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Twins Daily 2018 Top Prospects: #8 Blayne Enlow

Trouble with the curve: An old baseball phrase as trite and cliché as the Clint Eastwood movie titled after it. But as the game has evolved, that cliché has never lost its relevance. The curveball remains a mystical entity, difficult for pitchers to master and even more so for hitters to solve.

Blayne Enlow, still just 18 years old, has no trouble with the curve. His special ability to spin the baseball helps him hook a spot among our Top 10 Twins prospects fresh off his pro debut.
Age: 18 (DOB: 3/21/99)
2017 Stats (Rookie): 20.1 IP, 1.33 ERA, 19/4 K/BB, 0.69 WHIP
ETA: 2021
2017 Ranking: NR

National Top 100 Rankings
BA: NR | MLB: NR | ESPN: NR | BP: NR

What's To Like
"He can spin the ball, which is hard to teach."

Those were the words of Twins scouting director Sean Johnson when first explaining Minnesota's third-round selection in the 2017 draft. And it's very true. Last summer, Tom Verducci penned a big feature for Sports Illustrated on the resurgence of the curveball as a premier pitch in MLB. "Organizations have learned," he wrote, "that if someone does not show an aptitude to spin the baseball as an amateur, it’s foolish to expect him to acquire the skill."

Enlow is ahead of all peers in this regard. Prior to last June's draft, MLB.com's Jim Callis dubbed his curveball the best in the entire class, which included plenty of vaunted college arms. The Twins followed the Louisiana prep closely all spring, and basically framed their entire draft strategy around landing him. (Maybe they wanted Royce Lewis no matter what, but signing him below-slot at No. 1 gave them the flexibility to lure Enlow away from an LSU commitment with a gaudy $2 million bonus.)

It is, of course, still very early, but so far Minnesota's scouting department looks to have hit the bullseye and added one hell of a pitcher.

Enlow made only six appearances in the Gulf Coast League after signing, totaling just 20 1/3 innings, but his performance was almost spotless. The projectible 6-foot-4, 180 lb right-hander turned in a 1.33 ERA with 19 strikeouts and four walks, allowing just 10 hits and one home run with a 55% grounder rate. As a high school senior at St. Amant, he had fanned 101 over 76 frames with a 0.92 ERA.

His signature curve is already making waves in the pros. Baseball America recently ranked it as the best in the Twins system. GCL hitters were overmatched and couldn't do much with it. The pitch breaks so hard that some see it as more of a slurve, and TD community member Bob Sacamento went so far as to say in September that "[Enlow] showed me the grip and it's a slider."

Regardless of what you want to call it, it's a phenomenal pitch, and Enlow's ability to combine it with a power fastball with stellar command at the age of 18 is beyond promising.

What's Left to Work On
You might be asking yourself: If this kid's so good, why did he slip to the third round of the draft? Well, that's a little misleading, because he signed for late-first-round money. It is quite likely that other teams were aware of his arrangement with Minnesota.

But there were legitimate concerns cropping up around Enlow that caused his draft stock to drop a bit. Namely: a dip in fastball velocity, from 94 MPH during his junior year to the upper-80s early in his senior season. That can be a very troubling sign, but the velo rebounded as the draft approached (likely alleviating any reservations for the Twins), and he was reportedly back to touching 94 in the GCL.

Of course, the problem with dominating so thoroughly on the strength of two pitches is that he's never had much need to work on a third. Enlow's changeup lags behind his heater and breaking ball, but that's not rare for a pitcher at this stage, and most believe he can develop his third offering into something at least usable.

That question mark, and all others that generally apply to a teenage pitcher who hasn't yet played above rookie ball, keep Enlow's prospect standing in check... for now.

What's Next
The temporary decline in arm strength late in his prep career might help explain why the Twins took it quite easy on Enlow during his first foray into the pro ranks, using him almost exclusively in relief and always with big breaks in between outings. They'll probably continue to exercise caution in the next couple of years, but as he fills out, there's little reason to doubt his ability to stay healthy and maintain velo.

