The 2021 MLB draft is scheduled to take place during the All-Star break in July. Between now and then we will be profiling several players who the Yankees may be considering. Predicting who a team will draft is a crapshoot, so hopefully if we profile enough players we’ll profile the one the Yankees take with their first round pick. You can view the full archive here. Today’s profile: Andrew Painter.
In addition to an 80-grade pitcher’s name, Painter is a 6-foot-6 right-handed pitcher from Calvary Christian Academy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He burst onto the scene during the 2020 summer showcase and many believe he is the top high school pitching prospect in the 2021 class.
With high school players you dream on projection not performance. Having said that, Painter has pitched to a 0.31 ERA across 45.1 innings this season racking up 91 strikeouts compared to 14 walks. He gives up around 3 H/9. Across his four years in high school, he has a 0.78 ERA and 233 strikeouts in 134 innings. Here’s some video of Painter:
Baseball America ranks Painter the 19th best prospect in the class, and most notably says he “has a great pitcher’s frame and perhaps the best command in the high school class.” They go on to say that very few high school pitchers offer the complete package of command and stuff that Painter has. He has an easy delivery and reaches the mid-90s on his fastball. They describe him as “as close to the ideal version of a prep arm as you could design.” In their latest mock draft, they have him going 20th overall to your New York Yankees.
MLB Pipeline ranks Painter 18th overall and the 2nd overall high school pitcher behind Jackson Jobe. The part of their scouting report worth highlighting says:
“There are high school pitchers who garner a lot of attention because of huge raw stuff, and there are prep arms who have an advanced feel for pitching. When the two come together in one prospect, there’s the chance for something special. Painter showed off that exciting combination of raw stuff and feel for pitching at a number of showcase events over the summer to establish himself as one of the best high school pitchers in the 2021 Draft class.”
In addition to his fastball, Painter throws a curve and slider as well as a changeup. The changeup has gotten rave reviews as the best in his class, and if the Yankees changeup philosophy is organization wide, you can see that exciting them.
Keith Law ranks Painter 24th in this draft class and mentions that Painter has improved of late to show better control. That scouting report stands out to me because Painter’s walk numbers are not overly impressive – averaging nearly 3 BB/9 – at the high school level. Which is a good reminder that with high school players, you dream on the projection and worry less about the performance. It also makes sense that after a COVID shortened season it has taken pitchers some time to bounce back to their normal levels.
Does He Make Sense?
In a sense, yes. As far as high school pitchers go, Painter is the one you want because he already has good stuff with his fastball and promising off-speed pitches as well as his great command.
The issue, of course, is that Painter is a high school pitcher and they are the riskiest draft commodity. In his book The Inside Game, Keith Law goes into detail about why it’s still a bad idea to draft high school pitchers in the first round. In that excerpt, Law breaks down the percentage of first round picks who do well, and high school pitchers were the least likely to achieve 10 WAR, with only 16% reaching that level compared to ~25% for college pitchers and high school hitters and 35% for college hitters.
For those reasons, teams tend to avoid high school pitchers in the first round. The last time the Yankees drafted a high school pitcher in round one was Ian Clarkin back in 2013. Before him was Ty Hensley in 2012 and Gerrit Cole (sounds familiar?) in 2008. Cole went to college and Hensley and Clarkin both flamed out.
The first high school pitcher taken last year was Mick Abel who went 15th overall to the Phillies. In the BA write-up, they compare Painter to Abel which is interesting. If there is any type of player who will fall, especially with teams still being risk-averse due to limited viewing of players due to COVID, it’s high school pitchers. I wonder if we will again see high school pitchers drop this year, leading Painter to fall in the Yankees lap.
One other point worth mentioning is that the Yankees historically have not drafted players from Florida despite it being such a baseball hotbed. The last time they took a Floridian in the first round was Dante Bichette Jr. in 2011. So, in terms of thinking which players the Yankees are looking at, a Florida prep arm is not the first place to look.
Having said all that, why did we bother writing up Painter? First because of the name. It rocks and after we tweeted about it we had to write him up. Second, Painter isn’t your typical high school pitcher because he has great command a feel for a changeup. The changeup is actually what intrigued me the post and spurred me to write this profile because of the Yankees’ increased changeup usage this season. That is clearly coming from an organization perspective, and if the Yankees do draft Painter, it will tell me the scouting and draft guys have also bought into the Yankees changeup revolution.