Scouting Notes: Nicolino As Good As It Gets

DUNEDIN - Often times, spring training offers a glimpse of a pitcher's arsenal, but for the most part they typically aren't as sharp as they would be in the regular season. But, someone clearly forgot to explain that to Jays' pitching prospect, Justin Nicolino. The young left-hander was in mid-season form on Thursday, carving up a tough Yankees' Low-A lineup with relative ease.

A former second round draft pick, Justin Nicolino is beginning to look more and more like a steal for the Blue Jays. For context purposes, it's important to note the lineup the left-hander was facing in Thursday's outing. He was up against the Yankees' Low-A Charleston RiverDogs squad, a team loaded with top hitting prospects that has been tearing through most of the pitchers they've seen this spring.

When they ran into Nicolino, however, they were completely shut down. He worked consistently at 89-91 mph throughout his outing, a little below where you're likely to see him during the season. But, in just about every other regard, he appeared to be in mid-season form.

Nicolino seemed to be able to put his fastball wherever he wanted, working both sides of the plate and living at the knees. What made him so incredibly difficult, though, were his secondary pitches. He was more than willing to go to either his changeup or curveball to begin an at-bat or when he was behind in a count.

First, let's talk about Nicolino's changeup. This is clearly his best pitch and is currently a 60 on the 20-80 scale and flashes 70 potential. It's going to be a true plus-plus offering at the next level and he already shows tremendous command of it. It has so much fade and diving action that he's comfortable throwing it to lefties as well. Thrown at 79-81 mph, it also has more than enough differential to be a swing and miss offering.

The curveball is another potential above average offering for Nicolino. He throws it at 72-74 with good depth and 11-5 action. It's currently an average pitch, but if he can tighten it up the plus potential is there. But, it's yet another weapon that he's very comfortable in locating.

When he's at full strength, Nicolino will be working around 90-92 mph and will bump 93 at times. Put that together with his plus command, dominant changeup and quality breaking ball, and you have a pitcher that profiles near the front of a rotation without having the blazing fastball.

He's going to cruise through the lower levels if he can stay healthy, and it wouldn't be shocking to see him pitching to Double-A hitters by the end of the season.

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