Turning 19 next month, Enlow will likely start the season at the next step of rookie ball in Elizabethton, but it would surprise no one if he surfaced quickly in Cedar Rapids. Any level of success there, as a teenager, would put him on track to beat out our (fairly aggressive) estimate of an MLB arrival in 2021.


Catch Up on the Rest of Twins Daily's Top Prospect Countdown:

TD Top Prospects: 16-20
TD Top Prospects: 11-15
TD Top Prospect: #10 Akil Baddoo, OF
TD Top Prospects: #9 Brusdar Graterol, RHP
TD Top Prospects: #8 Blayne Enlow, RHP
TD Top Prospects: #7 - Coming Tuesday!

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57 Comments

 

Yeah, I'm pretty sure the Twins had a list of guys that they were going to offer overslot money to at the start of Day 2. Enlow was a good one to nab, and I'm glad we have him, but I doubt the Twins planned to have that specific player there as opposed to knowing they'd have a handful of solid draft prospects available.

 

*And maybe Enlow was #1 on their wish list of those guys.

Yep. I completely agree.

 

Additionally, my own pet theory is that they had hoped that at least one other top player would have dropped to their 4th round pick at #106. They had enough money to offer another $2M bonus if someone was available. I think that partially explains the needlessly complicated maneuver to take Leach way underslot at #37 (unless, of course, they just really, really liked Leach!). I have yet to read a good explanation on what benefit they would have lost by taking Enlow (or whomever else they liked) at #37, especially a benefit greater than the risk that none of the high-end prospects would be available at #76.

 

With due respect and appreciation for your knowledge, I think you are greatly overstating the legitimacy of an old study that looks at data from 1994 to 2006. There have been so many transformative improvements in virtually every aspect of the process and at every stage of the process since then. Technology that takes much of the judgment away from the trained eyes of scouts who see prospects a handful of times who are now supported by myriads of eyes studying video. Fitness and health upgrades, perhaps most dramatically affecting IFA prospects, knowledge about biomechanics, kinesiology, psychology, better coaching tools and knowledge. I don't have numbers to support it, but my intuition tells me that players who make the top 120 or so today probably enjoy odds that have improved enough so that the odds for Graterol, Badoo, and Enslow are closer to 50% than 25%, that even despite the much worse odds for pitching prospects because of the much higher injury risks.

Sorry for the delayed response on this, but it has occupied my thoughts for a while now. I certainly share the intuition that you articulated - namely, the player development process and prospect evaluation has revolutionized over the past decade-plus. But at the moment I just haven't seen data to back it up that these prospect rankings are significantly better than they were before. Even a chart compiled this offseason doesn't show any major improvement in the overall performance of, at least, BA's prospect lists over the past twenty years: 

 

It certainly feels like the rankings should be better in this day and age, with so much more information and more people/organizations taking prospect ranking seriously. But at the same time, a lot of the public prospect analysts (and presumably the best) have been hired away by specific clubs. So maybe while teams are getting better and better, there are countervailing forces that are keeping the public content more or less the same. Also, the game itself is changing extremely quickly - the flyball revolution, juiced balls, increased velocity, different balls between majors and minors. It's possible that at some level, the skills (or lack there of) that mattered even five years ago just don't matter in the same way right now. Finally, maybe is just a lag in the data - HS players from the draft class of 2013 are just starting to reach the majors, so we won't really "know" how good the 2014 ranking will be until 2023(?) or so. 

 

Maybe part of our disagreement is that we are just talking about different things. When I'm talking about a "contributor", I'm talking about a player that is at least a consistent 4th-outfielder, backup catcher, utility infielder, platoon bat, 4th starter or middle reliever. Someone who can provide consistent above-replacement-level performance over a decent time frame. Ben Revere was a contributor. Joe Benson was not. You get the idea. If you are talking about the odds that they will at least get a cup of coffee, then obviously our odds are going to be very different.

 

Anyway, thanks for your comment. It has certainly given me a lot to ponder about over the last couple days.

