Why I’m Low on Asa Lacy

Asa Lacy
Texas A & M Athletics photo

  It’s come to my attention that I might be the only person in the United States that doesn’t believe Asa Lacy is the most talented pitching prospect in this year’s MLB draft class. Some people on Twitter were genuinely shocked when I said I had him as the no. 4 LHP, and no. 17 prospect in the class. So let’s dive into the flaws that worry me in Asa Lacy’s game.

   It’s always better to preface everything about draft discussions – especially ones taking three months (maybe more) prior to the actual day of the draft – with a notice of warning. Things I say can change, opinions change. If you were drafting a prospect based on numbers, metrics, and anything unrelated to the eye-test, then congrats, Asa Lacy is for you and make no mistake, his numbers are off-the-charts. 

   In his junior year (among all qualified pitchers), Lacy finished 7th in K/9 (17.3), 34th in ERA (0.75), 30th in WHIP (0.71) and 12th in H/9 (3.38).  On the surface, those ranks aren’t as high as you’d expect – in part to mid-major pitchers facing far superior competition crowding the rankings – so if you took out non power-five pitchers, Lacy ranks 5th in K/9, 12th in ERA, 13th in WHIP, and 7th in H/9. Now that’s better, we’re looking at a top 5 pitcher in the nation – numbers wise – while facing one of the better non-conference schedules. Now obviously, prospects aren’t graded solely based on a stat sheet, and the numbers already mentioned aren’t the ones that had scouts racing to Texas A&M’s Friday Night Games. 

   The one big thing that you just can’t ignore – and everybody’s favourite subject with pitchers – is velocity. Combining mid-90’s heat – from the left side – with effective spin and heavy carry is a recipe for a possible 80-Grade Pitch, all of which Asa has. He owns one of the best fastballs in the class and while he hasn’t fine-tuned his command, that’s a subject for later on. Now let’s dive into his velocity throughout his four-game ‘20 campaign.

Velocity w/ amount of pitches in specified range (From Synergy Database)
Velo Range ~90 91-92 93-94 95-96 97 98+
All Innings 51 54 130 53 5 1
5 inn. or Later 16 26 40 6 0 0

 

   When you look into the numbers, you realize 64.3% of his pitches prior to the fifth inning were 93 or higher, with the highest pitch being 99, and the next closest being 97 (5 times). Not only does he have advanced velo from the left side, but he holds it deep into games, throwing 52.3% of his pitches at or higher than 93 mph with a max of 96, once. 

   His fastball isn’t even his best pitch, it’s his slider, and I’d argue it’s the best pitch in the entire 2020 MLB Draft. The Numbers on his SL are the following: 50 NP, 64% Strike, 15 SO on 20 PA, 1 HBP, 0 H, 0 BB, and 28 swings-and-misses. Hitters posted a .000/.050/.000 line and no person in college baseball could touch it,  literally. 

   Putting all of the positives together, you have a pitcher with a long track record of success at the college level and International Level (USA Baseball). You have a Plus-FB w/ high spin & effective velocity and a Plus-SL (65-Grade) that in all likelihood becomes a double plus-pitch in the very near future. Now onto the flaws that concern me.

   When you look at Emerson Hancock, Reid Detmers, Max Meyer, Garrett Crochet, or even Cole Wilcox, you’re looking at a very starter friendly delivery, one with traditional mechanics, no hiccups and no added stress on a body part that already gets enough. When you go to the eye-test, you see Lacy start in a normal athletic base, step to his left, lift his leg, and ride it down the mound, while hiding the ball behind his body, dipping it downwards in the direction of his left ankle and releasing it from a vertical arm-slot. His velocity comes easy and there’s not much intent, which is good. But the MLB and vertical arm-slot’s don’t mix well. 

