MLB.com Columnist

Jonathan Mayo

Best tools in the Draft: High school pitchers

Best tools in the Draft: High school pitchers

They are the ultimate in the high-risk, high-reward game of the Draft. So many don't pan out. But if a team hits, the payoff can be huge.

"They" are high school pitchers, and for every Clayton Kershaw, there is a Matt Hobgood to serve as a counterpoint. The 2015 class doesn't appear to have any prep arms like those -- guys who both were top-10 picks -- but depth in high school pitching is a bit of a strength this year. Left-hander Kolby Allard might have been the exception, but the stress reaction in his back made him more wild card than top 10. So even if there aren't any high school hurlers taken at the top of the Draft, fans of their upside should be ready to see them come off the board later in the first round and throughout the first several rounds, when some real value could be found.

The 2015 Draft will take place Monday through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at noon on Wednesday.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

The top five high school pitchers, with their ranking in the Top 200:

14. Ashe Russell, RHP, Cathedral HS, Indianapolis, Ind.
15. Mike Nikorak, RHP, Stroudsburg (Pa.) HS
16. Kolby Allard, LHP, San Clemente (Calif.) HS
23. Donny Everett, RHP, Clarksville (Tenn.) HS
30. Beau Burrows, RHP, Weatherford (Texas) HS

Which young pitchers have the best stuff, using the 20-80 scouting scale? Grades for each pitch, plus control, are listed in parentheses.

Top tools

Fastball: Justin Hooper, LHP, De La Salle HS, Concord, Calif. (70)
As if showing the ability to touch 97 mph already, with room to add strength to his 6-foot-7 frame, wasn't enough, remember he's doing it from the left side. Antonio Santillan from the Texas prep ranks also has a 70 fastball.

Curveball: Nikorak (60)
Both Nikorak and Allard have a 60 curveball, but the Pennsylvania kid gets the nod for being healthy. Nikorak's curve is a true out pitch in the making, with good shape to it. All he has to do is stay on top of it consistently, something that will happen with more experience.

Slider: Russell (60)
As with Nikorak and his curve, Russell needs to remember to stay on top when throwing his slider. When he does that, from his lower arm slot, it's a nasty weapon -- one that misses bats and has serious bite to it.

Changeup: Jackson Kowar, Charlotte Christian HS, N.C. (55)
High school pitchers don't typically have fully formed changeups, because the top ones can get away with a fastball-breaking ball combination to get hitters out. But Kowar has one of the better ones (Nikorak and Canadian prep right-hander Mike Soroka also have a 55 changeup). But Kowar's has splitter-type action, bottoming out at the plate.

Control: Allard (60)
Allard hasn't thrown in a long time, so the evaluations on him come more from last summer than anything else. But he does have a clean and easy delivery that he repeats well, allowing him to command all of his pitches consistently.

Highest ceiling: Nikorak
When Nikorak has been at his best -- early last summer and at the outset of this spring -- he's shown what all the fuss is about. He has size, athleticism, stuff and command all working in his favor. Nikorak hasn't, however, had them all working consistently. As he moves to the pro game, when he's no longer waiting for it to warm up in the Northeast and he's no longer playing football, seeing all of his attributes come together for a future front-line starter isn't hard to imagine.

Highest floor: Peter Lambert, San Dimas (Calif.) HS
A high floor isn't typically something discussed when it comes to high school pitchers, but Lambert has a good combination of stuff, command and consistency to make it easy to believe he's one of the prepsters with less risk. He has "now" stuff and projection and was one of the most consistent performers among what's typically a mercurial group.

Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMayoB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.