All stats as of before the Thursday 4/14 games**
Perfect Game just released their Midseason Collegiate All-Americans list. The standard Power Five names like Jace Jung, Cooper Hjerpe, and Parker Messick headlined the first and second teams. Something of note was that nearly 15 members of the All-American squad came from “mid-major” programs. This is no recent development, however. Elite mid-major talent continues to hold its place in the college baseball landscape. Over the past three years, there have been 14 first round picks to come out of mid-major schools. In last year’s draft, there were two in the top ten picks. This year, the number one overall pick has multiple candidates from mid-major schools. Looking above to the blurry featured image, you can see a matchup between Chris Sale and Jacob DeGrom while they were at FGCU and Stetson respectively. Two of the premier arms in the MLB today both came from mid-major schools. Mid-majors are coming from everywhere and can compete with some the top programs in the country. Here’s an analysis on four mid-major arms that were named Midseason All-Americans and one that could be there by the end of the year.
Connor Staine (UCF)
Connor Staine has been a nice standout out of UCF. The 6’4″ 200 lb Maryland transfer is in the midst of a breakout 2022 campaign. Staine did not allow an earned run in his first 32.2 IP. That’s right. 32.2 IP, 121 batters faced, and 496 pitches thrown and an opposing run still had not crossed the plate at his own fault until last night against ECU. Staine comes in with a 155 overall Stuff+ grade according to Mason McRae’s Stuff+ model with 100 representing average. Mason’s Stuff+ model uses the physical metrics of a pitch (release height, Vert/Horz break, etc) to quantifiably provide an overall view of a pitcher’s “stuff” and ultimately project whiff rate. Connor Staine’s pitch arsenal has clearly been effective against opposing batters in 2022 and the Stuff+ data backs it up.
Staine has a good starter build with room to fill out his long levered, 200 pound frame. He’s an athletic presence on the mound with a repeatable delivery and good arm speed. His arsenal mostly features a fastball/slider/curveball mix and he has great feel for all three pitches. Staine displays exceptional pitchability which improves the quality of his stuff in game. His fastball sits at about 92-95, touching 97, with a power ride profile and some run on the pitch. This helps induce a fair amount of whiffs and allows it to play well up in the zone. The slider is in the low 80s and tunnels extremely well off of the fastball that’s thrown either up in the zone or away. Staine commands the pitch with ease and is able to throw it in many types of counts. The slider is able to generate both whiffs and called-strikes and has the makings of an above-average pitch. He has a curveball too that isn’t thrown as often but shows solid two-plane break. There’s a changeup thrown in there to lefties and is used sparingly.
His performance against #2 ranked Ole Miss in early March stands out among his other impressive outings. Staine struck out 10 in 7 innings, allowing only 2 hits and 1 walk. He did an incredible job of missing barrels and generating whiffs with both the fastball and slider. He provides an intriguing starter profile that will draw lots of early interest in the upcoming MLB Draft. As UCF continues to push for an AAC conference title and an Omaha bid, Staine will be a large contributor to their postseason efforts.
Drew Thorpe- Cal Poly
Drew Thorpe pitches out of a Cal Poly program headlined by 2022 # 1 overall pick candidate Brooks Lee. However, Thorpe is not to be taken lightly as he has consistently produced as a strong three-year starting pitcher for the Mustangs. In 2022, Thorpe is currently tied for the Division 1 lead in strikeouts with 80 in 56.1 IP. To put this into perspective, he is tied with Florida State’s Parker Messick who has been utterly dominant for one of the premier starting pitching staffs in the country. Thorpe is nearly pushing a sub-2 ERA while producing a 76.9 DIGS (7th in the nation). DIGS (Defense Independent Game Score) is similar to FIP in that it encompasses the statistical measurables that are most in the pitcher’s control (strikeouts, walks, etc). This removes the defensive element present in ERA and can be more representative of a pitcher’s true performance. Thorpe’s score ranks ahead of guys like Hunter Barco and Chase Burns who are widely viewed as two of the better pitchers in college baseball.
Drew Thorpe has been extremely impressive thus far and is establishing himself as an earlier round talent in this years MLB Draft. Thorpe possess a strong 6’4″ frame with impressive physicality and room to fill out. He fits the mold of a prototypical, athletic starter with a solid pitch arsenal to back it up. His fastball is a good pitch that sits 92-94 and can ramp up to 96 at times. The changeup is his true claim to fame, however. The pitch is truly a plus offering that has even received recognition as one of the best in this year’s draft class. Thorpe’s changeup is the whole package: good run, differs in velocity and break profiles from the fastball, deceptive and tunnels well with the fastball, arm speed stays the same, thrown with intent and conviction. His slider works well in the arsenal with the changeup. It lives in the low 80s with sharp break and some sweep. Outside of a 5 walk outing against Dixie State, Thorpe has kept the walks at a minimum and has shown great command of his off speed pitches. The full arsenal is a Ryan Pepiot-esque profile with similar upside if he can continue to add some velo to his fastball like Pepiot has in pro ball.