    • Oxtung likes this
Photo
Bob Sacamento
Feb 13 2018 02:29 PM

 

From what the scouting report says Enlow’s velocity came back between 90-94 while he pitched for the GCL Twins so that’s better than Duffey’s upper 80’s fastball, plus Enlow is younger...I have more confidence now that Enlow can develop a change rather than Duffey IMO.

What I wrote on my adopted prospect:

 

18 year old Blayne Enlow was considered a tough sign away from his college commitment to LSU as he's a Louisana boy and a huge fan of the university's athletic program.Even with that said the Twins were able to wriggle him away from college with a 2 million signing bonus in the third round.To put it in perspective, Enlow's76th overall slot was valued at 775K while the 2 million he signed for was valued at 33rd overall slot.

 

The tall lanky righty who appears to be all arms and legs on the mound signed on the 22nd of June yet didn't appear in a professional game until the 19th of July as he was rebuilding arm strength due to the layoff he had from his high school season.

 

He had a very impressive 2017 regular season line yet never threw more than 70 pitches and 4 1/3 innings in an outing.

 

3-0 , 6 G/1GS, 20 1/3 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 19 K, 1.33 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, .141 BAA, 1.77 BB/9, 8.41 K/9

 

He was impressive to the point where he was entrusted with the GCL Twins playoff game vs the GCL Nationals.The Cajun Heat was splendid through 5 innings giving up 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, and striking out 6 before being trotted back out there to start the 6th inning.Enlow subsequently gave up a bunt single, balked, a run scoring triple and then a run scoring double before being removed.

 

During the GCL season, Blayne's fastball showed to be a plus pitch sitting 94-95 mph regularly with great life that runs in on the hands of right handed hitters.When he wants he can rearback and get a few more ticks on his fastball as I've seen him max at 97 mph. Still his already above average control over his heater was what really sets him apart.

 

In addition to his fastball, Blayne features a wicked 84-86 mph slider with hard sharp bite getting as much break vertically as it does horizontally.Characteristically it looks very similar to a hard curveball aka a slurve but he showed me the grip and it's a slider.His other secondary pitch is a changeup but it's still in it's infantile state as he didn't need much of it as a prep pitcher.Nevertheless, Enlow shows a great ability to let the ball tumble out of his hand and releases the 88-89 mph pitch out of the same arm slot as his fastball creating even more deception.

After the GCL season, Enlow was slated to throw in Instuctional ball but it was canceled. Look for Enlow to add some pounds this offseason with further conditioning and muscle building.Depending how aggressive the front office is he'll have an outside chance to start the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids.

 

Bob's Grades for Blayne Enlow

Fastball50/65
Slider45/65
Changeup40/50
Command45/60

Overall 45/60

 

Video shot with camera phone, not my best work:

Photo
FormerMinnasotan
Feb 13 2018 02:37 PM

What I wrote on my adopted prospect:

18 year old Blayne Enlow was considered a tough sign away from his college commitment to LSU as he's a Louisana boy and a huge fan of the university's athletic program.Even with that said the Twins were able to wriggle him away from college with a 2 million signing bonus in the third round.To put it in perspective, Enlow's76th overall slot was valued at 775K while the 2 million he signed for was valued at 33rd overall slot.

The tall lanky righty who appears to be all arms and legs on the mound signed on the 22nd of June yet didn't appear in a professional game until the 19th of July as he was rebuilding arm strength due to the layoff he had from his high school season.

He had a very impressive 2017 regular season line yet never threw more than 70 pitches and 4 1/3 innings in an outing.

3-0 , 6 G/1GS, 20 1/3 IP, 10 H, 3 ER, 1 HR, 4 BB, 19 K, 1.33 ERA, 0.69 WHIP, .141 BAA, 1.77 BB/9, 8.41 K/9

He was impressive to the point where he was entrusted with the GCL Twins playoff game vs the GCL Nationals.The Cajun Heat was splendid through 5 innings giving up 2 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, and striking out 6 before being trotted back out there to start the 6th inning.Enlow subsequently gave up a bunt single, balked, a run scoring triple and then a run scoring double before being removed.

