These 15 high school pitchers could be first-round draft picks next year

Lucas Giolito's five-pitch aresnal has scouts keeping a watchful eye. (Photo by Scott Kurtz)

Pitching is always at a premium at the major-league level. With teams shelling out massive amounts of money to lock up frontline starters, the best way to avoid breaking the bank is through the draft, even if pitchers are the riskiest of all draft picks — especially high school pitchers. However, more and more teams are willing to take a gamble as 18 pitchers were selected in the first-round of this year’s draft, seven of them out of high school.

With another strong class of pitchers this year, that number should be eclipsed, with many of them being from high school. With a season to improve their stock and overall game, here are 15 high school pitchers who could all be drafted in the first round of next year’s draft.

Lucas Giolito, RHP — 6’-6”, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

Giolito is widely considered the best high school arm in the draft. There are very few question marks with his overall game and make up. Has five pitches in his arsenal and can command all of them. His fastball can hit 98 mph, and both his curve and slider are already plus-pitches. With his big frame, control and poise on the mound, Giolito has all the makings of a power arm frontline starter.

(Game footage)

Hunter Virant, LPH — 6’-3”, Camarillo HS (CA)

Virant is considered the best lefty in the draft, regardless of  class. A great hitter and unbelievable athlete, he has just started to focus primarily on the mound and projects to a future ace. His fastball hits 94 mph with ease due to his long arms and smooth delivery. The pitch has heavy sink and he should be able to add more velocity as he matures. He also adds a power curve and plus change up to his mix. Went 6-1 with a 1.46 ERA and 0.97 WHIP as a junior. Member of 18U Team USA.

(Game footage)

Lance McCullers, RHP — 6’-1″, Jesuit HS (FL)

McCullers has been a hot commodity since hitting 96 mph on the radar gun as a sophomore. Son of the former major leaguer with the same name, he has an electric arm and one of the most powerful arms in the draft. His fastball hits 97 mph with ease. He also has a knee-buckling curve to go along with a plus-slider. Has a feel and poise for the game not seen in many players his age.

(Game footage)

Duane Underwood, RHP — 6’-2”, Pope HS (GA)

Underwood is another power-armed, right-hander who can dial it up to 97 mph with zero effort. He also features a hard curve that is a future plus-pitch and a developing slider. Mixes in a low-80s change-up to keep hitters off balance and to set them up for his devastating fastball. Also is a world-class athlete who could make it as a hitter if he chooses.

Ty Hensley, RHP — 6’-5”, Santa Fe HS (OK)

At 6’-5” and 225 lbs, Hensley is a future workhorse at the next level. His curveball is a plus/plus pitch with sharp break and arguably the best in the draft. Change-up is still developing but projects to a solid offering, not just a show-me pitch. Fastball can hit 95 mph with ease and compares to a Justin Verlander-type starter.

Joey Gallo, RHP — 6’-5”, Bishop Gorman HS (NV)

Gallo could be a star as a hitter or a pitcher. A true two-way player, he hit 25 home runs for Bishop Gorman as a junior and could develop into a major run producer at the next level. As good as he is at the plate, the mound is where he excels. Has a heavy fastball that can hit 95 mph and a quality curve and change up as well. Another guy with a high ceiling once he dedicates more time to the mound. Member of 18U Team USA.

Taylore Cherry, RHP — 6’-9”, Vandalia Butler HS (OH)

Cherry can get his fastball up to 98 mph thanks, in most part, to his 6’-9” frame. His delivery is easy and fluid, and he looks like he could pitch a doubleheader without tiring. Went 6-1 with a 1.38 ERA and 94 K over 56 innings as a junior, earning him Gatorade Player of the Year honors in the state of Ohio. Has been climbing up the draft board with his project ability.

(Game footage)

Rock Rucker, LHP — 6’-5”, Redan HS (GA)

A two-way star, Rucker has a chance to be something really special on the mound once he commits full time to it. Can dial up his fastball to 95 mph and can overpower hitters with ease. His curveball rates as plus, but he needs to develop a consistent third offering to become a frontline starter. Great potential.

(Game footage)

Kayden Porter, RHP — 6’-5”, Spanish Fork Senior HS (UT)

If Porter chooses to be a pitcher, a National League team needs to grab him. Unbelievable power at the plate, Porter can routinely launch 450-foot+ home runs. On the mound, his fastball reaches 93 mph with room for more velocity. His curveball sits in the low 80s with sharp break and is a nice compliment to his fastball. With full time duties on the mound, Porter has a ton of upside as a top of the rotation starter.

(Game footage)

Jake Cosart, RHP — 6’-1”, Clear Creek HS (TX)

Cosart, whose brother Jarred plays in the Astros minor-league system, opened eyes at the Perfect Game National Showcase by reaching 99 mph on the radar gun. That alone can get you drafted in the first round. He also flashes a curveball that has the potential to be a lethal plus-pitch at the next level. Still raw and erratic at times, he has arguably the most potential of anyone on this list.

Cody Poteet, RHP — 6’-2”, Christian HS (CA)

Poteet has a live arm with a deceptive fastball that touches 93 mph. He has a bulldog demeanor on the mound and is ultra aggressive, not afraid to attack hitters inside/out. His curveball is still developing but has the look as a future 12-6 hammer. Great control of all his pitches. Member of 18U Team USA.

(Game footage)

Clate Schmidt, RHP — 6’-1”, Allatoona HS (GA)

Schmidt is rising up draft boards with his improvements over the summer. His fastball can hit 96 mph. And weighing just 170 lbs, he should increase his velocity once he fills out. His low-80s curveball has plus potential and his change-up is still developing. Member of 18U Team USA.

Max Fried, LHP — 6’-3”, Harvard Westlake HS (CA)

After Virant, Fried is the best high-school lefty in the draft, and some put him ahead in terms of long-term project ability. At just 170 lbs, his low-90s fastball should generate more velocity once he fills out. Already owns a plus-curveball and his change is still developing. Teammate of possible number-one pick, Lucas Giolito.

(Game footage)

Lucas Sims, RHP — 6’-2”, Brookfield HS (GA)

Sims fastball has been clocked at 98 mph with late, sinking movement. His curveball has 12-6 potential and his mid-80s change-up projects to a plus pitch. He struck out 52 in 32 innings as a junior and has a toughness and aggressiveness on the mound not seen in many high school players. Another kid with a very high ceiling.

(Game footage)

Walker Weickel, RHP — 6’-6”, Olympia HS (FL)

With his long frame and pitching over the top, Weickel’s delivery is downhill and deceptive. His fastball hits 94 mph and should generate more velocity as he matures. With both his low-70s curveball and low-80s change-up projecting as plus pitches, he is one of the top arms in the draft.

(Game footage)

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