BRADENTON, Fla. – Left-handed pitcher Braeden Ogle had interest from a lot of teams leading up to the draft. The Pirates were one of those teams, obviously, having him do a workout prior to the draft, where he threw from flat ground. Then, after taking two prep pitchers on day one, they called him at the start of day two, telling him that they were saving up some money to go after him in the fourth round.
That’s exactly what they did, making him the third prep pitcher taken in their draft class. His slot value was $425,700, but they went well above that, giving him $800,000. They saved some money with second round pick Travis MacGregor and third round pick Stephen Alemais, but needed a few hundred thousand more to make up the difference, going under-slot on the picks in rounds 5-10. That wasn’t all for Ogle, as they also went over-slot on 11th round prep pitcher Max Kranick. Those two prep pitchers, plus second round pick Travis MacGregor, really drive the value of this draft in the middle rounds.
So what makes Ogle worth a bonus that would lead the Pirates to partially structure their draft around him? The strategy with the prep pitchers is all about getting quantity and quality, so the middle rounds of the draft aren’t just about Ogle. But Ogle definitely fits the bill as a pitching prospect with a lot of upside.
The biggest thing that stands out is his velocity. Ogle saw his velocity jump to sitting in the 91-93 MPH range, touching 96 at times this year. The velocity increase was due to him adding 30 pounds to his frame in the off-season, working hard in the gym and getting stronger.
“I didn’t pitch all fall,” Ogle said. “Took off strictly so I could gain weight and rest my arm and just get stronger. I came out and it was good.”
The command of the fastball isn’t strong, and will be a focus for him in the lower levels of his pro debut. It has already been something he has been working on in his early bullpen sessions and sim games.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about Travis MacGregor, and how his parents didn’t allow him to throw a breaking pitch until he was in high school, due to the Tommy John research at the time. As a result, he only threw the changeup when he was younger.
“I was one of those kids that didn’t throw a curveball when I was young,” Ogle said. “I was always told about arm injuries. My parents were educated on it. They told me they’re not going to let me throw a curveball until I went to high school. I just threw a changeup my whole life.”
The reports on him coming out of the draft were that he had the ability to throw a changeup, which is a bit of an understatement, since he feels very comfortable with the pitch.
“My changeup is one of my best pitches,” Ogle said. “It might be my best swing and miss pitch. It has a lot of movement.”
The reports on his breaking pitch weren’t as good, and those reports were accurate, for obvious reasons. Because of his fastball/changeup approach, he didn’t throw a breaking pitch until just before high school when he started playing travel ball. He originally went with a slurve, but changed to a harder slider during the year.
The slurve was a slower pitch for him, sitting in the mid-70s and not getting many swings and misses, while looking loopy. Ogle had a trainer in Jupiter, FL, who suggested he throw the pitch harder. He couldn’t do that, so he switched to a slider that eventually was coming in at 83-84 MPH. As for the inspiration for the slider and the grip, Ogle’s trainer went to a good source.
“My trainer showed me an article on [Noah] Syndergaard, talking about his slider,” Ogle said. “What he did to change it, he keeps his thumb on the side of the ball, to allow him to stay on top of it and throw it harder. That’s exactly what I did, and it broke almost from the get-go.”
The fact that he used Syndergaard as a guide is perfect, since Ogle — like Syndergaard — has some serious flow (although he’s cut into his blonde locks a bit since arriving in the GCL). But it’s also a good plan from a pitch perspective. Syndergaard went from throwing a mid-80s slider to a pitch that was coming in at the low-90s when he changed his grip (Note: I don’t know if that is the article Ogle’s trainer used). With Ogle looking for a way to add velocity to his slider, it makes sense to take the exact same approach Syndergaard took.
The reports on Ogle’s breaking pitch (which some labeled as a hard curveball) were that it needed more consistency. This all makes sense when you consider that he’s only been throwing the new slider for a few months, and has only been throwing breaking pitches in general for a few years.
There’s a lot to like about Ogle with his velocity. Being able to sit 91-93 and touch 96 as a lefty is pretty special, although he will need to improve his command of the fastball before that pitch can become fully effective. The fact that he’s already got a strong changeup is great, as it increases the chances of him sticking as a starter. The slider needs work, but that is to be expected for a new pitch, and it seems Ogle is in a good spot with knowing how to throw the pitch.
The approach with the prep pitchers is more about drafting several high upside guys and hoping one or two of them work out. Ogle is no guarantee to be the guy who works out, but he definitely fits the bill as a high upside guy with the tools needed to be a legit pitching prospect down the line.