2018 Level: A/A+/AA
Current/Future/Ceiling Grades: 40/45/50
What we know:
Pop just finished his first full professional season. He came over from the Dodgers in the Manny Machado trade. He ended up with a 1.53 ERA over 64.2 innings between A, A+, and AA. You won’t confuse Pop with a starting pitcher, he has a low 3/4, almost sidearm release and a long arm action. His stuff is legit though, headlined by a 2S fastball with massive arm-side run. It sits 96-98 mph and has touched 100. He also has a frisbee slider that will flash plus. No one barrels his stuff, he only allowed 6 XBH the entire season. He’s a big-time groundball pitcher, getting 65.8% in 2018. The command is below average, but it’s improved from his college days thanks to mechanical changes to his delivery. He stays closed better now and has slowed down his delivery to give his arm time to stay in sync with his lower half.
What we don’t know:
The only real question with Pop’s profile is how much the command will improve. The stuff is major league quality and he’s not wild, but if he can’t hit spots, he might not miss bats. That would limit him to a middle relief, Miguel Castro type role.
What we think:
Pop is a student of the game who studies his pitchFX numbers and is always working on optimizing his mechanics. He made it to AA very quickly and his command should improve enough to profile as a solid set-up reliever at his peak. We don’t think he’ll miss enough bats to be a closer, but he has that ceiling. Pop could probably compete for a relief role in 2019 but would benefit from more time to hone his craft in the minors.
Written By: Luke Siler