2017 MLB Draft: Kent vs. Toledo

For his latest scouting report, Jeff Ellis breaks down last week's matchup between Kent State and Toldeo.

I have gone to a quite a few games this year, or at least quite a few for a person with a day job. Of all of the games I have seen this year, this one had the second most scouts attending in person. 

It was a strong pitching matchup, which I am sure helped. I have typically seen six or fewer scouts at most Kent games this year. It’s a down year in the MAC, B1G, and the state of Ohio in general. I would be willing to bet that teams might be using fewer assets in the area because of the overall down year. This game, there was easily a double digit amount of scouts present, which shows the level of interest in the players in this game. 

As mentioned before, the headliners for this game were the starting pitchers, Zach Willeman of Kent State and Ross Achter of Toledo. 

I will start with Achter who, in spite of being a senior with sparkling numbers, has been the Saturday starter for Toledo this year. Achter is a 6’4” left-handed pitcher who is striking out twice as many batters as he walks and posting a mid two E.R.A. In an interesting stat turn, he has also allowed almost twice as many unearned to earned runs. This would make me think he is a groundball pitcher with a bad defense behind him. His strikeout rate is solid and his walk rate is in the acceptable range this year.

On Saturday, I had him at 85-89 with his fastball and his slider was 77-81. He was holding his velocity well deep into the game. He didn’t throw his change much. While he might not have shown elite velocity, it was one of his best games of his career. He went eight innings, striking out 10 and walking two. He gave up nine hits and just one earned run. He showed potential plus control and command in the game and was often able to hit the right spots with his pitches to get out of jams.

The big knock here is going to be his age. Achter turns 23 in May which will make him over six years older than some high school players. He had Tommy John surgery and a medical redshirt as a freshman, so he is a fifth-year senior. 

Achter got attention from the scouts all game. He is a big lefty, with good command and control, and teams can never have enough of those. His age also means he is a strong senior sign candidate for teams. 

I first started writing about Zach Willeman last year when, as a sophomore, he came into a game I was watching and hit 95/96 in relief. He had a frame that made me think he could start and, this year, he has been the Saturday starter for Kent. 

Willeman had been heavily used out of the pen for the Flashes the previous two years but had never started a game until this year. He often worked as the closer both years, recording a total of 21 saves. This year, he has already set a new career high for innings pitched and has a chance to pitch more innings this year than he has the previous two years combined.

What has been interesting for Willeman is that, while he has moved from the pen to a starter, his walk rate has dropped significantly. He has pitched 14 more innings than a year ago. This is, right now, about 25% increase in innings from last year and he has walked three fewer players than he did last year, in spite of pitching significantly more innings. 

Willeman was mostly 90-93 with his fastball throughout the game. This pitch had nice downward movement, which allowed him to get seven ground ball outs. He held this velocity the entire game. His curveball was a real asset in game. It came in at 75-78 and froze hitters. He spotted it well throughout the game and relied on it in any situation. It was his best pitch. I didn’t see much of a third pitch during the game. 

He ended up going 6.2, giving up one earned run on four walks, four hits, and four strikeouts. His defense really let him down throughout the game, with a total of five errors. 

I would have liked to see more strikeouts with Willeman, but Willeman looks like a potential back-end innings eater arm. His big build, 6’3” and 200 pounds, and the fact that he has been starting for such a short period of time mean there is the potential for him to be a mid-rotation arm. I would feel safer with the back end projection, with the understanding that the floor is high with his history as a reliever. 

The improvement in both control and command for Willeman this year has made me have little doubt about Willeman’s ability as a starter. He hasn’t had a huge breakout type of performance in terms of strikeouts and velocity, but, instead, has shown improvement as a pitcher, which has made his floor higher. 

It is a deep class for college arms, which could hurt Willeman. I would still expect to see him end up with a six-figure bonus on draft day, once it is all said and done. 

Other Notes

  • AJ Montoya had been a catcher at Toledo before this year. He was moved to right field and showed a very strong arm there. His numbers have shown good power throughout his college career. He has a lot of swing and miss to his game, striking out 28% of the time during his college career. There would be more value if you thought he could stick at catcher. The versatility and power he has shown should get him a few looks.
  • Luke Burch had a recorded time down the line of 4.01; this would give him 65/70 speed, which is more than I would have expected. He didn’t have his best day in the field but is normally strong there. I’m still a fan and will have a bigger report to follow soon.
  • Dylan Rosa has been pressing. The last few games I have seen, he is swinging at everything. He is a big kid, with plus bat speed, so plus power potential is there, but his pitch recognition and zone recognition have been well below average this year. He always had a lot of swing and miss but, of late, it looks like he is going to swing out of his shoes or end up falling forward on strike outs. He got hit by a pitch on the foot in this game, but he swung at the pitch and it was a strikeout. A positive note was when the game was tied in the 9th, with a man on, he was able to work from behind in the count to get a walk. This advanced the runner and the next hitter was able to get the game-winning hit.
  • Speaking of the game-winning hit, it was Tim DalPorto who recorded the hit. DalPorto has been impressive in person this year. I have seen him hit the ball into the gaps in every game I have attended. His numbers have been good, but nothing that would garner attention. He doesn’t show much power in game, in spite of his 6’3” frame. He does show doubles pop in game, and it should be noted that Kent is a pitchers park. DalPorto doesn’t walk or strikeout much, but he does walk about as much as he strikes out. DalPorto is a catcher, which raises his profile. This is his first year playing every day, and he won’t turn 21 until May. There are a lot of things to like for DalPorto between his position, age, production, and inexperience. DalPorto has a chance to be drafted, which is more than I would have expected when the year began. 

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