There are plenty of reasons besides just signability that will make a kid drop in the draft. Bad mechanics and a bad attitude are two of them.
I don't want to say too much about those things, since I've only seen them suggested in one or two places. But, I will say that as a guy who's new to pitching, Virant is a risk. Not for any of the reasons above, just because pitching is an unnatural thing and usually leads to arms getting hurt, no matter how talented you are.
That said, there's a lot to like here. Virant may be the top prep lefty behind Max Fried with a pretty good upside. People dream on his stuff, as he flashed four pitches on the showcase circuit last year. A four-pitch high schooler from the left side is going to be highly regarded no matter what his fastball velocity is.
Well, let me amend that. If his fastball is decent (which it is, sitting 88-90), then he'll be an asset.
The problem is we don't know what Houston intends to do with him. Yes, Virant is a risk, because he may not sign. But, Houston also doesn't lose any bonus pool money if he doesn't sign. So, they can allocate resources accordingly. If they lose McCullers, they could still use some of the Correa savings here.
I'm not sure that'll get him signed, but if he's looking for Top 20 money, that indicates he could be gotten for somewhere around $2 million. Will Houston have that kind of money to throw around?
The guy he reminds me of is Brad Dydalewicz, and I think that's his floor. If his delivery can't be controlled enough to prevent an injury, you've got a bad combination there of someone who won't be consistent enough to move up.
The Cliff Lee comps are thrown around, so let's go with that.
Will he sign?
Ding-ding-ding! That's the $50,000 question. Actually, it's probably a question that'll be worth much more than that. Bobby Heck said Tuesday night that the team didn' tknow whether they could sign him, which is a marked difference than what they've expressed about the other hard signs. That doesn't bode well for him coming in, but does that make it a bad gamble?
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I’ll admit that he lost me from the start. First time I saw him, he was 86. I had people puting Cliff Lee on him, which I felt was a reach. I saw him twice as a junior. He topped out at about 92 both times. The thing I didn’t like about Virant was his body language on the mound. I can remember that start when Danny Keller came in and mopped the field with him, and instead of my memories being about Virant hitting 92, it was of him glaring at fielders behind him. I look at that, and as a scout, I say, well how can I envision this guy on the mound in Game 7 of the World Series?
Left-hander Hunter Virant was 87-89 in this look. I saw him at 90-92 last spring. He was coming off a sickness recently so he might be working back up. I still think the Ventura County comparisons to Cliff Lee are off the mark. He looked taller than when I saw him last, but that might also be because he wasn’t wearing pants that didn’t fit like every other guy at the Ford Motor Company Game at Pet Store field. In this look, he made me think he needs college because he’s simply not physical enough yet for pro ball.
Virant, like Williams and Avis ahead of him, has the capability to soar to at least No. 2 on this list with a strong spring. He offers projection at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds and already boasts a solid to average fastball that has brushed 94 mph in the past. His arm action is somewhat short, but there's plenty of time to figure that out and it's not expected to negatively impact his draft status. The left-hander's mid-70s curveball and potential for added velocity suggest he's among the prep arms with the most upside in any state.
Virant’s fastball came in 88-91, with good arm-side run. It didn’t draw a ton of swing-and-misses but showed enough movement to keep hitters from squaring it up. His control lapsed at times, as he occasionally overthrew the pitch, but overall he commanded it well. His changeup sat 77-79 and rates as one of the best in the California draft crop. It has good life, terrific deception and projects as a plus offering. Virant also features a pair of breaking balls: a slow, 12-to-6 curveball with tight rotation at 70-72 mph, and an inconsistent but occasionally sharp slider at 79-81. Virant struggles with the release point on his curveball but with some cleaning up could turn it into a solid pitch.
Pitchers at these events generally throw two pitches, their fastball and one breaking ball. Some mix in a changeup, but seeing a player show four pitches is a rarity. The best part? Virant has only been pitching for a year. He just started taking the mound last summer. Before that, he mostly played outfield and baseball is his only sport.
"It's kind of difficult if you haven't thrown for a while, but I guess my arm is kind of fresh since I haven't thrown for a couple years," Virant said. "So I came out throwing mid 80s and slowly worked up as I continued to develop and build the arm strength up."