Image credit: Rhett Lowder (Photo by Jay Biggerstaff/Getty Images)
Tom Lipari played collegiately at New Orleans, then nine years professionally with the Padres and Astros organizations, as well as in Indy ball. He was a nine-year college coach and then spent seven years scouting for the Cardinals. He is the signing scout for Paul DeJong, Mateo Gil, Luken Baker, Steven Gingery, Levi Prater and others.
OMAHA—Occasionally, the baseball gods grace us with the privilege to watch the finest compete on the big stage.
The matchup that took place between Louisiana State and Wake Forest Thursday night at Charles Schwab stadium in Omaha was the battleground as the two top college arms in the class, Paul Skenes and Rhett Lowder, drew their swords and led their teams in what looks to be an instinct classic matchup in a game that determined a CWS finals appearance.
To say the heavily hyped matchup between Skenes and Lowder didn’t disappoint is an understatement. Through the contest, they showcased their talent, grit and perseverance while also providing a master class to every little league and high school pitcher in attendance. Both pitchers put on a clinic in mound presence, clutch pitching, pitch execution and pitch sequencing. As for me personally, the duel brought back memories of the legendary performance of Jack Morris and John Smoltz in Game 7 of the 1991 World Series.
Below are in-depth reports on both Skenes and Lowder from a scout’s point of view. The reports and grades are based on my personal opinions and style of report writing:
Paul Skenes – LSU – JR – RHP – 6’6/247 – R/R
Draft Rank: No. 2
Body & Operation: Physical specimen, ultra-athletic frame and actions. Physically peaked. Pitches with a SWU (semi wind up) delivery. Clean, semi-circle takeback releasing from a lower, three-quarters slot. More of a “tall and fall” approach in lower half than “drop and drive”, as timing in separation to front foot strike is on point and consistent, landing slightly across body. Hides the ball extremely well upon release. Head stays level throughout. No extra movement. Finishes each pitch properly out in front. Repeats delivery exceptionally well.
Pitch Mix: Eye opening, 98-100 mph fastball (2,479 rpm) that explodes out of hand, life and late run present with an avg of 17.1 inches of HB with added deception due to his ability to hide the ball. Appears effortless. Has the ability to pitch to both sides of plate with it and up in the zone effectively. Complements with 87-89 mph slider (2603 rpm) with traditional, tight break. Devastating pitch when on. Does have a tendency to lower slot, get underneath that flattens it out but makes the adjustment quickly. Changeup rounds off arsenal, thrown mostly to lefthanded hitters. Presents as FB out of hand and drops with fade late at 87-89 mph. Will be an important weapon for him at professional level.
Command & Mound Presence: Works ahead and commands the zone extremely well with all three pitches. Knows what he’s doing. Poised with excellent mound maturity. Has the makings to be a frontline starter. Very little development is needed. Will find himself in a big-league rotation sooner rather than later. Special talent.
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Rhett Lowder – Wake Forest – JR – RHP – 6’2/200 – R/R
Draft Rank: No. 10
Body & Operation: Lean, athletic 6’2, 200 with room to add further size and strength. Pitches with a semi wind-up delivery. Drop steps to high leg kick. Soft, downward takeback with front shoulder, upward tilt at separation. Releases from three-quarters slot. Loose, clean arm action. No flags. Generates drive with drag off back-side. Efficient in timing and release. Upright finish but does not hinder control. Repeats well.
Pitch Mix: Attacks with 93-95 mph fastball (2,322 rpm) with life out of hand and carries 17 inches of HB. Pitches in, out and up with it effectively. Some effort involved. Sneaky when up, good movement when down. Rarely doubles up. Mixes in tight-breaking, traditional slider at 85-88 mph (2,777 rpm) and has the ability to add sweep. Does a good job locating under the hands of lefthanded hitters. Throws any time in count. Has a lot of confidence with it. Will continue to serve as an effective pitch through pro ranks. Sells his firm 87-89 mph changeup extremely well with fastball arm action maintaining his FB slot. Turns it over inducing late drop. Throws equally to both lefthanded and righthanded hitters. Dangerous combo when coupled with his fastball. A swing and miss offering that can carry him through a start.
Command & Mound Presence: Relentless attacker with all three pitches. Advanced feel for sequencing and mixing. A strike thrower who likes to confuse and baffle hitters. Hitter never seems comfortable in box. Works quickly and doesn’t waste pitches. Mature on the mound. Oozes with confidence. Potential to soar quickly through minor leagues and serve in the front to middle of a big-league rotation. Upside left.
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