Lance McCullers #84 – 2013 Top 100
Date of Birth: October 2nd, 1993(age 19)
Origin: 1st Round Pick(#41 overall) in 2012 out of Jesuit HS(FL)
- 2012 Shadow Mock Draft (Bullpen Banter)
- 1st Day MLB Draft Reactions (Bullpen Banter)
- Astros prospect Lance McCullers makes an Impression (Chris Blessing)
- Blessing’s 2012 Top 50 Prospects Scouted: Prospects 20 Thru 11 (Chris Blessing)
Evan Rentschler: I’m of the minority who never succumbed to the ‘McCullers can’t start’ meme. Yes, the arm action is long, and his height is modest; but there was nothing obviously relegating him to relief except prospect fatigue. His delivery has always featured solid mechanics, with the longish takeaway offset by a strong lower half and a great stride that made the most of his average height a la Mr. Tim Lincecum. A fastball hitting the mid-90s late in games, a big breaking but erratically commanded slurve, and feel for a change as a junior — up to which point he’d pitched primarily in relief — turned into a fastball sitting in the mid-90s late in games, a hard slider that he could throw for strikes, and that good change up. Not enough was made of the fact that he put in the necessary work on his delivery (smaller arm circle, controlling his stride) as he conscientiously prepared for a full HS season as a starter heading into his senior year; his high school development pattern seems very thoughtful in retrospect, and serves as one possible road map for future precocious flamethrowers.
McCullers has always reminded me of Carlos Martinez with their solid but modest builds, the combination of an elite fastball and potential bat-missing breaking ball, and their detractor-baiting mechanical quirks, but it’s doubtful that he’ll be advanced in accordance with C-Mart’s confident promotions. Spring training could spell a full-season challenge at Lexington, or, just as easily, extended spring training, followed by a level a year with a taste of the next one if he stays healthy and keeps plugging. McCullers has to really put in some work if he’s going to realize his top of rotation potential, a sentiment echoed in Chris Blessing’s excellent and timely look at him (linked above), but fresh-armed teens pumping 97 are the Power Ball tickets of prospectdom.
Chris Blessing: As Evan alluded to in his comments, there were questions coming into the draft about McCullers’s long term ability to remain in the rotation. The pitcher I saw pitch for Greeneville, the Appalachian league affiliate of the Houston Astros, looked like a bona fide starter. Featuring the three pitches Evan mentioned, McCullers showcased a better arsenal than some more advanced starters on this list. In fact, I think 84 on the Bullpen Banter top 100 is a very conservative ranking, especially considering that McCullers has cleaned up some of the red flags in his delivery. With a solid feel for his change to keep hitters honest and a slider that will function as an out pitch, McCullers has the makings of a solid Major League starting pitcher. I believe McCullers perfect world outcome is as a number two starter.
Al Skorupa: I think that later in the spring McCullers did a lot to answer questions about whether he can start. I was even more encouraged by Chris’s observations. The quality of raw stuff absolutely does stick out on the back end of this list. If McCullers can build on the progress he made in 2012, then the sky is the limit, and he has the potential to rank among the best pitching prospects in baseball. If his mechanics regress or he can’t improve his command and control he’d still be on the shortlist of best relief prospects in the game.
Fantasy Outlook by Evan Rentschler
As noted above, McCullers has all the tools to be a mid-rotation starter with high strikeout totals, but he’s also relatively new to starting because of the way he was handled in high school. This is very much a plus for an arm this potent, but it does mean that his progress will be steady, disappointing anyone hoping for a rapid rise. While Chris and I see a starter, it has to be conceded that McCullers may still end up in the bullpen; in that capacity his ability to fire in the high-90s and back it up with a potential plus breaking ball gives him a reasonable floor of a set-up man with a good shot to close thanks to his poise and big game mentality. Obviously there’s a big difference in value between those two outcomes, but I think the risk that McCullers ends up as a reliever is tempered by the impact he could have in that role. Late 2015 would be an optimistic ETA for him as a starter, with sometime in 2016 more likely, but don’t underestimate the bloodlines and the chance for an acceleration of that timetable if the light bulb comes on. The Astros shouldn’t be in any position to contend for the next several years, so they have every reason to develop McCullers as a starter.