Name: Jeff Degano
Height/Weight: 6’4’’, 200
This week I am back to doing a pair of capsules. I decided for the second capsule to profile a pop up player this year. Jeff Degano is small school guy from Indiana State. He is the second small school guy this week and both are big-bodied, potential starters, which is a bit of a theme of the week.
Jeff Degano has had a circuitous route to being a likely top-three round pick this year. He is from Surrey, British Columbia. Now Canada has really grown over the past few years in terms of MLB talent, but it’s still not a hot-bed for baseball talent, especially when you consider the amount players coming there per population. There have been a total of 239 players born in Canada that have made the majors. The biggest name out of Surrey I could find was Adam Loewen. Loewen is an interesting player in his own right who made it to the majors as a pitcher and then after injuries as a hitter.
Degano ended up attending Marshalltown Community College in Iowa. Marshalltown has had four draft picks in the school’s history. The highest went in the 21st round and made it all the way to Triple-A. On top of that, that Marshalltown alum has one of the better names I can recall in recent memory: Mumba St. Clair Rivera. Rivera was a big righty with no control but also a nice strikeout rate. I should add the school did produce a second rounder in 1968 but that was in the now defunct January phase of the draft, which was always talent poor.
After two years at Marshalltown, Degano enrolled at Indiana State. If you are wondering why is that school name is familiar, it is because in 2013 it got a lot of press as the school Sean Manaea was pitching for. Manaea was the top player on more than a few boards going into that year before injury concerns caused him to slide. No worries for Manaea, though, as he signed over-slot with the Kansas City Royals and has looked very good in the minors.
Degano had three starts for Indiana State in 2013 before he needed Tommy John surgery. He then missed all of 2014 before coming back this year. He basically lost two whole years thanks to injury. He would have been draft eligible a year ago but was not really on the radar until he came back and pitched extremely well.
Before we dive into the stats, I should explain who Jeff Degano, the pitcher, is. He is a 6’4”, 200 pound left-hander who basically has had one single season of NCAA college competition. He sits 90-94 MPH and is able to hit his spots consistently. His best off-speed pitch is his curveball and he has some nice separation with the pitch, sitting in the high 70’s to low 80’s. His third pitch is his change-up, which is developing and should be an average pitch. I emailed his coaches to get more information and they raved about Degano. It was pretty clear he worked extremely hard to come back from injury and return better than anyone could have expected.
The numbers are spectacular for Degano: 2.62 ERA, 11.72 K/9, 2.72 BB/9, 112:26 K:BB. He is striking out more guys and walking less than Manaea did with a similar hit rate. Manaea had a lower ERA, but Degano has many ratios better than Manaea did as a junior in college and Manaea is one of the top 100 prospects in baseball right now.
The downside is Degano is 23. He is older Bryce Harper and not your typical, fast-moving college arm. Thanks to injuries he just hasn’t had the reps of your typical college arm. There could also be concerns he might be a one-year wonder. The lack of track record, age and injury in his past will more than likely limit Degano to the second or third round.
Now for the most popular section of these articles: the comparison section. When I was trying to find a comp for Degano by looking for a guy who was a mid- to back-end starter who was a big body, innings eater. This was actually harder than one might think. There are a lot of comps for 6’2” or shorter left-handers in the majors. The player who best fit as a comp for Degano is Jon Niese of the Mets. As a bonus both will end up being drafted out of the Midwest. Niese is the same height and has been the definition of a back of the rotation starter for most of his career. Degano’s strike-out rate in college is near twice Niese’s in pro ball, so there is a chance Degano could outperform expectations.
Degano is a big wild card to me in this draft. He is back healthy and pitching with excellent results. The question is, thanks to his relative lack of pitching and size, can he add a little more velocity down the road? This would change his projection significantly. He is one of the older players in this draft and will take a while to develop. I am still a fan though and am intrigued by a guy who looks like at least to left-handed reliever down-the-road with more seasoning and time back from injury. If your team takes, Degano just know he is a sleeper to watch.