You like size? You like big bodied pitchers? You like Tommy John surgery?
"Yes I'm going to li...er, TJ?"
Bryce Montes de Oca has a lot going for him. He's massive. He throws hard. He has upside. But, he also has one big thing working against him. He had Tommy John surgery during his junior year of high school.
You can try to downplay TJ all you want, but it's not something to downplay. Yes, the techniques have improved and the recovery rate is much higher than it used to be. But a junior in high school needing TJ is never a good thing. It's a significant red flag.
But, 6'8", 265 pound pitchers don't exactly grow on trees. Those are things you can't teach. You can teach pitchers to use their size to stride further to the plate, but size will still limit that. This guy can stride comfortably to the plate much further than most, and he actually does.
Mechanically, there's not much video to sort through and see. I did notice his elbow seems to be flexed to less than 90 degrees during maximum external rotation, which has been shown to increase stress on the elbow. But, that is something that appears to be there, but may not be because it's regular speed video and not at an angle to measure properly. He's a big guy with natural strength that makes his delivery look almost effortless. To be able to move dynamically at his size, there is obvious athleticism. However, compared to smaller pitchers, he doesn't move that well.
Guys his size usually take longer to develop due to having to control much more mass than smaller pitchers. That leads to them being late bloomers and guys who struggle with control and command early in their career.
Stuff wise, he's mostly pumping fastballs since returning to the mound in April. His first appearance was nothing but fastballs. Can you blame him? He throws 88-94 primarily but can pump it to 97. His first start this year was mostly 94-97. He also throws a curve in the mid-70's and a change up in the mid-80's, however both are in need of a lot of development.
Injury history, loss of a year of development, lack of current off-speed pitching development, and size all lead to a low floor. Size helps with upside but can also lower floor since it's very hard to control those large frames.
Potential for front line starter velocity, or late inning reliever. Upside and long term role depends heavily on how those off-speed pitches develop.
College Commitment: Missouri
Projected Draft Round
This is a tough one to pin down. Organizations have without a doubt scouted his small handful of starts this year and will likely invite him to their private workouts to get as much on him as possible. His upside could lead a team to pulling the trigger on Day One, but is more likely a Day Two candidate.
Will he sign?
Guys like this are difficult to pin down. Without a doubt the TJ surgery will play a role in his draft position and possibly even his bonus. His upside could warrant over-slot money if taken later. College is a real possibility for him since it could offer a shot to prove his mechanics have improved to protect his elbow and that he really is healthy.
Bryce Montes de Oca is a different animal altogether. Montes de Oca has already had Tommy John surgery, so the road map to his recovery — more accurately continued recovery as he’s already back and throwing well for Lawrence HS — is far more clearly defined. The injury still puts him in the high-risk, red flag category going forward, but he’ll have a few more appearances to show scouts he’s back at or near 100% before the draft. The stuff is pretty much what you’d expect from a young, raw 6-8, 265 pound power pitching mountain of a man: plus fastball (88-94 with serious sink, 96-97 peak), mid-70s curve with promise, and a hard mid-80s change that needs work. The upside is tantalizing, though it is worth noting that (anecdotal observation alert!) young pitchers built like Montes de Oca often take longer to develop if they can develop the kind of body control and ability to harness their stuff at all. I’m as guilty as oohhing and aahhing at guys built like Montes de Oca as much as anybody, so realizing the challenges bigger pitchers face from an athletic standpoint should help temper expectations back down to more reasonable levels. He’s still a premium amateur talent.
Montes de Oca will be priority viewing for teams over the next few weeks leading up to the draft because few arms possess his power stuff, which puts him in contention to be a potential first-day selection.