Spencer Arrighetti, RHP, University of Louisiana (Round 6, 178th Overall)
In a 9-player draft class, Arrighetti was the only college junior that the Astros selected, which is truly odd. He also has less data than the typical college arm, as he started his career with a 17 inning season for TCU before transferring, not pitching during the 2020 regular season and ending up with the Ragin’ Cajuns for 2021. The freshman results were very poor, but since that point, Arrighetti has posted some pretty dominant numbers across a 2020 Northwoods League stint and NCAA play, striking out more than a batter per inning while limiting hits.
Arrighetti’s 2021 performance was a tale of two halves. Through April 1st, or, put another way, through his first 7 starts, Arrighetti’s ERA sat at 0.95, and he held sterling strikeout, walk and hit rates of 11.87, 3.32 and 4.51 per 9 respectively. From there, he slipped quite precipitously- in the remainder of his season (9 starts), the ERA ballooned to 5.29, the Ks to 8.68 per 9, the hits to 10.5 and the walks to 3.75. Obviously, that’s concerning, and without video at my disposal, it’s hard to say exactly what caused the drop off. However, were I asked to make a guess with the information I have available, I’d guess that fatigue played a pretty significant role. For whatever reason, Arrighetti’s pitch count data from 2021 is incomplete, but I went ahead and charted the available figures chronologically to see what I found:
The missing totals aren’t exactly conveniently distributed, but I did find it pretty striking that multiple outings well over 100 pitches preceded the downturn in performance, including a 123 pitch outing against Coastal on March 26th. It was very soon after that his early-season trends broke sharply, as illustrated (to the best of my abilities) with this plot of his hits and runs allowed in each start, adjusted for innings pitched:
The workload that he was tasked with early in the season was a heavy one for any pitcher- but in Arrighetti’s case, it was far beyond what he’d ever done in a live game setting previously. He was exclusively a bullpen arm as a freshman, and in the Northwoods he threw 24 innings in 7 appearances split between starting and relieving, so this represented pretty big step up. If he can sustain his early-season performance more consistently with a more well-managed workload, this pick could represent a nice value for the Astros.
I’m working off of others’ reports on Arrighetti’s stuff, and those indicate that the fastball works in the low 90s with the occasional 89- but I’ve also seen tweets reporting fastballs up to 96 in his late season relief work, so there could be potential for that part of his game to improve. While he’ll show a wide range of secondaries, there’s consensus that his slider is the best of the bunch, earning above-average marks, with the curveball and changeup rating in 40 territory for now. On paper, it’s a back-end starter or setup arsenal, and I think that’s where the ceiling is for Arrighetti, who should fit right into an A-ball rotation in 2022.
Joey Loperfido, OF, Duke (Round 7, 208th Overall)
A fourth year senior, Loperfido is actually on the younger side as far as the Astros’ haul is concerned at 22 years and 62 days. Teams are being forced to extrapolate on many players in this class, but Loperfido is not among them, as he was a four year starter for the Blue Devils and attended multiple high level offseason leagues during his college career. He got off to a great start as a freshman, immediately taking the starting first base job and starting 63 games, in which he hit .315/.408/.475 with 6 home runs and 16 steals in 22 attempts. While he did strike out 55 times, he looked to be a promising hitter with some athletic upside. From there, he ran into some injury trouble as a sophomore, and didn’t perform to quite the same standard, though he did more than hold his own in a trip to the Cape Cod League the following offseason. He also began to expand his defensive repertoire that season, moving to second base for Duke and manning right field a bit in the CCBL stint.
In 2020, Loperfido moved positions yet again, sliding into center field for the Blue Devils, where he’d make 15 starts before the season ended prematurely. He wasn’t off to a bad start at the plate, with a .264/.418/.358 slash line, but didn’t show enough power to draw the kind of interest he was looking for. He improved in that regard in 2021, posting a .374/.473/.612 slash with 8 homers in just 246 PAs (he missed a handful of games), good for a career best ISO by a healthy margin. The downside was that he was unable to improve his contact rate, striking out 50 times, north of 25%. The ACC is a tough conference, but that’s still a very high figure for a draft prospect, particularly a 22 year old.
