Weight: 185 lbs.
FB velo: 95 MPH
College commitment: Texas A&M
The 2019 class has the potential to be historic for the state of Texas, and right handed hurler Josh Wolf is no small part of that. A Houston area kid, Wolf has shown big arm speed and athleticism for awhile now, but took a big step forward in the velo department this spring, pushing him into day 1 consideration.
Wolf’s delivery isn’t the easiest you’ll see- he moves with explosion and makes an aggressive hand split, with his elbows coming up very high as he reaches back, into the much-maligned “inverted W” shape. In fact, when studying Wolf, I noticed that his delivery has a lot in common with another pitcher whose mechanics were the subject of much scrutiny early in his career- Stephen Strasurg:
While this was a frequent red flag in years past, most in the industry now agree that “inverted W” deliveries do not lead to more frequent injuries, as was once believed. That said, Wolf works through his delivery very quickly and to my eyes doesn’t always repeat ideally. Given his twitchy athleticism, though, I expect that this is an area that Wolf will be able to improve on in the pro game. Earlier in his college career, Wolf was an 89-91 type pitcher with obvious projection, but this spring he’s been working in the low-to-mid 90s, generally between 92-95. While Wolf isn’t a beanpole, there’s still projection remaining here and he could be the type of pitcher who consistently works in the mid-90s when he fully matures.
For a teenager who makes his name with velocity, Wolf shows some impressive feel for breaking stuff. He legitimately shows two different breaking pitches, and both have promise. His slider is in my opinion the better of the two, with some tight, two-plane boring action. He also has an 11/5 curveball which at its best has good shape as well. Depending on the philosophy of the organization Wolf ends up in, one of the breaking pitches could be scrapped, but with the amount of potential he shows with both, I’d be inclined to encourage Wolf to continue to make both the slider and curve a part of his arsenal.
When I first threw on Wolf’s video, he wasn’t my favorite prep pitcher I’ve seen this year. However, the longer I watched, the more feel I saw, particularly for his breaking stuff. This isn’t a pure arm speed prospect, and after seeing video of Wolf from a few different days, I no longer see much of a difference between he and Daniel Espino. It may be difficult for Wolf to ever have plus location with his mechanics, but I think there’s enough in the way of athleticism for him to have average command. Since Wolf carries the potential for multiple plus pitches, that should be more than enough to give him middle-to-top of the rotation potential if health cooperates. With athleticism, present velocity, projectability and high level ability to spin the ball, Wolf checks all of the most important boxes for a prep pitching prospect.
Projected Draft Round
Thus far, I’ve consistently seen Wolf placed behind the top tier of prep arms, which includes players like the aforementioned Espino, Jack Leiter, Quinn Priester, et al, but he isn’t far behind that group at all. I expect Wolf to go on day one, with a strong chance to be a first round pick. He’s in play anywhere after the top 25 range or so- team preferences will play a large role in how prep arms shake out.
Does he fit with Houston?
You betcha. The Astros are willing to take pitchers with less-than-traditional mechanics when they show velocity and spinny breaking stuff- Wolf fits. Additionally, the Astros do tend to mine the state of Texas quite heavily in the draft, and Wolf is a Houston area kid.
Will he sign?
He has a good fallback plan, so it’s not certain, but Wolf’s bonus demands appear to be reasonable based on what info is out there.