The Diamondbacks farm system has plenty of depth when it comes down to arms, but there is also a lot of volatility in that system. They have a few MLB-ready arms that includes Jon Duplantier, Taylor Widener, and Corbin Martin, but each will have their own trials to clear in the 2020 season if it resumes. The team has considerable rotation depth for the next few years, although they stand to lose two of their projected starting five in free agency after the season. When it comes down to the draft, the number of arms can buy the team time and chase upside over security with some of the prep arms in the draft.
One of those arms is Nick Bitsko, who reclassified to 2020. As a result, he’s one of the youngest players in the class and won’t turn 18 until a week after the draft. However the upside he brings to the system could entice the D-backs with their top selection at 18th overall.
Name: Nick Bitsko
Size: 6’4” 220
Rankings: Baseball America (19th), MLB Pipeline (14th)
Expected Draft Range: Top 20
Projected Tools: Fastball 60, Curveball 60, Change-Up 50, Command 55
Bitsko has good size and an already plus fastball and curveball combination. The fastball sits 92-96 with a top speed of 98 MPH with above-average to plus spin. The curveball sits 78-82 with with the ideal shape and tunnels off his 4-seamer very well, making it a very effective out pitch. Those two pitches will be his bread and butter in pro ball, leading to a lot of swings and misses. He also shows a solid feel for a change-up, which he’ll need as an out pitch against left-handed hitters. The development of that pitch will be important in case his curveball isn’t there for a particular start.
Bitsko throws from an overhead windup and the delivery is very clean and repeatable, which portends well for projecting above-average to plus command in the future. After reclassifying and not being able to take the mound in a competitive setting in 2020, there is some risk on teams trying to project Bitsko in the pros. Given the strong number of starting traits, I’m not too worried overall about that.
Here’s Bitsko throwing in an indoor bullpen with Rapsodo data, courtesy of his own Instagram account:
Why the D-backs might draft him?
The Diamondbacks are reportedly looking at some of the top prep arms in the class. With an expected run on college arms in the draft, it could allow Bitsko, Abel, and/or Kelley to be able to slide down to the 18th pick. In the D-backs system, the only pitcher with equal or more future upside is Martin although he’s coming off Tommy John surgery. Bitsko fits the mold of pitchers that Mike Hazen has been targeting: high spin rates on both the fastball and curveball. Last year the D-backs took a pitcher with similar traits in Blake Walston with the 26th pick.
Even at his listed size of 6’4” 220, there is still some projection left in his frame and could see him add a tick to his fastball velocity. Any more improvement of his stuff has him profiling closer to a #1/2 starter in the majors.
Why the D-backs might not draft him?
The biggest reason why they wouldn’t is simply lack of availability. Despite being one of the toughest prospects to get a gauge on in this year’s class, Bitsko is in the top tier of prep arms due to being a strong rotation projection and could go as high 10th overall to the Angels in my opinion. The only reason I see the team passing on Bitsko is if someone who might be higher on their board, names such as Cade Cavalli, Jared Kelley, or Patrick Bailey, falls to them at the 18th pick.
I don’t think the D-backs would have trouble signing Bitsko if he’s available at 18, but slot value at 18 might not be enough. The team would likely go with a college bat at 33 anyway, so that pick itself presents a possible cost savings they could use here to lure Bitsko away from a commitment to play for the University of Virginia. I think somewhere in the ballpark of $3.5-3.7MM gets the job done. The D-backs crosscheckers will really need to do their homework on this guy because they can’t afford screwing up a first round pick for the second time in three drafts.
ETA: June 2024
Even as a prep arm, Bitsko has really good starter traits that could allow him to move up the system quicker than most prep arms. He already has a good base to work with and just needs to fine-tune his change-up into an above-average or better offering to profile as a potential #2 starter. I see a lot of similar traits between Bitsko and former top-10 pick Archie Bradley, although Bitsko projected better command than Bradley.