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School: Hartford; Class: Junior
Position: LHP; B/T: L/L
Height: 6-5; Weight: 220 pounds
Previously Drafted: N/A
Background: The Year of the Collegiate Left-Hander runs more often than you would think – four were chosen in the first round in 2011, seven in 2009, five in 2008, and 10 in 2007. Obviously, teams tend to value older southpaws that get through the initial levels of the injury nexus.
And this year’s draft is likely to be just another example – Carlos Rodon, Brandon Finnegan, Kyle Freeland, Matt Imhof, and Hartford’s lanky lefty, Sean Newcomb – all project to be taken in the opening round.
Newcomb, who stands an imposing 6-foot-5 but comes in at just 220 pounds, has rebounded nicely after missing a portion of his freshman season due what was labeled as a strained forearm. After an impressive showing in 2013 (72.0 IP, 11.50 K/9, and 4.63 BB/9), the big lefty has been nearly unhittable through his first 10 starts this season. Across 64.1 innings of work, Newcomb has struck out 69, walked 29, and has surrendered just four extra-base hits (all doubles).
He also showed a nice ability to miss bats during his 22.1-inning stint with the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League last summer, fanning 28.
Projection: The good news: big bodied lefties with the rare ability to miss an above-average amount of bats are worth their weight in gold – literally. All of that by itself pushed Newcomb well up the draft charts, but there are certainly more than a few red flags.
First: the forearm injury in 2012. Was that really just an aberration or something more? And one of the key “signs” – or terms – thrown around right before Tommy John surgery is a forearm injury. Obviously, it’s not nearly that serious for Newcomb – he’s thrown about 150 innings since – but it still has to be on teams’ radars.
Second: level of competition. The Hartford player chosen highest in the draft prior to Newcomb’s impending first round status: Jeff Bagwell, fourth round. Even adjusting the numbers for competition still leave some room for error. How is he going to handle competing against vastly superior players than he was for three years?
Third: control. It’s really no secret that, for whatever reason, southpaws tend to mature slowly in comparison with right-handers. And the control, even in his breakout season this year, is still below-average.
Fourth: decline in strikeout rate. After averaging 11.50 K/9 last season, Newcomb has averaged about one per inning so far.
A bit of a first round wild card. The ceiling is certainly high, but so is the risk. A solid #2/#3-type arm, but, again, there’s certainly some risk. Think left-hander version of Allen Webster.
Ceiling: 4.0- to 4.5-win player
Floor: 1.0- to 1.5-win player
Likelihood of Reaching His Ceiling: Moderate
Draft Projection: First Round
Photo Courtesy of University of Hartford via enterprisenews.com.