Lefty with very average stuff but the pitcher knows how to pitch, and that's a skill that just can't be taught.
Tom Windle has forced his name into several discussions surround the draft this year, and deservingly so. Whenever you pitch a no hitter, at any level, you deserve recognition and you open some eyes. He already had eyes watching him as his performance in the Cape Cod last year pushed him onto cusp of a potential first round pick. While many expect that to easily be the case now, some still aren't sure.
As many of you know, I'm a big fan of projection and athleticism when it comes to pitchers. Although, it's nearly impossible to find pitchers with any kind of legitimate projection left. College pitchers are what you see with only real improvement is refining mechanics and pitches. So, I have to see some athleticism and a good frame. Windle has enough to catch my interest with his 6'4" 215 pound frame. He's well developed in his lower half with long legs and fairly thick thighs for his frame.
Mechanically, he stays in a straight line and comes out of 3/4 arm slot that looks higher because of his elbow flexion that is a little greater than most. He has a decent stride length, I would like it a little longer but it's better than last season and in the cape where it looked short and limited his momentum. He generates good arm speed and I don't see anything that shouts as a reg flag. He's often compared to Kevin Ziomek simply because of draft year and approximate draft slot, but Windle's mechanics are much cleaner and traditional. He's able to repeat most of his mechanics but will occasionally finish differently and it seems his release point varies at times.
A lefty with a low-90's fastball can be dangerous, and Windle is mostly 91-93 with a touch at 94 and even drops down to 88 at times. Although, he creates a good downward plane and some good movement. If he'd stride longer it would play up more than it does now. I would call his changeup (low 80's) his second best pitch when his velocity is higher but lacks the separation in velocity when he drops into the upper 80's with the fastball. When that happens, the slider shows the best promise and is ahead of the curve. He can command his stuff for the most part but loses command when starts varying the release point or how finishes his pitches off. He also can miss high at times which I think is from his stride.
Update: The control wasn't as impressive in the end as what most would have expected given his very average offerings. It wasn't bad by any means, 33 walks in 92 2/3 innings, but it's not as good as what it needs to be.
You don't want to read this, but LOOGY. Just like every other LHP that has ever been drafted. But, it's the truth since really a lot of his stuff can be graded out as average with really the fastball getting the best grades. Add in some command issues that may never work out. LOOGY. I will say that he's one of the safer bets among college pitchers to make the majors.
At best, I see him as a middle of the rotation starter. I think the stride could help his velocity and make the fastball play up, but I've been wrong before. If he's able to do that and make some improvements with the breaking balls, he could improve his profile to that area. He knows how to pitch already and can sequence pitches, so it's a matter of developing his stuff. I think the likely outcome is as back of rotation starter or solid middle reliever.
Update: This has stayed the same but the likelihood of being a middle of the rotation starter is probably a little less likely.
Projected Draft Round
As stated earlier, he could be a first rounder but I'm not buying it because I need to see more of his secondaries before buying a ceiling worthy of a first round pick. A team could grab him in the late first round or supplemental round if they are high on him and like the likelihood of him pitching in the majors. I wouldn't be surprised him slipping into early second round either.
Update: This really hasn't changed. I would say he's less likely to get taken in the first as the hype has really settled recently.
Will he sign?
Why wouldn't he? I really don't think he can improve his stock much more. He is what he is. He can develop a little more with secondaries but he's better off doing that in the minor leagues.
Minor League Ball
His Cape Cod performance impressed scouts enough that he's a first round candidate entering the spring of 2013. Windle has a solid southpaw fastball at 90-93 MPH. His slider was his best secondary pitch as a freshman, but his curveball and changeup showed great improvement over the last year. Although his command was problem last spring, he had no troubles throwing strikes on the Cape. If that remains true this spring, he'll project as a mid-rotation starter.
Basball Prospect Report
The video reminds me of early Barry Zito from the USC days-working hard to stay closed, hiding the ball along the side of the body, working hard to come over the top and pull down on the breaking ball. Old timers will recall the old "Pull Down on the lamp shape" lesson, and that's what this guy is working on in this video. There was a lot to like scouting-wise with Windle, long, lean and loose, enough velocity, enough breaking ball and enough change-up to get that hitter off on that front foot. In this video from Windle's freshman year he has some delivery inconsistencies to clean up, but you see flashes of what he's going to look like in the big leagues.
The Minnesota lefty threw very well in the Cape and was up to 93-94 mph there to go along with a slider and a changeup. He throws strikes and has an idea of what he’s doing on the mound. Those kinds of college lefties, even those in cold-climate areas, tend to do well when the Draft rolls around.