There haven’t been many college pitchers more productive than Mitch Myers in the season’s early going. The University of Pittsburgh’s Friday night starter, Myers, has struck out 26 hitters with just four walks over his first three starts. Combined with his strong work before the 2020 season shut down, the junior right-hander has tossed 40 innings of 3.38 ERA ball with a stellar 56:8 strikeout-to-walk ratio since transferring to Pitt from a Florida junior college. More impressive than the bottom line numbers are the teams Myers has held in check. Five of his seven starts at the Division I level have come against Ohio State, Miami, Indiana State (a quality mid-major opponent who earned a bid in the most recent NCAA tournament), Florida State, and Duke. Myers isn’t feasting on lowly competition; he’s pitching well against some of the better lineups in the country.
At a certain point, consistent performance against that kind of competition warrants observation. Myers doesn’t have the high-end velocity you see from many of the ACC’s top starters; his fastball typically ranges from 89-91 MPH, about average for a Division I hurler but 3-4 ticks below the MLB average. That’s likely to keep him out of the first round mix, but his fastball characteristics and athleticism suggest he could offer sneaky value as a Day Two prospect.
Myers’ best start to date at the D-I level came on February 26, when he worked six scoreless innings with 13 strikeouts and two walks in an eventual 1-0 win over Florida State. Despite maxing out at 91.3 MPH, he held Seminole hitters down mostly with the fastball, racking up 14 whiffs on 60 heaters (23.3% swinging strike rate) over the course of the evening. The pitch’s secondary characteristics help explain how it played so well despite lacking big velocity.
Throughout the start, the broadcast mentioned Myers’ high fastball spin rate as a big reason for his success. They’re certainly not wrong; Myers’ average fastball spun at 2330 RPM, better than Statcast’s MLB average for four-seamers last season (2306 RPM). (That’s particularly impressive because fastball spin correlates positively with velocity, and we know Myers doesn’t have huge velo). Probably more important than the raw spin, though, is the four-seam tilt. Myers frequently worked in the 12:30 tilt range, maximizing the fastball’s backspin that allows him to work above the barrel.
His effectiveness is also aided by his lower than average release height (5.42 feet on four-seamers in this start). As Mason McRae recently examined, that helps flatter-planed fastballs play at the top of the strike zone. As one would expect, Myers’ induced vertical break on the four-seam is also above-average. Those characteristics (and his high-end performance in a major conference) should appeal to teams that lean heavily on data in constructing their draft models, but there’s also plenty to like from a traditional scouting perspective.
Myers is a plus athlete with an advanced ability to pitch to both edges of the plate. He works quickly and isn’t afraid to challenge hitters within the strike zone, carrying an on-mound confidence and competitiveness. While a fastball-dominant pitcher, Myers backs it up with a solid slider with heavy downer action.
It doesn’t have the sharp bite to make it a huge swing-and-miss offering, but that pitch has enough depth (and Myers locates it below the zone consistently enough) to stay off barrels and induce plenty of soft ground balls. At the very least, that fastball-slider combination should allow Myers to continue to have success against right-handed hitters. Improving his feel for the changeup will probably be the developmental focus in pro ball; it wasn’t a particularly competitive pitch against FSU and could cause some platoon troubles as he works multiple times through the order against pro hitters.
Myers isn’t quite a finished product, but he’s proven an incredible find for the Pitt coaching staff as a JUCO transfer. Despite the depth of the ACC, the Panthers have their best chance at an NCAA tournament berth in quite some time. That’s in no small part because of their new ace, who’ll also offer quality mid-round value to an MLB team this summer.
(Image credit: pittsburghpanthers.com)