This past Friday I tuned into the Auburn vs Kentucky baseball game to catch a game between two top thirty picks in Kentucky ace Sean Hjelle and Auburn ace Casey Mize. Casey Mize outdueled Sean Hjelle by only giving up 2 runs while Hjelle gave up 4 runs. Unfortunately, Mize’s bullpen blew a lead robbing him of a win. One of the things that stood out watching the two SEC righties was seeing a 6’3 well-built starter in Mize and a 6’11 (not a typo) 225 long-limbed starter in Hjelle. Both starters showcased good stuff and polished command as neither pitcher allowed a walk throughout their combined 13 ⅓ innings and Mize struck out 12 while Hjelle sent 7 batters walking back to the bench.
Sean Hjelle, RHP, Kentucky
So watching Sean Hjelle his length really sticks out to you. At 6’11 and 225 pounds, Hjelle is very long and gangly. He uses that frame well getting all his pitches going downhill creating a lot of downward plane with his high ¾’s arm slot and his lanky frame. We hear that tall pitchers have a hard time repeating their deliveries, but in the 96 pitches, I saw he consistently repeated his delivery, which is a great sign for him. In his 96 pitches, he struck out 7 while walking 0 and gave up 4 earned runs in 6 ⅓ innings of work against Auburn.
Now while Hjelle gave up 4 earned runs, his stuff looked incredibly sharp throughout the start against a top 10 team in the nation. Like I said: being 6’11 his fastball and changeup will get downhill on a hitter making it harder to square up. The fastball was sharp for Hjelle hitting 95 throughout the game with movement but it more consistently hit 93. With how thin he is you can dream on that fastball getting better when he fills out his frame. His breaking pitch was incredibly sharp. The curve would sit in the low-to-mid 80’s and he used it as a weapon to attack hitters. He would place it high in the zone to set it up later for the break down in the zone. The curve would flash plus, flashing 60 to 65 on the scouting scale throughout the outing, for the Kentucky Wildcat to be his go-to pitch going forward. Hjelle was predominately fastball-curveball throughout the game but he mixed in an average changeup that had decent fade to it.
He got tagged for 4 runs, but if a reliever didn’t throw some wild pitches it could have been 2 earned runs for Hjelle. This is a start that is very encouraging for talent evaluators when teams start compiling their draft boards. He showcased that he was able to repeat his delivery, the fastball was sharp, and he could use the curve to get swings and misses, high and low.
Draft Spot: Mid First Round
Ceiling: Mid Rotation Starter
Casey Mize, RHP, Auburn
The Auburn rightie was his normal dominant self, pitching 7 innings striking out 12 (off from his usual 13), giving up 2 runs, and walking none in 105 pitches. He showcased the command and the stuff that makes him a favorite to go 1-1. Casey also got to face a potential first rounder in Tristan Pompey striking him out twice and one of which was when Pompey was hitting leftie, being a switch hitter, and Mize dismantled him with a splitter inside that fell off the table for one of the better hitters in the SEC.
If you are reading this you have some semblance of how good Casey Mize is when he takes the mound, the taking the mound part has been a problem but that’s a separate issue for another article. When he pitches he showcases plus command that allows his already plus arsenal to play up. His fastball consistently sat 95 throughout his start with late life and he used it to set up arguably the best pitch in the draft. His splitter is ABSOLUTELY filthy, with my untrained eye it looked double-plus throughout the outing as a good hitting Kentucky team struggled to even make contact with this pitch. He uses his splitter as his changeup, which is a super fun idea, and uses it in the same way that an experienced ace will use the fastball-changeup sequence to demolish hitters cough Max Scherzer cough cough. When you have the fastball and splitter he does you don’t need to rely on your breaker. However, Mize threw a slider that is very slurvy but very effective. The slider had plenty of bite and had a lot of 1-7 movement, and more often than not was above average. Then, you throw in his newest pitch, the cutter, which would look like the splitter coming out of the hand against a batter but wouldn’t fall off the table. The pitch was consistently above average.
Friday night was what we all wanted to see from Mize. The pitches were sharp. We got see to see the splitter and the fastball help aid the slider and cutter. He had to struggle through some adversity in the game as he gave up an earned run and 3 singles in the 3rd inning but managed to come back and only allow 2 runs in his start. The potential 1-1 pick showcased the command that makes him a highly ranked draft prospect.
Draft Spot: Top 5
Ceiling: Number 2 starter
This is my third time tuning into an Auburn game that Mize has pitched this season, including his no-hitter against Northeastern where he struck out 13 and looked very sharp. This is my first time catching Hjelle this year and I am impressed by how well someone as gargantuan as him can consistently repeat his delivery with those long limbs. Both had mid 90’s fastballs with good breaking pitches. When the draft comes around, the teams that draft these pitchers will be getting two polished arms that should move through the minors quickly. I plan to do more of these quick scouting reports throughout the season as we will see some really good pitching matchups not only in the SEC but around the country as every conference has started conference play by now.
Photo Credit: http://www.auburntigers.com