Height: 6' 7"
Weight: 230 lbs.
College: Loyola Marymount
J.D. Busfield makes for an interesting profile. He was not highly touted out of high school and went undrafted, but he's come on pretty solidly in his three years at Loyola Marymount. He's got premium size (6'7", 230 lbs.) on his side and pitches with a big downhill plane and ridiculously long levers - he appears to have a very strong effective velocity game - but he's fluctuated quite a bit with his velocity, ranging from the mid eighties all the way into the mid nineties (peak 94-95 mph) with his fastball.
The fastball is very heavy and has good sink, generating a lot of ground balls, and the degree of sink he applies to the pitch is responsible for the large velocity fluctuations. He also has featured an impressive low-80s slider that explodes late in its flight after looking like a fastball for most of its journey from hand to catcher's mitt. He's lately begun featuring a more vertical curveball that has solid 12-6 break and can occasionally almost look like a screwball.
Above all, Busfield commands and utilizes his arsenal well. He hasn't missed as many bats in college as one might look for in a premium pitching prospect, but he has a similar overall skill set to a guy like Joe Musgrove (note: not making a direct comparison there, just saying that each are heavy sinking fastball pitchers with elevated throwing planes who command their respective arsenals well) and checks off several boxes for General Manager Jeff Luhnow and Co.
Take a quick look at his pitching stats from college:
|NCAA (3 seasons)||10||8||3.83||50||21||1||0||14||160.0||176||84||68||12||32||120||7||0||0||1.30||9.90||0.68||1.80||6.75||3.75|
Note that he's allowed a large number of hits in his collegiate career, but that he has controlled the number of walks fairly well - especially as a starter.
Brooks Parker (Subber10) pointed out that he has some mechanics work to do, especially from the windup, but that the hitches are fixable and could go a long way to helping Busfield capture his potential.
Finally, there are the more difficult-to-quantify aspects of the young man's personality and psyche that come into play. There is a wonderful profile piece on Busfield from his days at Valencia High (absolute must-read) that describe a young man who was a bit behind other kids growing up on the baseball learning curve. He didn't play on the travel circuit or attend Perfect Game showcases. But he wasn't just a thrower either, despite his size and relative inexperience. He is a very analytical, cerebral pitcher who maintains composure in a crisis and prefers to pitch to contact rather than blow hitters away.
Here's a great quote from that piece from volunteer assistant coach Ryan Sadowski, who was also a pitcher in the San Francisco Giants organization at the time, about Busfield as a High School Senior in 2013:
“One thing J.D. does really advanced, more than natural ability, is his ability to deal with crisis situations,” Sadowski says. “One thing I teach guys who get into a crisis situation is not to do more. The most important thing is to stay within yourself. It’s so hard for a 16-, 17-year-old kid to do, but he learned early on to stay within himself. He did it because of his analytical nature and cerebral approach.”
In other words, he pitches like a ten year veteran, not like a 21-year-old kid who can approach the upper nineties with a fastball if desired.
The piece linked above also mentions a circle-change and a split-fingered pitch as part of Busfield's repertoire, but there hasn't been any indication in recent pieces about him whether either is still featured or not.
The kind of poise, moxie, and intelligence that Busfield possesses is not easily coached, so to start a professional career with it is a plus which probably can't be overstated. He certainly has some mechanics work to do cleaning up his delivery, and he might still have more velocity stored in his huge frame. There's plenty to work on, and he'd likely take a fair amount of time under minor league tutelage to fully realize his potential. But as a second day selection, the Astros could probably do much, much worse than J.D. Busfield.
He flashes number three potential and should at least be thought of as a number four or five rotation candidate as far as ceiling is concerned.
He has a relatively high floor thanks to his makeup, command of his pitches, his intelligence, and his physical stature. A good velocity, high leverage bullpen arm who is capable of inducing ground ball contact with relative regularity is a reasonable floor.
Projected Draft Round
Probably somewhere in rounds 5-8, if I had to guess.
Will he sign?
Kind of tough to say...perhaps so, at slot or maybe above. Or he might return to college for his fourth year and try to establish a little bit higher draft position for next season.
"JD Busfield has the size (6-7, 230) that gets him noticed as he steps off the bus. His fastball velocity ranges from the mid-80s all the way up to a mid-90s (94-95) peak, but those wild fluctuations are largely because of the big sink he’s able to get at varying velocities. That sink, his impressive low-80s slider, and the silly amount of extension he gets with every pitch put him on the (no longer) short list of pitchers I want to dig into available batted ball data on."
J.D. Busfield Mechanics at 200 fps: