One of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft is left handed pitcher Seth Lonsway from Ohio State University. Lonsway enters the draft with less data on him than most college players. After academic ineligibility caused him to redshirt and Covid-19 cut his redshirt sophomore year short, scouts only have one full season of information on Lonsway.
What Lonsway displayed in his limited time was tons of potential, but also some cause for concern. He has an over-the-top delivery. The ball comes out of his hand well, but he often looks out of sync with his mechanics while delivering the baseball.
He is a good size at six feet, three inches tall and 200 ponds. His stats with Ohio State include a 3.59 ERA in 110.1 innings. His WHIP sat at 1.468, but he strikes hitters out at a superb rate. He recorded 13.7 K/9 in his 21 starts in a Buckeyes uniform and was at a clip of 21.0 K/9 in the abbreviated 2020 season. He enters the draft as MLB.com’s 50th-best prospect.
The best part to Seth Lonsway’s game is his curveball. Coming out of the overhand slot of his delivery gives the pitch tremendous break. The power and depth on the pitch has drawn comparisons to the one that Barry Zito threw when it is at its best. Scouts grade the pitch a 65/80.
Lonsway also throws an above-average, riding fastball which hit as high as 96 MPH on the radar gun, but is consistently around 93-94 MPH. The combo of his fastball and curveball led to a lot of strikeouts for him. His K/9 was the best in the NCAA in 2020, and he led the Big Ten in strikeouts during his redshirt freshman season with 126 in 92.1 innings.
He rounds out his pitch mix with a hard slider that resembles that of a cutter. He also occasionally throws a changeup for which he demonstrates good feel.
Lonsway’s fastball and curveball combo is potent enough that scouts felt he could have been a first-round pick this year, but that all changed after his start against Stetson University where he walked eight batters in two innings. This was not an anomaly for Lonsway who has struggled with control throughout his college career.
Scouts grade his control a 40/80, and his out-of-sync delivery could be a cause to these issues. His head tilts significantly mid-delivery, and halting that movement could be a key to fixing his issues.
Lonsway’s control explains why a pitcher with tremendous stuff like him is ranked as low as the 50th-best prospect. When he throws strikes, he is unhittable, but when he isn’t he puts far too many men on base. He registered 6.3 BB/9 for the Buckeyes, and he walked 18 batters in 18 innings in 2020. The bullpen could be a long-term option for Lonsway if he cannot work out his control problems.
An interesting comp for Lonsway is current New York Met Dellin Betances. It should be noted that the comp is not because of size or handedness. On top of being right handed, Betances is five inches taller and 65 pounds heavier than Lonsway, and he throws harder with an average fastball velocity of 97.7 MPH in 2018, his last full season.
Where this comp makes sense is in the high strikeout totals, erratic command, and transitioning to the bullpen. Betances came through the New York Yankees organization as a starting pitcher before transitioning into an All-Star reliever. Betances has only had one full season with less than 3.5 BB/9, but conversely only one full season with less than 14.0 K/9.
Betances’s mechanics can also appear out of sync at times, and his head movement is excessive, similar to Lonsway. Betances has enjoyed tremendous success with a similar pitch mix to Lonsway, both featuring wipeout curveballs. Despite their differences, the similarities are strong enough to show what Lonsway can become at the next level with his curveball despite the lack of control right now.
Seth Lonsway is a boom or bust prospect that could bring erratic returns. If he can fix his control problems, the team that drafts him will get a lot of swings and misses. If he cannot solve them, they could be getting a lot of pitches out of the strike zone.
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