Draft Preview: Scherzer Moving Upward Again

On Friday Max Scherzer showed two things on the mound. One, that he's completely healthy, and the second that he is re-establishing himself as one of the nation's top prospects. Pitching in front of over 50 scouts, he topped out at 98 MPH and threw a nasty slider improving to 7-1 on the season. Scherzer dropped down draft boards earlier this spring because of injuries, but is rising back up.

Scherzer missed several starts with bicep tendonitis, and then had a finger issue that caused him to miss time. Since his return the right-hander has been brilliant on the mound, showing he has not lost any velocity. Some scouts question his breaking pitches – mostly his slider – but on Friday he put that issue to rest.

"His slider was nasty against Oklahoma," said one scout that was present at the game. "He has shown us he can throw his fastball in the upper 90s again, but what is causing him to slip are his secondary pitches."

The lack of secondary pitches is the reason many view Scherzer as a future closer. There is no doubting his blazing fastball, and his slider, however, the Missouri starter does not have much of a repertoire beyond those two pitches. He does throw a changeup in the 78-80 MPH range, but scouts view it as a below average pitch.

"A lot of people that have scouted Max would know a lot more about him than I do, but I can tell you one thing that I know for sure about him," said Missouri pitching coach Anthony Vitello, "He is nowhere near his potential."

"I can't predict the future and say he's going to make this jump or accomplish this feat, but I can tell you the ceiling is well above where he stands today."

"We don't have much else to offer him here. The competition helps but it's one of many factors that will only push him to rise up again once he competes on a new level."

Scherzer throws a four-seam and two-seam fastball, however, his four-seam is by far the key to his success. Scouts note that it can't get much better than it's right now, but it doesn't have to. Scherzer's two-seam fastball and his off-speed pitchers are extremely new to him.

Vitello noted that his two-seam fastball is the ‘youngest' of his pitches, and is a pitch that can be a real difference to his success.

"He needs to take these pitches as far as they can go."

"Strength, balance, and throwing habits are three areas that have helped catapult him to the top of the draft board. He has used his smarts to combine the influences that have gone on around him for three years, and whipped up his own formula for success. Only a few kids have the insight to do that, and ever fewer can to execute it."

Where Scherzer goes in the draft is a big mystery. One scout believes his recent performance has thrown him back into the first round, while a second scout, who was also present at his start on Friday, believes all small market teams will stay away from him because of his signability issues.

"Let's face the facts and be realistic. There are concerns about his health, and his stuff. To top it off he has an advisor that many clubs don't like to deal with during the draft process," the scout said referring to Scott Boras.

One scout, whose club selects in the first half of the first round, said he made a recommendation to his Scouting Director and General Manager to select Scherzer and view him as a closer.

"If you make up your mind right now to put him in the bullpen and groom him to be a closer, he could be the perfect pick. He could even help out a club in September if he signs quickly."

Vitello noted that Scherzer's competitiveness will drive him to ultimate success.

"His stuff is special, but there have been plenty of guys with similar ability that couldn't get it done."

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