   One of the more notable slots similar to Asa is that of Michael Wacha, a first round pick out of – yes – Texas A&M. Wacha, in his 22 year-old season (2013) dealt with lingering shoulder discomfort and a dead arm though still produced a 1.4 WAR in a little over 100 IP. After getting through the injury, Wacha produced a career-high 3.0 WAR season and coming off his all-star worthy season, Wacha dealt with more injuries; a series of magnetic resonance (MRI) and computed tomography (CT) images revealed an injury termed as a stress reaction in the scapula behind his throwing arm. The stress reaction apparently was a case of the shoulder not repairing itself as fast as the strain from regular pitching had caused between the scapula bone and tendons. After returning from his injury, Wacha allowed Travis Ishikawa’s game winning home-run and he never was the same. He battled more shoulder-related concerns the following year and skipped numerous starts throughout the year. He never could return to his dominant self that once was viewed as a first round talent. You could say I went on a tangent there, but when deciding whether or not to spend six-million dollars on a volatile pitching prospect, the history of said pitchers arm-slot is important. The stress Lacy puts on his head & shoulders in a violent-constantly-moving-delivery is a cause for concern. I like my starters to have clean, athletic and quick mechanics all-around.

   The last concern for Lacy is command.  Power arms in college that get away with middle/middle misses – like Lacy did for many of the starts I saw – struggle to fine-tune their command and glove-strike their pitches – which usually hurts them earlier in their professional career, later on, the good pitchers adjust and show pitchability traits. 

  A few months ago, just before the start of the college season. I needed to see three things for me to buy-in on Lacy and deal with the unnatural delivery: an improved breaking ball (Boy did he do that), improved command, and an average or better third-pitch. I saw only one of those.

   Does Asa Lacy have the best two pitch-mix in the entire draft? Yes. Does he have the best body of work in the entire class? Of the pitchers, sure. I feel confident he can become a successful high-leverage reliever, somebody like Josh Hader who really only throws a FB/SL. But by no means do I believe he can become even a backend starter in the MLB. I think the absolute ceiling for Lacy, if he stays healthy, improves his command, and works on a CH is a Carlos Rodon comp. A fringe no. 5 starter on a contending team and a no. 4 on most. It’s tough to project him, given that I think he’s a reliever, but his ceiling (as a starter) is a 0.9-1.5 WAR player that can give 100-120 IP a year, just like Carlos Rodon.

To wrap things up, I’ll leave you with my draft report for Lacy.

“Control-over-command power-lefty with one of the best two-pitch mixes in the draft, if not the best. He lives off a plus-SL – which in all likelihood becomes a future double plus pitch – that holds in the 87-89 range, with advanced late break and a fastball with heavy spin and carry that allows him to dominate the upper-half of the zone. His delivery, similar to Robbie Ray, puts heavy stress on his head and shoulder. His arm, similar to Michael Wacha’s, has a vertical arm-slot making horizontal movement minimal. Has a changeup that he rarely ever uses – for good reason – but it’s slightly below average and probably doesn’t suit his arm-slot at the next level, so an added breaking ball makes more sense. As a Sophomore, the Aggie product posted a 2.13 ERA with 130 K, 49 H, 43 BB, 13 HBP, and a .162 BAA in 88.2 Innings of work. In 2020, as a Junior. He threw 24.0 IP, with only 9 H, and 2 ER. His 46 SO and 8 BB are just insane. Prior to his ‘20 debut, I viewed Lacy as a power-LHP with below average command and zero plus-pitches. While I still think he has below average command, his control is well above average and his Power-Slider is absolutely disgusting, a mid-to-high 80’s hook with late bite and heavy spin – it checks a lot of analytics department boxes. His Changeup doesn’t make many appearances, understandably as he’s gone up and down lineups with ease and only a two-pitch mix. In his time at Texas A&M he’s made the SEC look like a children’s league, but the relief risk is abundant, and that’s why I don’t view him as a top-10 talent. Lacy boasts a track record as good as anybody in the class and it seems MLB Scouting departments view him as the no. 1 pitcher in the class, and while he’s put up historic numbers, I still have my doubts.”

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