Scouting Report: Rick Porcello

April 4th, 2008 · 17 Comments

By Kiley McDaniel

I was able to make it out to see arguably the top pitching prospect in baseball last night on minor league opening day. The Lakeland Flying Tigers (why they’re flying, nobody knows) opened their Florida State League season versus the Tampa Yankees at Legends Field and I was able to get a good look at RHP Rick Porcello.

Porcello was considered the top prep arm in the 2007 Draft and the best prep arm since Josh Beckett–and he was paid as such, receiving a $7 million dollar big league deal with a $3.5 million bonus. Since he signed, the buzz has been significant, with every writer you can imagine fawning over the early returns and putting him in the top 10-15 prospects in baseball despite not throwing a pitch. Last night, he threw his first pitches and Saber-Scouting was there.

(Rick Porcello photo credit: Rich Morris of Seton Hall Prep)

See the Scouting Tutorial for a rundown on some of the terms in this report. Here’s some video I took for Porcello’s outing.

Rick Porcello, RHP, Lakeland Flying Tigers (Detroit)

Pitch - Present/Future Grade

Fastball - 60/65

Slider -50/55

Curveball -50/60

Changeup - 55/60

Command - 50/60

Physical Description - Long limbs, wide chest, square shoulders, average build throughout, solid bulk in legs, room to add solid build, up to 15 lbs of muscle. Well-proportioned, prototypical pitcher’s body. Resembles Justin Verlander or Roy Halladay.

Fastball - Ranged from 90-94 with movement and control all night, and everyone in the building knew he had 96-97 in his back pocket and he never brought it out. That alone was the most impressive thing about him. He was darting sinkers up to 94 right where he wanted them and varied the sink and arm-side run from pitch-to-pitch. Sat 91-93 with above-average life, movement, and control. Beyond that, he didn’t even rely on the fastball and just throw it exclusively. For a 19-year-old, that’s almost unfair. But there’s more…

Curveball - Ranged from 71-74; this was his signature hammer in high school and he threw less than 5 tonight. It had excellent depth, spin, and 12-to-6 tilt but lacked late bite. You give him a pass on that because everything else was so good and he only threw a few and didn’t have feel for it yet. Not sure if he shied away from it due to preference, mandate, or lack of feel, but I can put a future 60 on it, reports out of HS said it could easily be north of that. I’m sure I’ll get a better look in future starts.

Slider - Sat at 78-79; this was his weakest pitch but was the breaking pitch he used most often. It is a slurve that he primarily back-doored to left-handed hitters early in the count. It fills a need as a horizontal version of his curveball but it backed up in him a few times and also lacked bite but had flashed some late movement. It could’ve just been an off-day for his breaking stuff, but if he tightened that into a two-plane slider, it could be filthy.

Changeup - Ranged from 76-79; this was what really impressed everyone. It appears he just had a better feel for his change than his breaking stuff tonight and relied on it instead. He flashed a lot of 60s as a true swing-and-miss pitch to big league hitters. It is a mostly vertical drop due to his arm angle, but it’s late and it disappears. He mixed in a few on the corners with more horizontal break. Showed good command of it and used it as his out-pitch tonight. This pitch is why people love this guy. Without it, he’s just another tall guy with some velocity and command than can spin it, which is still rare, but not Chinese River Dolphin rare.

Mechanics - Sound mechanics. High 3/4 arm angle, clean and easy arm with average deception. Good torque in the motion and has an excellent decelerating finish with his arm on the follow through. Balance is good and doesn’t fall off at the end of his motion, in a good fielding position. Great leg drive. Late in the game (last clip in video) he lost his command and everything was up because he wasn’t tucking his chest and stayed high a few clicks too long. He battled and was at his pitch count and left after that inning. Motion is similar to John Smoltz.

Summary - You can see why teams loved him in the draft—he has all the elements you look for in a young pitcher. Tonight he showed a great projectable body, sound mechanics, great command for his age, great feel for a plus fastball, ability to spin a plus breaking ball, a knockout changeup, potential plus command, and the intelligence to know when and how to use these tools. Not sure what else you could want, really. I am confident he could pitch in the big leagues right now as a back-end starter, but allowing him to improve in the minors for a bit is the more savvy move. There’s been tons of hype tossed on this guy by about any writer that can spell his name, but it doesn’t look like it’s gone to his head and he’s everything that was advertised.

Adjusted Overall Future Potential: 63

Present Group: C, Future Group: A

Projected Role: #1 starter

ETA: Almost ready to contribute now, full-time in MLB by All-Star break 2009

Overall Comparison: Roy Halladay (that’s better than you might think, and I’m afraid to say this name)

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Tags: Scouting Reports

17 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Jamal G. // Apr 4, 2008 at 3:15 pm

    I believe every Yankees fan that follows the farm system will always have an acute hatred for Tigers GM, Dave Dombrowski…I sure do.

    BTW, let’s say for a second that Andrew Brackman is never had any health issues, who do you feel has the higher ceiling? Although Brackman was a college pitcher reports are that he’s still very raw so I won’t ask who you think will project to reach their ceiling, just who you think has a higher one.

  • 2 Deran // Apr 4, 2008 at 3:22 pm

    I was also on hand last night, and posted a few pictures in my blog. Rick was fantastic. I completely agree with your assessment. I was also pleased with a pretty quick pick-off move, and his ability to field his position was also above-average. What are your thoughts on those two aspects of his game?

  • 3 Mark // Apr 4, 2008 at 3:58 pm

    They are the Flying Tigers for military reasons. There is an Air Force hangar or something in Lakeland and that was the nickname for the pilots there. The team wears tan uniforms on the road like camo and the manager wears a different hat, like an Air Force commander.

