5 Mid-Major Sleepers That Could Surge for the 2024 MLB Draft – Pitchers Edition

January 3, 2024

If you missed the Hitters Edition of this feature series, make sure to cycle back for some underrated sleeper bats eligible in 2024!

But this edition is all about arms. As was the case with the last feature, we’re going to skip by mid-major arms that are already widely considered top talents in the 2024 Draft. You won’t find guys like East Carolina RHP Trey Yesavage, UC Santa Barbara RHP Matt Ager, Dallas Baptist RHP Ryan Johnson or University of San Diego RHP Ryan Forcucci on this list. Those guys already find themselves inside the Top 80 Overall for Future Stars Series PLUS. They’re already squarely in the top-2 round range from this chair. They need very little introduction.

Instead we’ll tackle names you may be less familiar with. Guys with big stuff and some questions to be answered in 2024 should they expect to see their names vault into day one.

Daniel Avitia, RHP – Grand Canyon

Avitia is a long, athletic, budding right-handed pitcher who scouts believe has a lot more in the tank. Standing 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Avitia has the prototype frame of a big league arm with projection stuff that’s beginning to surface. He leverages the mound well sinking into his hips and gliding through release with explosive arm speed and athleticism. The frame and operation point toward a guy whose stuff should tick up in the coming years with added strength, reps and purposeful training. A 19th round selection by the Chicago Cubs in 2019, Avitia elected to head to Phoenix and prove his mettle. In 15 games as a sophomore in 2023, Avitia went 7-1 with a 3.12 ERA and a 1.161 WHIP. He struck out 81 batters in 82.1 IP, issuing just 19 free passes. He took his talent to the Cape this past summer where he threw 27.2 innings for Orleans, posting a 1.63 ERA and punching 24 tickets.

Avitia topped out at 95 mph last season but should creep higher in due time. His fastball shape falls into the dead zone category with just ~13 inches of induced vertical break. Considering his 56″ launch height however, the pitch plays up. His 23 percent chase rate on the pitch ranked in the 85th percentile for all college arms last year. Bat-to-ball metrics on the pitch were even more favorable as Avitia tallied a 26 percent whiff rate on the pitch, good for the 89th percentile in college baseball.

A velocity spike will unquestionably be necessary at the next level as he averaged south of 90 mph on the heater last year. Should Avitia find himself more in the 91-92 mph bucket deep into ballgames, the profile will ascend. Fastballs accounted for 65 percent of his usage last season, but the changeup flashes above average with a ton of depth and fade. He’ll throw it to both lefties and righties and at its best possesses 10 mph of separation off the fastball. Importantly, Avitia’s feel for landing the pitch on the black arm-side is rivaled by very few in college baseball.

Avitia throws a fringy slider that flashes deceptive shape from time to time, but isn’t executed like his two primary offerings at this stage. It’s mostly gyroscopic in shape and is thrown reasonably firm considering his overall profile; generally in the 80 mph bucket.

Avitia has some interesting metrics traits going for his overall profile. Showcasing the ability to spin a more effective breaking ball and adding a tick more velocity could raise his profile this spring into a potential day one arm. There’s something of a Noe Ramirez comparison/floor here. Avitia currently ranks as the 100th-best prospect in the 2024 Draft at FSS PLUS.

Garrett Horn, LHP – Liberty

Garrett Horn has been one of the more under-celebrated, dominant pitchers in college baseball the last two seasons and the stuff is only getting better. At 6-foot-2, 190 pounds, the pride of Kernersville, North Carolina can really miss bats. Horn started 15 games in 2023 posting a 5-5 record with a 4.09 ERA over 66 innings. He struck out 87 hitters, but walked 47 more along the way. Those control and command issues led to a 1.500 WHIP, and ultimately held back his overall production at times throughout the season. It was certainly a step back from his true freshman campaign in 2022 where he posted a 1.93 ERA over 51.1 innings, striking out 80 and walking just 24. His walk rate climbed from 4.2 BB/9 to 6.4 BB/9. Getting back that feel for the zone will be paramount toward Horn’s draft profile and Liberty’s success this season as a whole.

Horn features a prototype four-seam fastball that has been up to 95 and holds 91-93 deep into outings. It’s routinely been north of 20 inches of induced vertical break, and averaged 19 inches over the entire season in 2023.

Well-above average chase rates and healthy whiff rates buoy the case for an above average fastball with the chance to get into the plus category if velocity comes over time. There’s some low-hanging fruit in Horn’s delivery that should iron itself out as has matures. He can get stuck on his back-side at times and the arm can be late through release.

That move stymies what is otherwise promising athleticism. As Horn begins to loosen up and get into the flow of the game, pitching seems to come a bit more naturally. His first inning strike percentage on the fastball is just 42 percent. That jumps to 51 percent in innings 2-3-4 combined.

Horn goes to a solid slider about 22 percent of the time, a gyroscopic bullet with tremendous depth and conviction. He’ll likely need to add a bit more firmness to the pitch at the next level as it’s usually thrown 79-81, though at this level it’s been an effective pitch on the opposition.

