Player: Joe Gatto
Drafted by: Los Angeles Angels
DOB: 6/14/1995 (Age: 18)
Height/Weight: 6'5", 215 lbs
School: St. Augustine Prep HS (Richland, New Jersey)
College Commitment: North Carolina
It's hard to look at a pitcher like Joe Gatto, who is listed at 6'5" and 215 pounds, and think he's still in high school. That also works to his benefit, as teams see the size and understand there's more time to develop an 18-year-old than a college pitcher with the same build.
Gatto also has to overcome the stigma often associated with prospects in the Northeast region of the country. New Jersey isn't exactly a baseball hotbed, despite producing one of the best players in the sport (Mike Trout, who was drafted late in the first round because of limited spring exposure).
On the plus side, Gatto has performed well in his showcase events like the Area Code Games, Perfect Game All-American Classic and World Wood Bat Association Championships. He's shown consistent power stuff and flashes of command/control, allowing him to rise up draft boards.
Full Scouting Report
Note: Numerical scores are on the conventional 80-point scouting scale, with the current score first and projected score second.
Gatto's body is a blessing and curse on the mound; he has the size you look for in a pitcher to get plane on the fastball and throw his off-speed stuff down in the zone, but his limbs are so long that he tends to lose his release point and repeat his mechanics.
When Gatto is on, the delivery is very good; he does come across his body at times, but nothing too alarming that suggests future injury problems, and it also creates some deception because hitters don't see the ball out of his hand; consistency isn't an asset yet, though that's not unusual for a teenager in high school who can get away with mistakes that older players can't.
Gatto's best present and future pitch is the fastball; he has good sinking action on the pitch with excellent plane and throws it 91-94 mph; ball jumps out of his hand thanks to deception, getting on hitters much quicker than usual; more control than command and will lose his arm slot, leaving the pitch up and straight at times; movement and velocity are good enough to project a plus pitch with more experience.
The breaking ball is a tease pitch for Gatto right now; he can snap off a power curve in the mid-70s that has steep two-plane break, tight spin and excellent depth, but maintaining it from pitch to pitch is an issue; his arm slot changes, leading to erratic shape and no control; a very good knee-buckling pitch in his right arm which has come out often enough to suggest it will be above-average in time.
Thanks to Gatto's fastball-curveball combination, his changeup hasn't gotten the attention it needs to develop; uses it as a show-me offering more than anything else, showing little feel for the pitch; it's straight out of his hand with some arm-speed deception, but it's far from being a usable pitch against professional hitters; will need the pitch to develop in order to get left-handed hitters out.
The danger for pitchers with long limbs is that it's hard to control your body from pitch to pitch and repeat the mechanics; he has an imposing presence on the mound but has such spotty control with all his pitches that the results haven't been as consistently dominant as you want; arm slot varies too often, ranging from almost straight over the top to high three-quarters; good enough at finding the strike zone and has enough raw pieces to suggest average control is coming.
Unfortunately Gatto's command isn't as promising as his control; if the arm slot is moving around as much as his, the idea of ever having more than fringe command seems far-fetched; can succeed as a starter with below-average command because the fastball moves so much, but the ceiling is limited as a result, which lowers his draft stock.
MLB Player Comparison: Justin Masterson
A hallmark of Justin Masterson's career has been inconsistency. He can strike out the side in one inning and walk the bases loaded the next, a product of having such long limbs and such an unusual arm slot.
Gatto's arm doesn't work the same way as Masterson's, but there are similarities in the way they attack hitters with a power-sinking fastball. Both pitchers have issues repeating their deliveries, leading to high walk totals and games where hitters can tee off on them.
Projection: No. 4 starter in first-division rotation
MLB ETA: 2018
Chances of Signing: 80%
Despite the criticisms, Gatto is generating buzz in this draft because of his size and the look of his stuff. There's a lot for professional coaches to fix before a true starting pitcher comes out, but the raw ingredients are enough to warrant a high six-figure signing bonus that should prevent the right-hander from stepping foot on North Carolina's campus.
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