lange sitting at 89-93 mph in 2019 during the Area Code Games, with him at 95 this past fall. Now, he’s in the upper-90s-100 leading up to the 2020 draft. That’s some incredible strides when it comes to fastball velocity, though Lange hasn’t had a chance to showcase it yet during live games (which explains why he’s currently outside of Logenhagen’s top-50 on THE BOARD).
As with most all high school players (save for the top prospects), season stats are hard to come by for Lange. PBR (Prep Baseball Report) has him as a four-pitch pitcher, mixing in a curve, slider, and changeup to go along with his hard fastball.
As far as McDaniel comparing Lange to Mick Abel… that’s very promising. Abel is expected to go within the top-5 in the draft (most likely the Angels at no. 3) as the top prep right-hander in the 2020 class (the kid already has an elite big league caliber slider). As McDaniel notes above, Lange doesn’t have the same track record as Abel, which given our current circumstances, most likely pertains to a ton of rising draft prospects (it’s hard to impress without actually playing baseball).
All-in-all, it’s not my favorite mock pick for the Braves (I’d like to see them pick another college bat), and I think, judging how other folks in the industry rank Lange currently, him at no. 25 is a bit too high; however, you can never go wrong with an 18-year-old throwing easy 100 mph gas. As we’ve seen over the last 4-5 years, velocity is king on the mound, and an opportunity to develop a hard-thrower could be a worthwhile investment for the Braves.
As more mocks are released over the next three weeks or so, we’ll look at other draft prospects that pop up along the way.