Major League Baseball is scheduled to launch its 2020 draft on June 10. This year's edition will look different than years past. The spread of the novel coronavirus means the event will be held remotely. The owners' desire to slash costs, meanwhile, means the draft will last just five rounds instead of 40.
Here at CBS Sports, we recently kicked off this year's draft coverage recently by ranking, , and . We've also covered , and .
We're also running Q&As with the pitching or hitting coach for each of the top five players in this year's class, according to our evaluation. That continues today with Texas A&M coach Kyle Simonds, who had the pleasure of helping out left-hander Asa Lacy.
Simonds explained how Lacy developed his slider and why he could be the top pitcher picked. Before we get to the Q&A, here's what we wrote about Lacy when we ranked him as the third-best prospect (and top pitcher) in the draft:
Over the last three seasons, six left-handed starters have averaged 150 innings and more than a strikeout per inning: Chris Sale, Robbie Ray, Patrick Corbin, Eduardo Rodriguez, Clayton Kershaw, and Matthew Boyd. Lacy, who struck out 46 batters in 24 innings this season, seems primed to join that group in the coming years. At minimum, he has the highest upside and the best shot at realizing it among the pitchers in the class. Lacy's repertoire features four usable or better pitches, including a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a slider that each grade as elite offerings, according to Trackman data. He also has the frame and demeanor scouts seek in their top-of-the-rotation prospects. The major (and arguably only) flaw in his game is his command: even though he walked three batters per nine in this abbreviated season, he still finished his Aggies career having walked four per nine. If Lacy can improve in that regard, he has the weaponry to become a frontline starter. Otherwise, he'll likely settle in as a mid-rotation starter who has stretches and seasons where he teases more (think the aforementioned Ray).
Now, onto Simonds' answers.
(Note: the interview has been edited for clarity and length purposes.)
What kind of human being is he?
He is very laser-focused. He's been that way since his freshman year. He's not the loudest kid in the locker room, or in the bullpen. He's very self-motivated and driven by just watching other guys. He'd soak up as much information as he could from the older guys. That's what fueled his fire: seeing those guys succeed. He flipped the switch after his freshman year, and he's always gotten better each and every time.
What's your scouting report on him?
Very overpowering. He's a guy you're intimidated by if you're just looking at him on the mound. He's a competitor.
You better be ready to hit the fastball. Three-pitch mix with a wipeout slider and a changeup that has really developed into one of his better pitches. If you're geared-up for fastball, his changeup comes out of the same arm slot -- it's maybe only a six-, seven-mile per hour difference, but it makes his fastball look even harder.
What have you worked with him the most on over the last six months?
Our biggest thing was developing that breaking ball. His freshman year, it was more of a curveball. He had it going more up and down, like a 12-6. He was just a little bit inconsistent with it; his freshman year, he didn't need to throw it. He was throwing low-90s and he was throwing it by guys.
He's very self-motivated and he knows his body and his mechanics more than anybody, so he does a lot of research on his own and he'll bounce that off Coach Childress or myself, whoever it is. He'll put it together. So, he's a little bit self-made. He just tinkered with a slider, maybe a slurve, and he still kinda had the curveball. But he dialed in the slider and that was probably our biggest piece when we worked with him in the bullpen, just dialing that up a little bit.
Was it a matter of finding the right grip for his slider, or something else?
I think it was just the grip, where his hand was/his hand placement, where he could get on top of that slider and still throw it in the upper-80s and with conviction. There were times where it was kind of a cutter, and there were times where it was a true slider, or a true slurve. I think he has the ability to manipulate that every now and then, depending on if he's facing a left-hander or a right-hander. It's just a testament to him, to how hard he works, and how much he knows.
What goes into his pre-start prep?
He does watch video. We do a pitcher scouting report on opposing hitters. He'll watch some video, he'll take some notes on his own, he'll take our scouting report that we put together and add his own mix to it as to how he wants to pitch guys, what he needs to do to get them out.
Leading up to his start, you don't want to mess with him. He's a guy who is laser-focused, has a routine, and is a physical specimen. He put in the work the week before for that Friday night start. He knows exactly what he's going to get and he trusts himself on his preparation. You don't need to say a whole lot to him when he's warming up in the pen, just do the little things and he'll be just fine.
Do you think he'll be able to improve his command?
I think so. I think we saw in his last start, he went seven innings, no hits, and just completely filled up the zone with three pitches. I think he's only going to continue to improve on that outing. He's very overpowering with the fastball, so you're going to get some balls out of the zone with that, because he's putting max-effort on just about every pitch. He can control his body to fill up the zone.
He's still learning. There's probably a lot of things he still wants to improve on and develop, but that's what you need in pro ball. You need to be able to dive into your mechanics and be your own pitching coach. If you're not self-motivated, it's hard to get all the guys in the organization to help you out.
He was fun to work with. He taught me a lot. Everyone in the program can say that. Asa taught a little bit of something to everybody. Whether that was how he worked out; his preparation; his diet. This guy, he takes everything serious. Anyone around can learn something from Asa, and that's just a testament to who he is, and what he's stood by, and his foundation and his work ethic.
What is something that he taught you?
For me, it was just preparation. I would just watch him play catch, something that is overlooked once in a while, but his preparation of playing catch before a game was to the point. He has a purpose, he has a meaning behind it, he's not just going to play catch to play catch. He's always going to work on something. So, I would just kind of watch that and really take it in and kind of look at a few other guys and see, all right, what does it look like to some freshman or sophomore?
That's what sets him apart: the purpose and the drive that he has with every single thing. He used to always ask for extra groundballs, bunt plays, something that he wasn't always great at. There'd be a lot of times after practice, and he'd say, 'hey, can we hit some extra groundballs?' As a freshman or sophomore, to do that, that's a special kid.