The Detroit Tigers could target Ohio State University’s Seth Lonsway and his devastating curveball in the 2nd Round of the draft.
Ohio State’s Seth Lonsway has never had a problem getting a strikeout. As a redshirt freshman last season, he led all D-1 freshmen with 126 strikeouts and all Big-Ten pitchers with 71 strikeouts during conference play. Lonsway helped lead OSU to a program record-setting 583 strikeouts last year. The Detroit Tigers could target Lonsway in the second round of the MLB draft. He is the 7th highest ranked left-handed pitcher of the draft behind another lefty, Dax Fulton, who Detroit could also target if he drops after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Lonsway was ranked the 148th draft prospect out of high school in 2017. But, due to a strong commitment to OSU, he wasn’t drafted until the 19th round where he was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds. He was then redshirted his freshman season due to a snafu with his high school transcript.
When he did finally get to pitch for OSU, he made it count. Armed with one of the best curveballs in the college ranks, a low 90’s fastball, an average cutter, and a seldom-used changeup, Lonsway pitched OSU into the Big-Ten Tournament. His first start of the tournament was against the University of Michigan, the eventual runner-up in the College World Series, and he shined. Giving up just one run over 5 ⅓ innings, Lonsway helped OSU stun the Wolverines. Lonsway then pitched the last game of the tournament and set his team up for their 16th conference title. Lonsway was named a 2019 Second Team Freshman All-American and to the Big Ten All-Tournament team.
Lonsway’s best pitch is a devastating curveball, one of the best breaking pitches in the entire draft. His top-notch curve set him up to become one of the premier strikeout pitchers in all of college baseball in 2019 and he only got better in the shortened 2020 season. He also has a developing changeup and a cutter that could both end up as league average offerings.
This season his fastball velocity increased from the high 80’s and low 90’s to the mid ’90s, maxing out at 96mph. His fastball and curveball have become an elite combination, and his 2020 strikeout numbers bordered on the absurd. In just four starts, totaling 18 innings, Lonsway recorded 42 strikeouts. His 21.0 K/9 was the highest among college pitching.
So why, if he has some of the best pure stuff of any college pitcher, is he being considered for the second round and not for the Detroit Tigers’ first overall pick? With his extremely high strikeout rate, Lonsway also has an extremely high walk rate. His 2020 season is the perfect example. Yes, he did have 42 strikeouts, but he also had 18 walks. Averaging a walk an inning will take any elite prospect and attach the “might end up in the bullpen” disclaimer. But the Detroit Tigers have never been one to shy away from a high ceiling/low floor pitcher.
Lonsway also has an unorthodox, hard to repeat, delivery which likely contributes to his wildness. But, his over the top delivery is conducive to creating high spin on his curveball. It would be quite a risk to change his mechanics to improve his control if it could affect the depth that makes his curveball a plus-plus pitch.
Where Lonsway eventually gets drafted depends on if a team thinks that they can improve his control. A team like Oakland, who have the 26th pick, might take him late in the first round to sign him to an under slot bonus, or he could fall to the late second or even early third round.
In 2019, Lonsway had a 12.3 K/9 which would have ranked third among qualified MLB pitchers, behind just Gerrit Cole (13.82) and Max Scherzer (12.69). But, with his current control issues, he likely wouldn’t be able to make it as a starter in the Big Leagues. His 5.8 BB/9 would have not just ranked last among qualified starters but, would have been more than one full walk worse than Dakota Hudson’s league-leading 4.43. If the Detroit Tigers draft Lonsway in the second round, they must hope that they can unlock better control. And, if they can, Lonsway’s substantial upside is that of a top of the rotation starter with one of the highest ceilings of almost any pitcher in this draft.
Here’s Lonsway’s last start of 2020. Five of the six outs he recorded came via the strikeout. He also gave up eight walks. Boom or bust. this is Seth Lonsway.