BLUF: Quality stuff and tremendous polish for his age make an easy three/four starter projection.
The Player: Justin Nicolino (LHP, Toronto Blue Jays) – The Blue Jays second round pick in 2010, he signed late and didn’t debut until the 2011 short-season. In 52.1 innings with Vancouver, he posted a 1.03 ERA, allowed just 28 hits and eleven walks while striking out 64 batters. He made a three-start cameo at Low-A in 2011 and posted a 3.12 ERA in the process. Returning to the Midwest League in 2012, he finished with a 2.46 ERA, less than a hit per inning and nearly a strikeout for inning.
Basis of Report: Compilation – Industry Contacts
Body (6-3, 170): Tall and thin. Average build and some scouts question the physical projection. Has solid strength right now. Average body.
Delivery/Mechanics: Smooth and easy. Almost effortless delivery. Arm works well and has good acceleration throughout the delivery. Finishes well out front and remains balanced to field his position. Makes adjustments quickly, even from pitch to pitch, when necessary.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 93, Low – 87, Average 89-91, Grade – 50/50
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 93, Low 88, Average 88-91, Grade – 50/50
Fastball (FB) Movement: Has ability to manipulate the movement on the baseball. Can sink it and cut it with regularity. Gets cut FB in on RHH and it is a really effective pitch. Overall plus movement. Grade – 60/60
Overall Fastball: Plays up due to ability to manipulate it and move it around the zone. Can reach back for 93 mph at times and one scout noted seeing 94 out of him. Could get there a little more frequently as he fills out physically, though I don’t expect a ton of physical changes. Overall plus FB due to secondary elements; though with little projection. Grade – 60/60
Curveball (CB): Has feel for spinning the ball but gets caught around the outside of the ball too frequently and the pitch gets soft and loopy as a result. When on top, pitch has good downer action and it sits in the bottom of the zone. Needs to learn to work out of the strike zone as a chase pitch more often. Fringe-average pitch now that some scouts like more than others, but has average overall potential. Grade – 40/50
Change-Up (CH): Easily his best pitch. Excellent arm-speed deception and feel for the pitch. Rarely too firm. Seems to have supreme confidence in the pitch. Good sink and occasional fade when the arm slot dips a little. Easy plus pitch that can control a lineup and keep it off balance. Grade – 60/60
Control: Strike thrower. Peppers the strike zone with all three pitches. Consistently works low. Easy, repeatable delivery allows for top of the scale control projection. Won’t walk many hitters at any point in his career. Grade – 70/80
Command: Excellent command projection. Solid athlete with clean delivery and arm action. Everything works well and he already moves the FB around to all four parts of the strike zone. CH command is present already as well. Shows some ability to command CB. Plus-plus command profile at his peak. Grade – 50/70
Summation: True pitcher. Tremendous feel for the craft at a young age. FB plays up to a plus level with command, movement and manipulation. Will pitch to all four parts of the zone at any time and isn’t afraid to challenge hitters. CH is legit plus pitch that can miss bats to both RHH and LHH. CB is progressing and could give him a full complement of at least average pitches. Command profile is exceptional. Pounds the strike zone and should refine that to pinpoint command. Entire arsenal plays up because of pitchability. Can work through a lineup multiple times without issue. Excellent competitor. Number three starter ceiling and easy projection as a number four.
Relative Risk: Low. Rare risk grade for a very young pitcher but his quality three-pitch mix and command profile make it easy to minimize risk profile.
Future: will move to High-A to start the 2013 season and if the Marlins take off the kid gloves, he could easily pitch his way to Double-A thanks to his combination of stuff and polish. Big-league ETA should be the second half of 2014.