Joey Gatto, Right-Handed Pitcher
HT : 6'3
WT : 204 lb.
DOB : June 14, 1995, Hammonton, NJ
Throws : Right
Bats : Right
School : St. Augustine College Preparatory School (Richland, NJ)
Acquired : Drafted in 2nd round (53rd overall) in 2014 June Draft
Stock : Neutral
Cool Notes : Went to school 15 miles away from Millville, New Jersey (home of Mike Trout)
The Angels took Kevin Jepsen with the 53rd overall pick in 2002. 12 years later, the Angels opted for another hard throwing right-hander, taking Joe Gatto with the pick, and believe the high schooler will have a largely successful career on the mound. Gatto signed for $1.2 million, opting out of his committment to the University of North Carolina and becoming a professional baseball player, which so far, seems to be a very good idea for the youngster. Oh, just another fun note. Andy Messersmith, you may have heard of him, was taken 53rd overall in 1965, and he had a pretty decent career with the Angels, if you didn't know already.
Gatto has a nice fastball that was really the attention grabber of scouts. It sits in the lower to mid 90's, primarily from 92-94, but has tapped 95 at times. It has some nice running and sinking movement to it, and comes in at a downward plane due to his large frame. The ball really jumps on batters due to his deceptive throwing motion.
Gatto was given high praise for his already athletic frame and natural athleticism. He was a star basketball player in high school, who also played quarterback in his early prep years, as well as had a nice bat in school as well. With his athleticism, comes some outstanding stamina, which should mean he will be able to go deep into outings and stay healthy throughout his career (which also comes with lack of stress on his elbow in his delivery). Gatto stands at six-foot-five and over 200 pounds, which is perfect for a young pitcher. He does have long arms though (like Jered Weaver), and has had troubles keeping his limbs consistent in his delivery, losing his release point and landing marks. Once he learns to control his body a little more, he'll truly become effective. Gatto also has some more physical development, which could mean added velocity at the latter parts of his full development.
As noted above, his body sometimes causes Gatto to become erratic. Mechanically, there are few concerns when it comes to Gatto. He reminds us slightly of a mix between Justin Masterson and Bronson Arroyo. He begins with a high leg kick, (not as dramatic as Arroyo), and has a nice hip turn, landing well in front of himself and throwing the ball slightly across his body. With his height, he throws the ball downhill well, but mixes his arm slot too much between and over the head toss and three/quarter slot. With the arm slot moving around, his command, control, and release point become problems, which will need to be focused on in his development. Throwing across his body the way he does though becomes a very deceptive motion, and makes the ball explode out of his hand, adding not just deception, but what appears to be added velocity from the batters perspective.
Gatto's secret weapon is his curveball. It really snaps out of the hand, and is more of a power curve than 12-6 or sweeper. It has a nice, tight spin, with great drop. He can use this in nearly every count but needs to find more consistency in his release point with the pitch. Gatto also comes equipped with a changeup that needs development. Right now, it's not much more than just an offering that will keep him as a starter, but it really needs work so he can go after left-handed bats with success. The nice thing about his changeup is the way he delivers it from a nearly identical arm slot as his fastball, and it comes out of the hand quick and straight, which adds deception.
Gatto finished his senior year at St. Augustine Prep with a lot of nice notes. He held a 7-1 record, with a 0.94 ERA, striking out 65 in 52.1 innings pitched, finishing the season with three straight shutouts. Gatto also hit .370 with a home run and 11 RBI, helping lead his team to their first Joe Hartmann Diamond Classic Championship in school history. Gatto was named the Press Player of the Year, and helped lead his team to their second consecutive Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title.
Gatto had an inning limit once drafted, but showed some nice signs in Rookie Ball, posting a 5.33 ERA and 1.666 WHIP. It may not appear to be outstanding statistics, but one 2.1 inning start, where he allowed five runs really through his numbers for a whirl. Without that start, Gatto would have posted a 4.01 ERA, 1.459 WHIP and .275 opposing average.
Gatto should go back to Rookie Ball in 2015, where the focus won't be on his statistics, but instead development only. Rookie Ball is primarily meant for development anyways, and a full season of working on his changeup and repetitive mechanics, he could truly become elite the way it was expected when he was drafted.
Gatto doesn't really have a ceiling or a floor, because he's a high school pitcher with a strong arm. He could be anywhere from a mid-rotation guy to a backend of the bullpen guy. It all really relies on his development, and particularly on that changeup. His current ETA to the Majors is set for 2019, but he could be there sooner with quick development.
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Taylor Blake Ward is a Senior Publisher for InsideTheHalos.com, and can be found on Twitter, @TaylorBlakeWard.