The 2016 college baseball season started Friday night, which is sort of an unofficial kickoff to the scouting season for this June's draft (although most scouts have already been out seeing practices and scrimmages). I headed down to Georgia to see two college prospects who might go in the first round, maybe even in the first half of the round, but also carry some red flags.
• Georgia right-hander Robert Tyler punched out 13 batters in five innings, although the impressive stat line doesn't give you much of a picture of how he threw. Tyler was 89-96 MPH over his five innings, sitting about 94, with below-average command, missing up above the zone frequently but getting help from a Georgia Southern lineup that kept chasing pitches over their heads. Tyler's changeup was inconsistent but his best ones were above-average to plus, with good action but a slight slowing of his arm. His curveball was mostly below average, although he threw two or three that were fringy; the pitch doesn't have much bite or tight spin, and his high slot makes it a little tricky for him to get two-plane break on it.
Tyler's delivery has improved by leaps and bounds since high school, a credit to Georgia coach Scott Stricklin and his staff, as it was high-effort with some head whack when he was still a prep but is now much cleaner throughout. His arm action remains very long in back and he has a difficult time getting his arm around his torso in time; when his front foot lands, his throwing hand is still behind his head, and he has a slight hesitation before he brings his arm forward. It's a tough delivery to repeat, and it puts more stress on the shoulder because he's not using his lower half enough.
I don't know if Tyler is a first-rounder, given the draft class right now and the possibility he'll be hitting 97-98 as the spring develops (something he did as a freshman, before missing most of his sophomore year with a "forearm strain"). I do see a lot of risk here, both that he becomes a reliever -- one scout who was there Friday suggested Ryan Madson as a comparison -- and that he gets hurt, given the prior injury and a delivery that, while better, still puts a lot of stress on the arm. But a big kid who has a 65 fastball and holds his velocity as a starter isn't going to slide down the board very far if he's healthy for the whole spring.