The 2021 MLB Draft begins on July 11, 2021, and unlike in 2020, this will be a twenty round draft — shorter than the forty rounds the draft has been in the most recent years prior to 2020, but longer than last year’s five round version. The Rangers’ top three picks are at #2, #38, and #73.
In the coming days, we will be doing write-ups of potential Texas Ranger draft picks, looking both at players who are in the mix at #2 and players who would be candidates to be picked in the second or third rounds. Today we are looking at Pfafftown, North Carolina, pitcher Joshua Hartle.
Josh Hartle is a 6’5” lefthanded pitcher out of Reagan High School in Pfafftown, North Carolina, a suburb (possibly even an exurb) of Winston-Salem. His weight is variously listed at 175 lbs., 195 lbs., and 215 lbs. Whatever his actual weight, he is very tall and rather lanky. He’s committed to Wake Forest University.
Hartle is a guy who was seen as a potential riser this spring, but he apparently had an appendectomy before the season, with Keith Law saying that cost him velocity and prep time. Hartle doesn’t throw real hard — BA and MLB Pipeline both say he’s in the low 90s, while Law has him in the high-80s — but his build has scouts thinking he is someone who can add muscle, get stronger, and thus add velocity.
Hartle has a quality changeup that BA says “looks like an above-average future offering,” though Fangraphs says there is a change in arm speed when he throws it, which, if true, is something he will have to rectify. Keith Law says he has a “plus curveball and plus changeup,” though some other places aren’t so bullish on the breaking ball, though the consensus is that the two pitches should be at least average.
Hartle’s command is what is a the biggest separator for him at this point. Hartle’s command and ability to locate all three of his pitches is considered to be quite advanced — in BA’s write-up they note that Hartle was voted as having the best command for any pitcher in this year’s high school class in the publication’s pre-season poll. The combination of his excellent command with the potential for adding velocity as he fills out makes him a potential late first round pick.
Baseball America has Hartle at #35 on their current top 500 draft list. MLB Pipeline has Hartle at #48 on their board. Over at ESPN Kiley McDaniel has Hartle at #56 on his current board. Fangraphs has Muncy at #38 on their board. Keith Law has Hartle at #42 on his board.
None of the recent mocks have Hartle projected as going in the picks they cover.
Hartle has a similar profile to Thatcher Hurd, who we profiled yesterday morning. Like Hurd, he’s a guy with strong command and secondaries whose velocity is lacking, but who, because of his projectability and build, has the potential to add velocity. He’s someone who, if he doesn’t sign, could go to Wake Forest (which MLB Pipeline notes has a good track record of getting their pitchers to throw harder), add a few mph, and be a top ten pick in three years, or he could not progress and end up being a fifth round pick (or worse).
It is worth noting that Hartle was mentioned last month at MLB Pipeline as an under the radar guy who could sneak into the first round, so while he hasn’t shown up on any mocks at this point as being a first round guy, there’s a decent chance he’s not there when the Rangers pick at #38. If he is there, he’s probably someone who is going to require full slot, at least, to forego going to Wake Forest, though I could be wrong.
Whether you prefer someone like Hartle (or Hurd) versus some of the pitchers who are more developed and throw harder but don’t have the command or third pitch depends on your philosophy on developing pitchers and whether you feel you can do a better job identifying guys who will be able to add velocity (and getting them to actually add that velocity) or whether you feel you can do a better job identifying guys with better stuff whose command and secondaries can be improved. Texas, in the last couple of years, has tended to go more with the former guys, which is why I’m focusing more on pitchers who fit that profile in these write-ups.
Hartle is someone who, if he adds a few mph in velocity, sharpens his secondaries and maintains excellent command, would fit the bill for a potential #2/#3 starter, which is why a team would potentially pay him late first round money despite the current stuff. That’s especially the case if there’s a belief the appendectomy and subsequent recovery is currently impacting his stuff.
UPDATE — Video was tweeted out this morning of Hartle saying he’s moving into the dorms at Wake Forest next week and plans on honoring his commitment, which would seem to suggest he’s not going to get drafted unless a team is going to pay him a lot of money.