Thomas Harrington- Campbell
Thomas Harrington looks to be one of the next big prospects to come out of a Campbell program that’s had six guys drafted in the past four years. In 53 innings thus far, Harrington has struck out 75 batters while maintaining one of the better starter ERAs in college baseball. His 72.6 DIGS score ranks in the top 20 of D1 arms and is 8th among mid-major arms. Harrington has a clean delivery and throws from a low, 3/4 slot that looks deceptive. He’s another strong, athletic profile that bodes well for a starting pitching prospect. His four pitch mix is highlighted by strong pitchability and deception. Harrington’s fastball sits in the low 90s and relies on heavy run. The changeup is another plus pitch that tunnels very well off of the fastball. The pitch generates a lot of whiffs and is thrown often to both lefties and righties. The slider also has the makings to be a plus offering and induce whiffs. It sits in the low 80s and has some sweep to it. Harrington throws a curveball too that’s decent and offers a different look from his slider.
The full arsenal has done a good job of missing bats and inducing soft contact. This is the ideal set of outcomes for a pitcher and Harrington has shown the ability to do so consistently this season. He projects as a starter at the next level and has the upside and makeup to garner early round consideration in the 2022 MLB Draft.
Trey Dombrowski- Monmouth
Trey Dombroski was a huge standout at the Cape last summer after winning the league’s Pitcher of the Year award. He’s delivered at Monmouth and in the summer circuit up to this point and has been no shy of dominant in 2022. Dombroski can flat out pitch. He’s only walked five batters in 60 IP while striking out 62. His 6’5″ 235 lb frame is built to eat innings and work deep into games. There’s not much projection for growth in terms of body proportions, but added athleticism and conditioning should help extend his ability to go to work on the mound.
Dombroski may not have the most outlier stuff, but where he may lack in that aspect, he makes up for it with extreme pitchability and command. In an outing against North Carolina A&T, Mason McRae’s Stuff+ model had his Fastball valued at 104, 109 on the slider, and 137 on the curveball. He also registered whiffs on 45% of his pitches through 7 innings of work. Dombroski throws from a 3/4 arm slot that appears to hide the ball well. His fastball works anywhere from 87-92. It looks like a 4-seam/2-seam combo that has contrasting rise/run profiles. His slider is a good secondary pitch with some sharp, lateral movement. The curveball differs a bit in shape but still is effective at keeping hitters off balance. His changeup is very solid too with good run and fade. Dombroski is a premier strike-thrower who can be simply defined as a “pitcher.” He does a great job of establishing the fastball to all parts of the strike zone and has great feel for his off-speed pitches. He is a really good pitcher with room to grow athletically and stuff-wise which could help take his game to the next level. Having the base feel for pitching that Dombroski has gives him a solid floor as a starting pitching prospect.
Brycen Mautz- USD
Brycen Mautz was the lone man out left off of the PG midseason All-American list. However, this is not to understate the terrific season he has had in 2022. Mautz has accumulated 78 strikeouts in only 48.1 IP. He’s an athletic left-hander with a projectable 6’3″ 190 lb frame. He operates from a very quick delivery, yet remains in sync and under control. There’s a deceptive, 3/4 arm slot that adds to the funk of his game. Mautz’s ERA/DIGS are a bit inflated due to a couple tough outings (one of which he gave up 8 ER but struck out 15!).
His fastball is strong, sitting 91-94 with some 96s in there. Mautz can locate the pitch in and out to any batter. He throws a really good, sweeping slider in the low 80s that’s effective to both lefties and righties. There’s a curveball too that’s in the high 70s and is more vertical than sweepy. His changeup has a solid movement profile as well with good velo difference from his fastball. From the video I’ve seen, Mautz appears to be a very tough AB against lefties. He’s able to command the fastball on the inner and outer half of the plate and back it up with a tough slider from the same tunnel. The changeup can also be effective against righties when the fastball on the outer half is well established. I think Mautz can be really good regardless of whether he projects as a starter or a reliever. The athleticism, size, and pitch arsenal suggest that he can continue to grow as a starter.
Moral of the story here is that mid-major arms should not be overlooked despite the perceived lack of prowess from the casual fan. There is a tremendous amount of talent in this mid-major draft class. I look forward to following the mid-major group to see the prospects that continue to emerge as the season progresses.