  • 4 Patrick Brennan // Apr 4, 2008 at 5:57 pm

    Kiley,

    I met you at the game last night…very nice work. I posted the link on a few Tigers chat boards and pasted the article in my blog.

    What are your impressions of Iorg?

    How hard was Castro throwing?

  • 5 Baseball Mastermind » Blog Archive » Friday Afternoon Links: Jon Papelbon is Ignorant, Doesn’t Like Sushi; Sucks to be Caught in the All-U-Can-Eat Section; B.J. Upton, Male Model?; Q&A With Pirates Director of Player Development // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:09 pm

    […] Rick Porcello Scouting report. […]

  • 6 WC // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:11 pm

    The change sounds like circle movement — that the case?

  • 7 Alan Hull // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:25 pm

    Great comprehensive write-up, a real treat. If the Tigers’ bullpen continues to be a source of concern (which I think it might, even if Rodney comes back), you think there’s any chance they promote Porcello in September?

  • 8 Deran // Apr 4, 2008 at 6:48 pm

    Not to speak for Kiley, but by the time September rolls around, they’ll likely be shutting him down as I’m sure they have him on a strict innings limmit.

  • 9 The Detroit Tiger Weblog » Blog Archive » Doing my part as a cog in the Rick Porcello hype machine // Apr 4, 2008 at 7:24 pm

    […] newer blog called Saber-Scouting took in the effort and filed a full scouting report, complete with scores on the 20-80 scale. The change-up Porcello featured was his out pitch on this […]

  • 10 Roger // Apr 4, 2008 at 10:49 pm

    The Lakeland Flying Tigers utilize an old WWII training facility, thus the aviation link. The Flying Tigers were an American Volunteer Group in China prior to WWII and became part of the 14th Air Force. The two heritages have been united in the current team at Lakeland’s Tigertown. An old active runway separates the stadium from the minor league fields and three of the original hangers are still on site.

    Thanks for the scouting report, the best i’ve read.

  • 11 Daily Farm Report 4/4/08 « Future Redbirds // Apr 5, 2008 at 12:56 am

    […] Saber-Scouting’s First ChatWhat Is Wrong With Kei Igawa?Scouting Report: Rick PorcelloNews & Notes: Opening Night at LegendsScouting Report: Harold […]

  • 12 ej877 // Apr 5, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    I happened to be at a college game in Jupiter Fl, where I overheard a bunch of New York area scouts. The subject of Porcello came up in their conversation and they all agreed that he could be the next Josh Beckett. No one can fault the Tigers for taking him when they did, the blame belongs to all the teams that passed him over. If what these scouts were saying was true, he never should have been available at the tigers pick.

  • 13 kileymcd // Apr 5, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Jamal G,
    What I have gathered on Brackman is that his pure FB-CB combo has 70-80 potential, a touch more than Porcello, and has flashed a comparable CH (whether he keeps it there is another thing), but command and mechanics/consistency will probably always be lacking with the body. So that’s more of a tossup, sounds like Brackman has a higher stuff ceiling, Porcello a higher all-around ceiling and a better chance of reaching it.

    Deran,
    He did look solid in that aspect, being in a good fielding position after releasing the ball, a good pickoff move (despite a bad throw the 1B should’ve caught), and an average to above speed to the plate from the stretch. He’s the full package.

    Mark and Roger, thanks for the “Flying” clarification, I figured it was a historical thing since they just picked it up out of the blue, and I’d assume for an apparel/newness reason since I noticed the new unis and with renovated TigerTown, kind of like what the Rays did.

  • 14 kileymcd // Apr 5, 2008 at 2:06 pm

    Patrick,
    Nice meeting you at the game. Looks like you saw the Castro account from earlier, and Iorg wasn’t great, but showed some flashes in a short look, like with the triple. Time will tell if he was a 7-figure guy. And if you could toss a link back to us on your blog, we’d appreciate it.

    WC,
    Appeared to be a circle change, indeed.

    Alan,
    There’s a chance they’d do it, with a Joba-like move as the precedent, but if he were to be more than an Andrew Miller’s first pro season type impact, they’ll have to consciously limit his innings to allow that at the end of a season. I think, given Leyland’s comments, he may get a sniff since he’s already on the 40-man, in September, which wouldn’t count to arbitration concerns, but I can’t see them going full-fledged Joba with a 19-year-old, this is the year they like to keep complete control over and I’d suspect he ends the season in AA with no call-up, as Deran suggested.

    EJ,
    It’s all dollars and cents, Porcello goes #2 to KC if it’s a hard-slotting system, so dropping, you can know, is all a money issue when a talent like that falls. Teams either don’t like giving out huge money, but more likely don’t want to draw the ire of MLB that gives most of them some kind of handout to keep them toeing the line. I’ve heard that may change this draft too, so look out if that’s the case.

  • 15 Saber-Scouting // Apr 16, 2008 at 3:27 pm

    […] like to be more specific, but I already wrote an intro for him in the previous full write-up here. He got a bunch of money, people think he’s great and he pitches near where I […]

  • 16 Saber-Scouting // Apr 16, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    […] won’t cover everything in full-detail here, just an update. Take a look at the first report on Porcello for the full rundown if that’s what you’re looking […]

  • 17 Scouting Report: Michel Inoa | SaberScouting // Jun 26, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    […] future grades are on par with what I came up with after seeing Rick Porcello, while the present grades, obviously, aren’t a whole lot to write home about on their own, […]

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