He has had his ups and downs, but Loperfido’s profile hasn’t changed all that much over the course of his college career, aside from the progression of his defensive acumen. The glove projects nicely to the pro game, as evaluators believe him to be up to snuff at both second base and in the outfield, even if he might be a minor stretch in center field. He’s a long strider with above average speed, but it’s more underway speed than it is an explosive first step. He projects as the type of outfielder who might fit best in left field, but has above average range for the spot and can fill in in right or center when needed. Combine that with the potential to play multiple infield spots as well, and you have a pretty rare skillset in the modern game.
The projection isn’t quite as clean on the hitting side. His strikeout rate was consistently high, and while he has hit the ball hard when he makes contact, it’s a flatter swing plane that limits the over the fence pop to a degree. In the 2020 and 2021 at-bats I looked at, he seemed to handle pitches to the outside half best, and there’s a lot of oppo contact. There’s more hitting feel here than the raw contact rate might suggest, but underutilized power and room for improvement with the plate coverage, so I get the feeling that the Astros might be viewing him as a swing change candidate. If he can work more pull side pop into his game, there could be some interesting upside in the bat too.
Colton Gordon, LHP, University of Central Florida (Round 8, 238th Overall)
We’ve reached the part of the board where information starts to get a bit more scarce, but we’re still talking about D1 Friday starter here. The first thing to note about Gordon is that he had Tommy John surgery in May, so we won’t be seeing him on the hill again until the middle of 2022, when he’ll be 23 years old. Also of note is his odd path through the college game. He attended Florida as a freshman, but didn’t get into any games for the Gators and decided to transfer to JUCO and plot his next move. He didn’t actually get any regular season action as a sophomore either, but he did play in the Northwoods League in both the 2018 and 2019 offseasons. The first stint was not a successful one, as he walked 10 hitters in 14 and 2⁄3 innings en route to a 6.75 ERA, but at 19 years old he was very young for the league. He greatly improved in his 2019 return, with a tidy 1.23 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 22 innings, which impressed UCF enough to bring him to campus as a starting pitcher.
Gordon was looking like a potential breakout performer in 2020, seizing his starting opportunity with a 2.74 ERA, 24 strikeouts and just 5 walks in 23 innings of work (4 starts) before COVID ended the season. He made a brief appearance in the Florida Collegiate League during the offseason, and returned to school in 2021 as the presumed staff ace. Before going down with the elbow injury, he lived up to that billing completely- in 9 starts, he pitched to a 2.77 ERA, allowing 54 hits in 55 and 2⁄3 innings while striking out 72 against 13 walks. Those are great surface level numbers, but his performance looks even better under the hood. He was #22 pitcher at the D1 level by FaBIO, a metric that considers strikeouts, control and batted ball data, standing out for his combination of strikeouts and infield flies - the two most desirable outcomes a pitcher can achieve. The ability to induce infield flies appears relatively stable, as he also did so at a high rate in the brief 2020 sample.
There are some starter traits here, as Gordon is a solid strike thrower with a good frame at 6’4”, 225 lbs. and some athleticism. It’s a bit of a unique look with a lower arm slot from the left side, and his go-to secondary, a slider that rates above average, has a lot of horizontal movement. These traits sometimes come paired with platoon split concerns, but the FaBIO profile also demonstrates that this isn’t the case with Gordon. While the breaking ball isn’t quite a wipeout swing and miss offering, college hitters, even the better lineups he faced, had trouble getting ahold of it, resulting in frequent groundball contact when swinging at the pitch. The fastball isn’t impact, as he works mostly 89-91, but the angle he creates seems to help it play up a bit, and he created a lot of that infield fly contact with the offering. I don’t have much on the rest of his arsenal, so it’s tough to say exactly what the role might be long term, but the numbers are very intriguing.
