The Colorado Rockies selected right-handed pitcher Alex Balog of the University of San Francisco with the No. 70 overall pick in Compensation Round B of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft on Thursday. Balog, a 6'6" 20 year-old junior, was ranked No. 32 on Baseball America's draft board and 44th on MLB.com's rankings.
Why the Rockies took him: Balog was pretty much the best player available at this point, but he also checks off several boxes that Mark Wiley is looking for in his pitchers. Balog has the size to throw downhill, the sink to generate ground balls, and the command to keep the ball down in the zone.
Why you should be excited: Balog was considered a potential first rounder a month ago before tiring down the stretch. Still, Balog was available roughly 30-40 spots later than he should have been. It's not often you get the chance to draft a tall collegian with a mid 90's sinking fastball, but Rockies did just that. Balog also shows promise in his breaking pitches, and despite his size, he's highly athletic and can repeat his delivery and should develop a solid change. Athleticism still gives him some upside.
Why you should be worried: Balog didn't dominate the college game as you may expect for someone with his fastball, and he's worn down over the course of the season. Balog has a repeatable delivery, but he stays crouched too much for a 6'6 arm and cuts off his extension. Despite 93-95 mph with movement, Balog has been hittable and allowed 7 homers in 91 innings. You'd prefer a collegian with this profile to show more polish.
What needs to happen for Balog to reach the majors: Balog has a fallback option of relief thanks to his plus fastball, but to reach the majors in the rotation, Balog has got to thrown his change up more. He's also thrown two breaking pitches and probably should settle on one (I say the slider) and work to improve it. Balog needs to transition from being a guy that has electric stuff to becoming a guy who uses his stuff to set up hitters and put them away.
Realistic best case scenario: Balog's best case upside is a number three pitcher that can get deep into games with a 50% ground ball rate, but has the put away stuff when he needs it. Another option is a high profile 7th inning guy that has the fastball to keep the ball on the ground, and the slider to get the needed punch out.
Final word: While Balog had first round potential, he's more a collection of pitches and tools than a bonafide workhorse starter, but the tools are loud nevertheless.