Player: Chris Ellis
Drafted by: Los Angeles Angels
Height/Weight: 6'5", 205 pounds
Previously Drafted: 2011, 50th round by Dodgers
Even though certain colleges get criticized for using and abusing their pitchers for the sake of winning instead of thinking about the players' long-term health, the coaching staff at Mississippi deserves a lot of credit for turning Chris Ellis into a serious MLB prospect.
There was virtually no buzz around him coming out of high school when he was a lanky 190-pound right-hander, which is why no team popped him until the Dodgers in the final round. Nevertheless, he has slowly built himself into a starting pitcher.
Ellis actually spent the first two years at Mississippi primarily as a reliever, making just three starts and covering a total of 52.2 innings. He moved to the rotation this season, showing the stamina to turn a lineup over three times and learning to mix all his pitches with the command needed to succeed.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
Ellis is a long, lanky right-hander who has filled out his frame in three years at Mississippi, though there is still room to add bulk and, potentially, extra velocity.
Despite his 6'5" frame, he doesn't stay on top of the ball as often as you would like; loses his release point a lot, pushing the ball into the upper half of the zone where hitters don't miss it.
Arm action is fairly clean, though there is a stab in the back of his windup that contributes to the command problems; longer arm path makes it more difficult to find a consistent release point.
Ellis' heater is problematic right now, particularly commanding it, though there's enough velocity and movement on the pitch to project as a solid-average offering or better; sits in the low 90s, touching 95-96 mph on occasion with some sink when he's throwing it correctly; there might be a little more in the tank, potentially sitting at 92-94 mph, if he adds extra muscle in the next year or two.
There's a quality curveball in Ellis' wrist that doesn't show up as often as you like; at its best, the hammer is an above-average pitch with a hard break and more velocity than you would expect for someone who isn't a traditional power pitcher; has a tendency to let it go too early out of his hand, leading to erratic shape; will turn into his best pitch in pro ball.
This is his best pitch right now; has a great feel for the changeup, deceptive arm speed and solid-average command of it; plenty of separation from the fastball and will throw it to any hitter in any count; this is his swing-and-miss pitch.
Because of his limited experience as a starter, he is learning to pitch more than throw; can start off a game by showing above-average control and then lose it in a hurry later; enough there to project quality control, though it all starts with repeating his arm angle on the fastball and not pushing the pitch when he moves to the plate.
The erratic control makes the command profile harder to project; doesn't miss bats at the rate you would expect a college pitcher with his quality stuff, because the ball is all over the strike zone; going to be a problem the higher he advances in professional baseball, especially if he's leaving it up in the zone.
MLB Player Comparison: Jeremy Hellickson
It's not a straight physical comparison, because Ellis is four inches taller and roughly 20 pounds heavier, but Jeremy Hellickson's ability to throw strikes with all of his pitches reminds me a lot of what the Ole Miss starter does. Ellis doesn't have the same changeup that Hellickson did as a prospect, but the youngster has a better fastball and easy-to-repeat mechanics.
Projection: No. 4 starter in first-division rotation
MLB ETA: 2016
Chances of Signing: 80 percent
Regardless of where Ellis ends up going in the draft, it's hard to imagine a scenario where he returns to Mississippi. He needs to get into pro ball right now, so coaches can clean up his arm action, which would allow him to throw more strikes.
The right-hander also seems like the kind of college pitcher who looks less attractive the more you watch him. He's been effective this season but not dominant enough to suggest that there's more than a back-end starter in the arm.
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