During the GCL season, Blayne's fastball showed to be a plus pitch sitting 94-95 mph regularly with great life that runs in on the hands of right handed hitters.When he wants he can rearback and get a few more ticks on his fastball as I've seen him max at 97 mph. Still his already above average control over his heater was what really sets him apart.

In addition to his fastball, Blayne features a wicked 84-86 mph slider with hard sharp bite getting as much break vertically as it does horizontally.Characteristically it looks very similar to a hard curveball aka a slurve but he showed me the grip and it's a slider.His other secondary pitch is a changeup but it's still in it's infantile state as he didn't need much of it as a prep pitcher.Nevertheless, Enlow shows a great ability to let the ball tumble out of his hand and releases the 88-89 mph pitch out of the same arm slot as his fastball creating even more deception.
After the GCL season, Enlow was slated to throw in Instuctional ball but it was canceled. Look for Enlow to add some pounds this offseason with further conditioning and muscle building.Depending how aggressive the front office is he'll have an outside chance to start the 2018 season in Cedar Rapids.

Bob's Grades for Blayne Enlow
Fastball50/65
Slider45/65
Changeup40/50
Command45/60
Overall 45/60

Video shot with camera phone, not my best work:

Is okay to be even more excited about him now?? If it wasn’t for Enlow’s dip in his fastball velocity he sounded like a sure fire 1st rounder. I’m excited to see how he progresses. Thanks for the report Bob!!
Photo
birdwatcher
Feb 13 2018 03:14 PM

 

Sorry for the delayed response on this, but it has occupied my thoughts for a while now. I certainly share the intuition that you articulated - namely, the player development process and prospect evaluation has revolutionized over the past decade-plus. But at the moment I just haven't seen data to back it up that these prospect rankings are significantly better than they were before. Even a chart compiled this offseason doesn't show any major improvement in the overall performance of, at least, BA's prospect lists over the past twenty years: 

 

It certainly feels like the rankings should be better in this day and age, with so much more information and more people/organizations taking prospect ranking seriously. But at the same time, a lot of the public prospect analysts (and presumably the best) have been hired away by specific clubs. So maybe while teams are getting better and better, there are countervailing forces that are keeping the public content more or less the same. Also, the game itself is changing extremely quickly - the flyball revolution, juiced balls, increased velocity, different balls between majors and minors. It's possible that at some level, the skills (or lack there of) that mattered even five years ago just don't matter in the same way right now. Finally, maybe is just a lag in the data - HS players from the draft class of 2013 are just starting to reach the majors, so we won't really "know" how good the 2014 ranking will be until 2023(?) or so. 

 

Maybe part of our disagreement is that we are just talking about different things. When I'm talking about a "contributor", I'm talking about a player that is at least a consistent 4th-outfielder, backup catcher, utility infielder, platoon bat, 4th starter or middle reliever. Someone who can provide consistent above-replacement-level performance over a decent time frame. Ben Revere was a contributor. Joe Benson was not. You get the idea. If you are talking about the odds that they will at least get a cup of coffee, then obviously our odds are going to be very different.

 

Anyway, thanks for your comment. It has certainly given me a lot to ponder about over the last couple days.

 

 

I can say that we were working with decidedly different definitions because I was in fact counting all players who made a MLB roster. So yes, under that criteria, I think I side with your estimates. It will be interesting to see what the results looks like when the data catches up a bit more.

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AlwaysinModeration
Feb 14 2018 07:02 AM
What if the Twins told the Rays “We’d like to offer you, in exchange for Archer, a package of Kepler and your choice of 3 of these 4 players: Graterol, Badoo, Enlow and Rooker.”

Would you do that?

 

What if the Twins told the Rays “We’d like to offer you, in exchange for Archer, a package of Kepler and your choice of 3 of these 4 players: Graterol, Badoo, Enlow and Rooker.”

Would you do that?

I wouldn't but I'm the low man on Archer.