New York Mets scouting report: Meet the falling ace J.T. Ginn

J.T. Ginn

The New York Mets employ a similar strategy to 2019 by stealing one of the best pitchers in the draft, J.T. Ginn, in round two. 

Kyle Newman

With the 52nd pick in the 2020 MLB Draft, the New York Mets select… J.T. Ginn, RHP, Mississippi State University. Two years ago, Ginn was a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers. They weren’t able to come to an agreement and he went to college.

Ginn, 21, was excellent in his first year at MSU diving straight into the starting rotation and pitching 17 games. He pitched 86.1 innings, which is about five innings per start. During that time he had a 3.13 ERA, 10.9 K/9, and 2.0 BB/9. Simply put, he looked like a future ace.

Ginn was nearly untouchable in the first six starts of his college career. He threw 38.1 innings or about 6.1 innings per start and had a 2.58 ERA, 11.5 K/9, and 0.9 BB/9. He was one of the early breakout stars of the SEC as a freshman.

That success didn’t last as arm soreness began to plague Ginn. After pitching six innings or more in five of his first six starts, he would only reach that mark in three of his next 11. His strikeout numbers were down, his walks were up, and he became more hittable.

This was just a precursor to his big injury. Ginn only threw three innings in his sophomore year due to a torn UCL. He had Tommy John Surgery in March that ended his season and tanked his draft stock. He went from a potential top-10 pick to a borderline first-round prospect.

His signability became a concern towards the back half of the first round and Ginn eventually slid to the second round. Most believed he wouldn’t be signable and would return to MSU for a junior year, but not the Mets.

Just like they did with Matt Allan in 2019, the Mets jumped on Ginn as he was falling. The potential was too good to pass up on. If he comes back fully healthy he could be a future ace, and that upside is exactly what the New York Mets have targeted above all else in recent years.

Key

20 – Awful
30 – Well Below Average
40 – Below Average
45 – Fringe Average
50 – Average
55 – Above Average
60 – Plus
65 – Plus-Plus
70 – Well Above Average
80 – Elite

Fastball – 60

Ginn throws three fastballs. He has a four-seam fastball with excellent life that he uses to attack up in the zone. He throws a running two-seamer when he’s looking to get movement on the inside or outside parts of the plate. Lastly, Ginn’s primary fastball is his sinker, which has excellent run and downward action.

All three of Ginn’s fastballs sit in the low to mid-90s. His four-seam fastball has touched up to 97. The life on his fastball up in the zone is among the best in the class, which helps make up for its lack of movement. Most importantly, his command of all three has improved dramatically since his high school days.

Ginn’s going to make his money in the majors using his fastball as a setup pitch. Unlike many power pitchers, Ginn’s fastball isn’t his primary weapon. He often uses it pour in strikes or to pitch to contact, but it’s rarely used as his strikeout pitch.

He’s similar to Zack Wheeler in that way. Despite having an overpowering fastball, he’s at his best when he’s pitching to contact and getting ground balls rather than striking out a ton of people. That’s where the comparison to Wheeler ends though, nothing else about their games are similar.

The biggest concern here is how the Tommy John Surgery is going to affect his velocity. It’s not uncommon for velocity to come down at least for a little while as pitchers recover. Ginn doesn’t have much room to give up velocity given his pitching style. If he does, then his fastballs become much more hittable and that will weaken the effect his slider can have.

If the velocity does drop permanently, expect Ginn to move into the bullpen. His fastball will play up, which will allow his slider to dominate hitters again. If he does have to make the move to the bullpen he should be a back-end guy with closer potential.

Slider – 70

Ginn has a wipeout slider. It’s his primary strikeout pitch and when it’s right, it can dominate hitters. The pitch sits in the mid-80s and has a devastating two-plane break.

The pitch is Ginn’s primary offspeed offering against both lefties and righties. While he’s able to dominate hitters on either side of the plate with his slider, it’s righties who especially struggle.

The movement away can be incredibly difficult to pick up and lead to some unbelievable swings and misses. Lefties see the pitch better out of Ginn’s hand, but his command of the pitch made it difficult for college hitters to handle it.

The slider will need to continue developing if Ginn is going to make it as a frontline starter in the majors. He’s going to need this pitch to carry his profile and strike out a ton of hitters.

The good news for Ginn is that there may not be a team in baseball who develops sliders better than the Mets. Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Wheeler, and Fulmer all came up through the system and learned a devastating slider. Some use it more than others, namely deGrom and Syndergaard, and Ginn will likely be added to that list.

Changeup – 55

Ginn hasn’t had to rely on his changeup much to this point, but it flashes plus potential when he does use it. Ginn’s changeup isn’t the standard slower pitch to complement his power slider and fastball. Instead, he throws more of a power change. His changeup can reach up to 88 mph. It also has excellent fade away from lefties, which can make it look similar to his sinker.

At it’s best, Ginn’s changeup can look almost identical to his sinker except with five mph taken off. That makes it a dangerous weapon against lefties who may be targeting the low sinker. They get out in front of the changeup and pull it on the ground.

Ginn’s issue is that the pitch isn’t refined yet. He doesn’t control the velocity all that well and the fade can come and go. That makes the pitch dangerous to use against advanced hitters because if left hanging, it can be crushed.

Ginn doesn’t need his changeup to develop into an out pitch because of his wipeout slider. He simply needs it to be a strong third option to keep hitters guessing. If he can’t, it will be too easy to sit fastball and slider over the course of a full start, which could lead to him moving to the bullpen.

The hope is that as he throws the pitch with more regularity through the system that it’ll develop quickly.

Control – 55

Ginn’s control has vastly improved since he was in high school. One of the first things his coaches at MSU did was revamp his mechanics. His motion is much cleaner and he has no problem repeating it anymore.

His control was excellent before the arm soreness cropped up as a freshman, but even after, it wasn’t much of an issue. Only 29 pitchers in all of MLB had less than 2.1 BB/9 in at least 80 innings in 2019.

If Ginn can keep that kind of control as he goes through the Mets system, that alone will make him a special player. His ability to throw strikes with the stuff he has is what gives him his ace level upside.

The only reason this grade isn’t higher is because of the track record. Ginn had issues with walks in high school and he didn’t pitch in 2020. That means scouts only have one year of this excellent command to evaluate.

There’s reason to believe it was real, but without much of a track record, it’s impossible to call his command plus or better.

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