Justin Steele: Prospect Profile for Chicago Cubs' 5th-Round Pick

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJune 6, 2014

Bleacher Report

Player: Justin Steele

Drafted by: Chicago Cubs

Position: LHP

DOB: 7/11/1995 (Age: 18)

Height/Weight: 6'2", 165 lbs

Bats/Throws: L/L

School: George County HS (Lucedale, Mississippi)

College Commitment: Southern Mississippi



There isn't a more volatile pitcher among the top 100 prospects in this year's class than Justin Steele. The Mississippi left-hander is all projection at this point, weighing slightly more than a feather right now. 

Of course, flashes of raw ability have made Steele very appealing. He's hit 92 mph with the fastball. There's just no consensus over what he is now and what he could be in the future. 

He can put on a positive show in short bursts, like he did at the East Coast Professional Showcase last August before fracturing his left (throwing) wrist sliding into home at an event during the summer. 


Full Scouting Report

Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.


On the one hand, Steele has the height to handle a starter's workload and a quick arm to generate velocity now, though holding it for multiple innings is a problem; should get more consistent when his frame fills out, but trying to figure out if he can sit in the low 90s is the issue; more arm strength than anything else, relying on his upper half with stiff hips; not a dangerous delivery, but there are kinks to be smoothed out. 


Fastball: 40/55

There's at least an average fastball buried somewhere in his left arm; touches the low 90s with the heater and gets some life on it; holding that velocity is a big problem, often going down to the low and mid-80s later in games; considering the injury to his wrist, getting back to peak velocity and maintaining it may take longer than expected. 


Slider: 40/50

Steele's best breaking ball is a slider, though neither it nor the curveball has much consistency right now; high three-quarters arm slot allows him to get his wrist around the slider, and there are times it shows enough tilt and bite to be an average MLB pitch; struggles to stay on top of it too often, causing it to look more like a slurve. 


Changeup: 35/50

Like Steele's slider, the changeup is a work-in-progress; doesn't have a good feel for the pitch yet, leading to erratic control; arm works well with the pitch, though there are too many times when he telegraphs it by slowing the delivery down; good fading action to it, enough to project an average pitch in the future. 


Control: 35/50

Steele's only weapon at this point is the fastball, with which he is able to throw strikes; slider and changeup need work just to maintain consistent shape, then he can work on throwing them over the plate; arm angle works well to create some deception and get hitters to react late, though advanced bats are going to cause him problems. 


Command: 30/45

When you struggle to throw two off-speed pitches for strikes and don't spot your fastball well, finding command isn't easy; arm action and lack of refinement leave a lot to be desired when it comes to locating pitches; more of a thrower than a true pitcher, so projecting more than fringe command is a stretch. 


MLB Player Comparison: J.A. Happ

Even though there's a back-end-starter ceiling for Steele, his best role could end up being as a swingman who just eats innings out of the bullpen. He's got average stuff and fringe command, similar in profile to Happ and his role in Toronto as basically a jack of all trades. 


Projection: No. 4 starter in first-division rotation


MLB ETA: 2018


Chances of Signing: 50%

Steele is in an interesting spot right now. He could benefit greatly from three years at college, giving his body time to develop and see where the stuff is in 2017. That time could greatly enhance his stock, resulting in a surefire first-round grade. On the other hand, teams who see a projectable left-hander who has already touched 93 mph don't usually let him get away without making a sizable offer. 


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