Name: Jon Harris
Height/Weight: 6’4’’, 190
One of the hottest MLB Draft names over the last two weeks from the college ranks has been Missouri State Bear Jon Harris. There is a good argument to be made whether Harris or prep catcher Tyler Stephenson have had the most helium of late. While one is a college pitcher and the other a prep bat, they do have one thing in common: I expect both to go early this year.
Coming out of high school in 2012, Harris was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 33rd round. He was the 1015th player taken overall that year. He is basically assured of going at least 1,000 spots higher this year.
Harris has had a meteoric rise this year from a borderline first-rounder to a possible top-10 pick. Coming into the 2015 season, he was viewed as a player with a live arm and some trouble commanding his stuff. He looked very good on during the Cape Cod League and it caused him to make many top-30 MLB Draft prospect lists back in October.
Harris was viewed as a guy with a little more upside than most because he was a small school guy. It is funny how that works when teams like you: being from a small school means you have more upside. When a team does not like you, it means that you are less developed than you should be.
Harris a big 6’4”, 190-pound right-handed pitcher. The fact that he could easily add some more bulk is another reason to believe there is more upside in his arm. He has four pitches which all flash plus at times when he can command them. His fastball is his best pitch and this is because it dives down in the strike-zone. He sits low to mid 90’s but the movement on his fastball should make it a true plus pitch. His change-up, slider and curveball have all shown plus at moments. Harris’ curveball is his best breaking pitch and could be a plus pitch down-the-road. It has a nice, hard break and really can be used as a weapon to get out lefties or righties.
The knock heading into the year on Harris was his trouble with command and control. His walk-rate is basically identical to a year ago; it’s actually .01% higher. He has also had more wild pitches this year than last year. So why is he rising if these numbers show a lack of improvement? The way statistically you can identify his improved command is the big jump in strikeouts and a big drop in hits. His K’s per nine are up by 3.4 strikeouts a game. That is huge improvement, basically up 50% from a year ago. He is giving up one less hit a game and is yet to allow a homerun. In other words, he is harder to hit, which shows me a guy who is hitting his spots more often than a year ago even if he is still walking a high number of guys.
Harris compares very favorably to fellow top MLB Draft prospect Kyle Funkhouser to me. Funkhouser is the safer player who is closer to the majors. Harris has a bit more upside but is a bigger risk, as well. Frankly if I was a team and deciding between them it would all come down to salary demands and how much of a difference there was between the two players’ asking prices. Money matters in the pool system and you have to take into account what the cost to sign is, as it could end up netting a team a few players down the line if they can save a little more money early.
Now for the all-important comparison part of the article. I would be remiss if I did not compare him to Ross Detwiler. Detwiler was the 6th pick in the 2007 draft and he also hailed from Missouri State. Detwiler is the highest drafted player ever from Missouri State. They are close in size – Harris is an inch shorter – both are right-handed and, of course, hail from the same college. As a matter of fun, let’s compare the junior year numbers of both pitchers. I will list Detwiler’s first when I post the numbers below since he is the proven talent.
ERA 2.22/ 2.08 K9 11.12/ 10.82 BB9 3.84/ 3.17 H9 6.47/ 6.45 HR9 0.61/ 0
As you can see, some very similar numbers for these players and while Detwiler has been more of a middle rotation pitcher in the big leagues, the one major advantage that Harris has over Detwiler is the sink on his fastball, which leads to the lack of homeruns given up. Harris has given up less homeruns in three years of college than Detwiler gave up during his junior season alone. One could look at these numbers and think there is a chance Harris could be a plus version of Detwiler. The only area he is not better than Detwiler is strikeout rate.
Harris is one of the more interesting arms in this class to me. In my next top MLB Draft prospects ranking, he will be a top-10 talent. He has shown significant improvement this year, which is not something you can say for most players in the top-20 this year. His fastball is one of the better pitches in this class and could be a real weapon down-the-road as Harris grows into his frame and continues to get coached up.