It's hard for the state of Iowa to produce first round prospects given their cold weather that inhibits spring ball. In fact, the state has never produced a first round pick straight out of high school. A.J. Puk may be the top prospect out of the state this year, it's unlikely that he bucks that trend to be the first. He has very interesting upside as a two-way player, but he is too raw to gamble on with a top pick.
Puk has some talent at the plate as a left-handed first baseman with potential to have above-average pop. However, given that he's a lefty with such great size (6-7, 220) and raw ability to pitch, teams have a lot to dream on as a pitching prospect. Puk potentially has a better floor as a position player but the ceiling is higher on the mound which is why teams are paying more attention to him on the mound.
Puk has a very lean and long frame that has room to add mass and strength. His fastball is already a low 90's pitch and could add a few ticks as he develops. It has very good downward plane on it thanks to his size height and 3/4 arm slot. The velocity also plays up a bit because his long legs allow for a pretty long stride and shortens that 60 feet 6 inch distance to even less. He also throws a curve which is a very raw pitch that has good spin but inconsistent break. It can get a little flat at times while others it has has good bite. Also has a changeup that he maintains his arm speed with, but hasn't used it much.
Despite a long stride to his delivery, he doesn't have a lot of leg drive and falls into his lead leg that he steps toward first base with some. That leads to a little more rotation over the leg and creates more cross action with his pitches. His arm action is fairly clean with good arm speed but the lower body is a little uncoordinated in his delivery. Because of his long stride and lack of leg drive, his balance is a little behind his front leg and he has to kick his lead leg back in order to maintain balance after his release. That leads to poor balance in the delivery and inconsistencies for his release and control. It's a raw delivery but he doesn't have any major red flags for injury in his mechanics.
His height alone creates a difficult plane to hit so his major league floor could still be a reliever that specializes in groundballs. I wouldn't say that he profiles as a late-inning reliever however.
AJ might be able to develop into a mid-rotation starter and pending his development with the changeup and curve, the left-handedness could allow for a #2 on a bad team. His low-90's velocity plays up and the curve and changeup from the left side can be difficult pitches on hitters. A realistic ceiling though is a #3.
Projected Draft Round
He's a top 100 talent, but he's on the back end of that range. A team in love with his frame could pop him in the second but the third or fourth round is a more realistic draft range.
College Commitment: Florida
Will he sign?
Good question. He wants warmer weather so he can play and develop so he's confident that he's going to get better. But, does that mean he thinks he should be drafted way earlier than he will? It's possible. And, the draw of the Gators is intriguing.
When he’s on the mound, Puk has a fastball that can reach the low 90s. He’s still raw as a pitcher, but his size, stuff and inexperience gives scouts a lot to dream on. Committed to Florida, Puk has a chance to be a two-way threat in college, much like Brian Johnson was the last the three years for the Gators. Puk has more upside on the pound, but could have a similarly potent bat. The program’s success the last several years drew the big southpaw to Gainesville—as did the warmer weather. Puk goes to Washington High in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where high school baseball seasons are played in the summer and teams usually don’t getoutside until the end of May.
AJ Puk is a 2013 LHP/1B with a 6-7 220 lb. frame from Cedar Rapids, IA who attends Washington HS. Long and strong physical build, looks like he's grown another inch. Compact quick arm action, hides ball well in back, high 3/4's arm slot with good downhill angle, is not getting much front side help in his delivery at present. Fastball topped out at 89 mph, consistent large flat running action, works fastball side to side and stays down in the zone, good shape to 74 mph curveball while flashing bite, tends to leave curveball arm side, showed good change up with nice arm speed, has deception and cruised through 3 innings with 9 K's. Aggressive left handed swing with lift, very good bat speed, first move tends to be opening front side, best when staying closed and driving ball to the middle of the field instead of pull, crushed one ball to CF for a triple, high ceiling hitter. Ran 7.48 in the 60. Good student, signed with Florida.