Player: Spencer Turnbull
Drafted by: Detroit Tigers
DOB: 9/18/1992 (Age: 21)
Height/Weight: 6'3", 195 pounds
Previously Drafted: Never
It's been a slow progression for Alabama right-hander Spencer Turnbull, who has gone from an undrafted high school pitcher three years ago to a borderline second-round talent in 2014.
Even though we only hear about college coaching when it's abusing pitchers' arms, Alabama's coaching staff deserves all the credit in the world for helping him clean up his mechanics and turning him into a power-throwing right-hander with two above-average pitches.
Turnbull's limited track record of success is going to be cause for concern—he's never averaged less than 3.8 walks per nine innings—as is his lack of a third pitch, suggesting a bullpen role in the future where the power arm will play better.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
Turnbull looks the part of a starting pitcher who can throw 180 innings per season; 6'3", 195 pounds and can hold a little more meat on his body; delivery is much easier now than it was before, when the release point was all over the place and the ball sailed on him.
He's more direct to the plate and uses his lower half better, though there's still too much emphasis on the arm and violence to project as a starter; arm slot is high three-quarters, which generates movement on the fastball and gets tilt on the slider but also prevents him from staying on top of the ball and finding the same release point.
Turnbull's success stems from the power fastball he uses to overpower college hitters; plus pitch right now with a little more upside in the future; throws it in the low 90s with some arm-side run when he's spotting it in the zone; lack of command prevents the pitch from being a true monster, but it's still good enough to get MLB hitters out.
Thrown from a high three-quarters angle, the slider has good tilt with late bite to live on the back foot of left-handed hitters; doesn't have the release point to live there, but the pitch flashes enough potential to be at least an average offering in the big leagues.
The changeup is a pure feel pitch, and Turnbull doesn't have much feel for his; just a show-me offering at this stage of his development; arm speed on the pitch is fine, but figuring out how to place it over the plate is a problem; straight too often and will stay in the zone when he is throwing it for strikes, allowing hitters to tee off on it.
One of the biggest question marks is how much he will throw strikes against advanced hitters; struggled to do it in college, though his mechanics look better now than they did one year ago; path to the plate suggests there's average control in there; shows it with the fastball but struggles to do it with the off-speed stuff; athletic enough to find a repeatable arm slot with pro coaching.
The command is a different story, as Turnbull has never shown the ability to spot his pitches; very much a thrower instead of a pure pitcher; erratic command can work to keep hitters off balance, but until he learns to spot the fastball, no one is going to respect the other pitches.
MLB Player Comparison: Bryan Shaw
It's not a sexy comparison, but Bryan Shaw has turned into an underrated reliever for the Cleveland Indians. He is erratic with the fastball at times but has tremendous movement on the pitch and throws an above-average slider to put hitters away. Turnbull should pitch out of a bullpen and can be a competent late-inning guy who stabilizes the relief corps.
Projection: High-leverage late-inning reliever
MLB ETA: 2016
Chances of Signing: 85 percent
Considering how high Turnbull's stock has climbed in the last 12 months, it would be a mistake for the right-hander to go back to school for a senior season. His reliever profile makes him a risky-enough proposition, so another year of wear and tear on his arm isn't going to enhance his stock.
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