We've talked about this before, but it deserves to be brought up again. Is there a problem with Rice pitchers?
Ever since the days of Kenny Baugh and before, Rice pitchers tend to get the label of "overused" and "injury-risk." Even if it hasn't proven to be the case in recent years, scouts still stick to that.
So, what does that tell us about Rice star Austin Kubitza, who has been one of the aces of the Owls staff since his freshman season in 2011? Is he at more risk because he's pitched in Rice's rotation for the past two seasons? Or, does that just show how good his potential might be?
For sure, his results have been excellent at Rice. In 85 innings this season, Kubitza has struck out 110 batters and held opponents to a .192 batting average against. He hasn't given up a home run in 14 starts this season and has only allowed 10 extra-base hits.
That's probably due to his arsenal. While Kubitza features a fastball that can touch 92-93 mph, his best pitch may be his sinker. That's why he's able to keep a low BAA and why he can limit the power stroke. Add in a late-breaking slider, and Kubitza has a lot to like.
I'm not in love with his delivery, but we can talk about that later. It doesn't appear that Kubitza has been overused at Rice. What's more, he's been successful against college hitters for the past few years, which suggests he should hold up well in the minors.
Kubitza won't wow anyone right away, but has the potential to be a quick riser in his future team's farm system. He's also a nice story of a kid from Colleyville HS who went to college and developed into a better pitcher. That should could for something, right?
I'm a little more concerned with his injury potential than with some other guys. That cross-body deliver relies heavily on his arm. That injury risk lowers his overall floor, as does his potential to never fix his command. Even this season in college, Kubitza walked 46 in 85 innings. That's why he's a college pitcher who has a chance to never make it out of the minors. Not exactly the hallmarks of a top pick.
Still, the delivery has deception, which leads to a ton of strikeouts. He also has a big frame, which suggests he's capable of pitching a lot of innings down the line. His control issues may never let him be more than a back-end starting pitching candidate. In that respect, he might be better served going to the bullpen, where his fastball can play up a bit and he might become a good setup guy, sort of like Chad Qualls. If he sticks in the rotation, I like the Chris Volstad comps.
Projected Draft Round
Brooks answered this question on Twitter the other day, and I agree with him. Kubitza will probably be taken in the third or fourth rounds in this draft.
Will He Sign?
Can another year at Rice fix his command issues? Probably not. It's likely in Kubitza's best interest to sign this year, since he's unlikely to perform well enough next season to go higher than he will this year.
Austin has been working on a change-up that is showing plus potential and offers him a 3rd option. The big knock on Austin is that his cross body delivery tends to disrupt with his command. He has been impressive in both his freshman and sophomore years, winning Conference USA Freshman of the Year. His frame gives him the chance to be an inning eater who induces lots of groundballs.
While I don't see him coming off the board in the first round, I can see Kubitza being a really good second round pick up for any team.
Baseball Beginnings (from before he was at Rice)
A good raw package of projectability, arm speed and size, plenty of more life in his arm. Needs smoothing out, but was not a max-effort guy. Felt this pitcher was pitching through growth cycles when I saw him, believe he possess the athletic ability to stabilize and find balance and rhythm. Very interested to see this pitcher in the future; spring season will help decide if he signs after HS or gets to Rice. If he gets to college, this is a guy to follow, and he has a chance to move up a notch on the OFP scale.
Fastball generally sits 88 to 92, touches 95
Fastball has excellent movement; run and sink
Low to mid 80′s slider with late break, shows plus
Developing change that could be an above average 3rd pitch
3/4 arm slot
Cross body delivery
Inconsistent mechanics have led to issues with command
Austin Kubitza is a 6-5 202 right handed pitcher that threw a lot of off-speed pitches, especially to begin his outing. He doesn't throw especially hard, showing off more of a sinker than a fastball at 89-90 MPH. He gets arm-side tail and downward movement on the fastball/sinker. He works with what looks like a good change that he can throw for strikes along with a slider that he gets very good movement on (glove side) and bounces quite often.
The ace of the staff at Rice, Kubitza used primarily a sinker/slider combo to the tune of a 2.69 ERA and .211 BAA in 2012. He was arguably even more impressive as a freshman in 2011, tallying 102 strikeouts in 100 innings en route to the Conference USA Freshman of the Year award. Kubitza's fastball sits in the 90-91 range but it has great life with both movement and sink. His breaking ball, interchangeably described as both a power curve and a slider, sits in the 78-82 range and he can throw it effectively for strikes. Long, lean and lanky, Kubitza is athletic on the mound and it shows. His motion is quick, simple and generates a clean arm angle with good arm speed. Kubitza has put up very impressive statistics over his first two years at Rice, and an equally impressive third year could certainly put him in first or second round talks come draft day.