Aaron Brown, RHP, Middle Tennessee State (Round 9, 268th Overall)
Outside of the first few picks of the day, this might be the most well-known name that the Astros came away with. As a prep player, Brown was a pretty notable prospect seen as having big velo potential, but he was a projection play who would’ve been a day two selection if signable, so he decided to go to Vanderbilt. He would get some regular season action out of the bullpen as a freshman, but he had a rough go of it, allowing 15 runs on 24 hits and 7 walks against 13 strikeouts. Without a solid role in place entering 2019, he decided to transfer Middle Tennessee State, where he’d receive the rotation opportunity that he was seeking.
He didn’t get out of the gates hot as a college starter, as he didn’t yet have his command in the brief 2020 season. He logged 17 and 1⁄3 innings across four outings on the year, and while his ERA was a solid 3.63, it was supported by a very ugly 11/12 K/BB ratio. He maintained his hold on his rotation spot into 2021 despite the mediocre performance, and finally performed like the pitcher that evaluators expected him to be as a prep player. The command numbers took a huge leap- he walked just 15 batters in 85 and 2⁄3 innings of work, and managed to back that up with 113 punchouts- enough to rank amongst the D1 leaders. He also limited hits effectively, but it’s worth pointing out that he allowed a somewhat alarming 13 home runs on the year. It doesn’t look any prettier in his FaBIO profile, which shows extreme fly ball tendencies:
There are some nice pieces in Brown’s arsenal, most notably his upper-70s to low-80s changeup, which proved baffling for hitters in 2021. The fastball is also fairly firm at 90-95, and can rack up its fair share of swings and misses as well, but as we’ve covered contact against the pitch tends to be hard. Spin ability has been a persistent weakness going back to his prep days, and while he’s landed in an ideal organization to maximize whatever upside his breaking stuff has, it’s pretty uncommon for breaking balls to come on especially strongly this late in a prospect’s development. The hard contact concerns and two-pitch look give him a bullpen feel, but the Astros may have adjustments in mind to shore up the other parts of his game.
Michael Sandle, OF, University of South Alabama (Round 10, 298th Overall)
South Alabama’s big thumper Ethan Wilson, a second round pick of the Phillies on Monday, drew most of the attention for the Jaguars this year, but Sandle was able to keep pace with him in most every statistical category. Another fifth year senior, Sandle was a multi-sport athlete with D1 interest for football as a Florida prep player and needed some time to get up to speed in the college game. He redshirted his freshman season at USA, and when he got into action as a sophomore, his game still looked a bit green. Very young for his high school class, Sandle was still a teenager during that sophomore campaign, which took some of the edge off of his less than pretty .225/.307/.346 slash line. There were also some positive signs- most notably a relatively low strikeout rate a walk rate north of 10%- and he showed some good range in the outfield, so he remained locked into a starting role entering 2020.
The Jaguars’ patience with Sandle was rewarded in 2019, when he broke out to the tune of a .320/.397/.511 slash in 211 PAs with just 27 strikeouts. He managed those improvements while also kicking over to center field from right, and drew positive reviews. He would’ve been draft eligible following the season, and among the youngest college players available, but wasn’t selected. He wasn’t able to do much to improve his stock in 2020- few players were- and the shortened draft wasn’t a favorable setup for players in his range, so he was pretty boxed into exhausting his final year of eligibility in 2021. The results this year were almost identical to his 2019 figures, but sustained over a slightly larger sample, with a final slash line of .313/.389/.522. One area where there was significant improvement was on the basepaths- after swiping just 12 steals in 15 attempts in his first 103 college games, he racked up 22 in 23 attempts in his last 76.
From a scouting perspective, Sandle has louder tools than the typical senior sign. As you’d expect from a player with a football background, his speed is above average, and it comes packaged with strength and burst. The wheels show up in both phases of the game, helping him cover significant range in center in addition to threating on the basepaths. He’s also got some solid pop in his frame which is enhanced by his explosion, though his swing isn’t totally tuned to maximize it, with a flatter, line-drive oriented plane. He’s not as patient of a hitter as his teammate Ethan Wilson, showing a bit more aggression, but he does have a mature approach in his own right, doing a good job of getting himself into favorable counts before pouncing. There may not be much more development left in the tank here, but Sandle’s ability to stick in center with solid bat-to-ball and some baserunning upside give him a chance at big league utility.