OLSM ace Brock Porter could be first pitcher drafted, but prep risk factor makes for ‘wide range’

Detroit News

It was easy to predict when Brock Porter was going to pitch a great game. That was every game, after all.

It’s a lot more complicated when trying to project exactly where Porter, a right-hander out of Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, will be selected in the Major League Baseball Draft, which starts Sunday and runs through Tuesday.

“He has a really wide range,” Kiley McDaniel, ESPN’s baseball draft expert, said earlier this week in a chat with reporters across the country. “He could be the very first pitcher off the board and go nine, 10, 11.

“I would not rule him going a little bit later, for more money.”

Porter, 19, is one of the top arms available in this year’s draft, and arguably the top high-school pitcher. He had an epic career at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, which won state championships each of the last three years the postseason was held — Division 2 in 2019 and 2021, and Division 1 this past year, when Brock and Co. led the squad to a historic 44-0 record.

St. Mary’s has multiple draft prospects from this senior class, Porter the No. 1 prospect after he went 9-0 with a 0.256 ERA and 0.580 WHIP in 10 starts. He struck out 115 and allowed nine hits in 58.2 innings. He threw three solo no-hitters, and helped combine on two others.

He was the Gatorade National Player of the Year for baseball, after he won the Michigan award in 2021.

There’s no denying the talent level, in other words. Then again, with high-school pitchers, it’s not all about talent — but how that talent translates to professional baseball and eventually the major leagues is the bigger question, and infinitely more difficult to be correct about. The road from high school to the majors is typically long, which also leaves more time and chance for an injury to develop (Porter’s medicals are squeaky clean right now, for the record). For those reasons, there are many major-league teams that are philosophically opposed to committing significant financial resources on high-school pitchers. The risk is too great.

“He’s a high-school righty that throws hard and that’s like the riskiest subset in the whole draft,” McDaniel said. “I, and many others, are just scared, not because of him particularly, but because that’s the kind of guy that we tend to overrate because it looks very nice but there’s just so many things that can go wrong with those guys. It’s a little scary.”

Some mock drafts in recent weeks have linked the Tigers, at No. 12, to Porter, but McDaniel doesn’t believe that makes much sense, given the organization has declared the rebuild over and would be better off going offense, particularly a college player, given the team’s struggles there at the major-league level. McDaniel believes the Tigers will take a college bat.

MLB.com’s Jim Callis, meanwhile, has the Kansas City Royals taking Porter at No. 9, which, per Callis, would make him the first pitcher, college or high school, to be taken in the 2022 MLB Draft. That would also make Porter the highest-selected prep player from Michigan since Kalamazoo’s Derek Jeter was drafted No. 6 by the New York Yankees in 1992.

McDaniel believes top 10 is certainly possible, but so is a spot in the 30s or 40s, if teams drafting sooner are worried about his signability. Porter has committed to Clemson, and already is taking classes there.

The belief is Porter would be an above-slot pick, given he has the leverage of a college scholarship — plus he can classify as a sophomore at Clemson. That would mean a bonus of more than the recommended value of $5.2 million if he were taken ninth. McDaniel said if Porter slides, he could see him getting 15-20 money — $3.40 million to $4.08 million — even if he were taken in the 30s or 40s.

“He’s a big kid, throws strikes, really improved this spring,” McDaniel said. “He had a below-average curveball I was not nuts about, but developed an above-average or plus slider. He has always had a plus change-up. And then (he’s) a pretty good athlete. You could easily imagine him throwing 100 (mph) if everything comes together.”

There is recent precedent of a Michigan prospect choosing college over a lucrative MLB Draft bonus. Alex Mooney, a shortstop who was Porter’s teammate at Orchard Lake St. Mary’s, was projected to be a first-round pick in 2021 but went undrafted because he let organizations know college trumped money. He attended Duke, and made the ACC’s all-freshman team, batting .292 with 27 walks, 12 steals and 45 runs.

Two other Orchard Lake St. Mary’s players could be drafted in the top 10 rounds year: catcher Ike Irish and infielder/outfielder Jack Crighton.

On the state college front, Michigan outfielder Clark Elliott is the top prospect. MLB.com ranks him the 64th-best overall prospect. He was the most outstanding player at the Big Ten tournament, won by Michigan.

“Probably a corner fit, so there’s a little bit of a ceiling issue there,” said McDaniel, who sees Elliott, with 16 homers and 69 RBIs this past season, his third with Michigan, going in the third or fourth round. “If he’s a center fielder, he can probably go higher.”

Then there’s Central Michigan right-hander Andrew Taylor, a native of Caledonia near Grand Rapids, who was 20-8 with a 2.45 ERA in three seasons with the Chippewas. He had 261 strikeouts in 195 innings.

McDaniel said Taylor fits the mold of a Cleveland Guardians-type prospect — one who may not light up the radar gun (yet) as much as others, but throws strikes and has a strong pitching IQ. Other teams that look at guys like this, and have a history of getting the most out of it (even more mph), are the Yankees and Minnesota Twins, McDaniel said.

McDaniel projects Taylor to be drafted between rounds three and five.

“It’s not overwhelming stuff,” said McDaniel, “but it’s athletic.”

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984

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