Weight: 200 lbs.
FB velocity: 89-92, T94
The premier two-way prospect in this year’s class is Kingwood’s Masyn Winn, but the Houston area has another impressive prospect with pro potential on both sides of the ball. Episcopal’s Tanner Witt, a lithe, 6’6” athlete, currently projects as a day two selection with teams a bit split on where he fits best at the next level. The righty starred on the infield and mound for the Knights, showing off impressive power and advanced feel for a big curveball, earning attention from high-major NCAA programs.
Now a Longhorns commit, Witt will be a tough evaluation for big league clubs, who no doubt would’ve liked to have had a full 2020 season to size him up. Grading a two-way prospect is often a difficult task- while there are a very select few able to handle playing both ways as pros, they are exceedingly rare, and for the most parts teams need to have made a decision on a player’s future position before they turn his name in on draft day. Thus, when writing a report on a player like Witt, you must make a decision on where you see him playing at the next level, and, for the most part, disregard what you saw from him on the other side of the ball. This, as you might imagine, puts some strain on your compartmentalization skills.
In my look at Witt, however, it wasn’t hard for me to make such a call. As a position player, Witt certainly checks some boxes- he has the impressive raw power and infield arm strength you’d expect from somebody with his frame, but he also shows better lateral mobility and footwork than expected at his size. His hands on the dirt are a bit below average, but with his arm strength and decent range (aided by his length), I’d give him a puncher’s chance of sticking at third base. If that doesn’t work out, he’d certainly fit in right field, another position where his big arm would be an asset.
However, I have some reservations about Witt’s hit tool. The bat path is undeniably long, and his actions at the dish are stiffer than I’d like to see. His bat speed is more average than outstanding, and those traits tend to add up to a below-average pro hitter in most cases. Overall, his evaluation as a position player is pretty similar to Astros farmhand Joe Perez, though Perez’s bat speed is probably a tick better.
As a pitcher, Witt has an upright delivery with a clean arm stroke. While there’s not a ton of projection remaining in Witt’s upper body (his arms and chest are already huge), there’s still plenty of potential for him to add velocity in my view. The lower half of his body has room to add strength, and additionally, to my eye it looks like he could generate more leg drive with his delivery. His stride is also a bit shorter than I’d consider ideal, and he could also eke more extension out of his 6’6” frame to help his fastball play up further. With that said, the most impressive part of his profile as a pitcher is his curveball. It has recorded spin rates into the 2900 range in the past, and it already shows terrific depth and consistent shape. It’s an old school, 11-5 breaker and Witt, despite his experience level, already looks comfortable dropping it in on the knees for strikes.
While he’s not quite the same athlete, and throws with the opposite hand, I couldn’t help but be reminded some of the Tigers’ Matt Manning watching Witt- another pitching prospect with a 6’6” frame and a big curveball. I project the fastball to end up sitting at 92-94 or so, with the curveball representing an out pitch for him. Like most prep pitchers, he hasn’t thrown many changeups, but evaluators have liked what they’ve seen out of the offering. I think the sum total of those parts puts Witt at the low end of the No. 3 starter group, or the high end of potential No. 4s, assuming he is an above-average strike thrower as I expect.
To me, this puts him in top 50 pick discussion, though he’s currently projected to go lower. Given his upside potential, it’s fair to wonder if Witt might ship off to Austin rather than pro ball at this juncture. Witt has all the requisite physical talent to turn into a round 1 prospect with a productive college career, and with the uncertainty surrounding the draft this year he may not get the bonus he’s looking for. If I were in a draft room in June, and, as I always say, there are plenty of reasons I won’t be, I’d be lobbying for my GM to lure Witt away from UT, as I don’t think teams will have another chance to get him at this kind of price point.
Does he fit with Houston?
I’d like to think so. It’s hard for me to predict what James Click is going to try to do with this draft, but I would think of Witt as a potential Rays draft pick. There’s a good chance he’ll be on the board for the Astros first selection at 72, and a very slim chance he could be available at their next pick, 101, though at that point he’d likely require an overslot bonus that the Astros might not be able to afford with their pittance of a bonus pool.