It’s been his most formidable weapon to date and represents a true out-pitch with an above average ceiling. For the time being, it’s solid average most nights. There’s a bigger curveball (this could be a slider that melts into curveball shape on Trackman) and a fringier changeup that lack execution in the overall profile as well.

Horn is reasonably loose and athletic when he gets into a good lather and has the upside of a potential top 3-5 round pick if things click back into 2022 form this spring. Behind the scenes he currently ranks as the 165th-best prospect in the 2024 Draft at FSS PLUS.


Konner Eaton, LHP – George Mason

Konner Eaton is a bulldog on the mound with broad, rounded shoulders, a thick lower half and a workhorse frame that figures to carry good weight into professional ball. He fills out a uniform well and “looks the part”. The 6-foot-3-inch southpaw comes in at 215 pounds and has more upside than some others on this list. In 2023, Eaton started 14 games compiling a 6.38 ERA over 42.1 innings, striking out 47 and issuing 25 free passes. Walks would often cut his outings short, but as his best he can dominate. On April 23, Eaton went six full innings against St. Bonaventure, striking out 10 batters and walking none. It’s that type of performance that scouts want to see more of in 2024.

Eaton is another lefty with big stuff including a fastball that touched 97 mph last season and routinely sat 93-95 in early innings. He possesses above average spin on the heater, as well as above average carry through the zone and considerable arm-side running action away from righties.

While his fastball didn’t perform up to the standards of the metrics in terms of whiff and chase rates, scouts like the upside of the pitch as he learns to control and command the pitch with more authority. Eaton likes to work at the top of the zone, but his “miss” margins can be quite wide at times. It’s presently a solid average weapon that should have no issue reaching above average grades with further reps.

Eaton’s slider doesn’t induce a ton of chase from opposing hitters, though the in-zone whiff rates on the pitch point to an offering that can be tough to hit. It’s generally 80-82 with big downer action and late bite. The slider has a chance to get to above average, but is likely solid average at best most nights right now. Eaton’s changeup is probably his best secondary featuring big arm-side fading action into the left-handed hitter’s box and some late brakes off the fastball tunnel. It’s a pitch that performed quite well last season and has the chance to be an above average offering at the next level if Eaton works to create a bit more depth on the pitch.

The delivery as a whole is especially athletic with real intent at release. The ball jumps out of Eaton’s hand. He must work on repeating his tempo and release point. With time, the control should improve and the stuff should play up.

Eaton might be the most athletic lefty of the lot in this feature and has a very good shot at becoming a top 100 pick in July if the walks come down. On our next update, Eaton will rank as the 168th-best prospect in the 2024 Draft at FSS PLUS.

Jared Spencer, LHP – Indiana State

Indiana State has quietly turned into a prospect engine for MLB teams over the last couple years. The Sycamores have seen four players garner pro contracts straight out of college over the past two summers, all pitchers. Spencer has a shot to become the first Indiana State player drafted in the first round since Sean Manaea in 2013. His lean, lanky, 6-foot-3-inch frame is wound tight with a strong lower half featuring considerable arm speed. Spencer pitches exclusively out of the stretch. He’s almost exclusively worked out of the bullpen in college. Last year Spencer threw 37.1 innings over 25 appearances, punching out 51 hitters, walking 20. He worked to a 3.86 ERA and a 1.259 WHIP. Spencer could take on a starter role next spring, or Indiana State could use him in a multi-inning role like they have the last two years. Spencer has been a bit overworked at times and has seen his stuff slip later in the spring due to fatigue. Avoiding that will be key for his production.

Spencer’s fastball is electric. Up to 98 and sitting 95-96 when he’s fresh, he can blow it by hitters with the best of ’em in college ball. He generates moderate carry on the pitch, though he hides the ball well into release.

Spencer’s swinging arm action and stab in the back has been the cause of some control and command woes in the past, but when he’s right he can control the inner-third to righties and live up-and-inside on lefty bats.

His 27 percent whiff rate ranked inside the 92nd percentile for all college fastballs in 2023. It’s a dynamic pitch. While the fastball is nasty, the slider is probably the better pitch. A mid-80s frisbee up to 89 at peak, Spencer’s breaking ball induced a gaudy 62 percent whiff rate in 2023. Of the pitchers that threw at least 120 sliders last season, Spencer’s whiff rate ranked second in all of college baseball.

The pitch was responsible for a 0.026 xWOBA last season. It’s truly unhittable. His slider is every bit that of a 60-grade offering, and if the effectiveness and execution of the fastball improves, it could play up into the double-plus grade in pro ball.

Spencer is a two-pitch guy with command and control concerns. He’ll need a fully healthy season as well as a chance to start in a weekend role to establish himself a potential day one talent. The arm talent is undeniable and the results speak for themselves. Now it’s time to polish up the edges and let the stuff eat. Behind the scenes, Spencer currently ranks as the 184th-best prospect in the 2024 Draft at FSS PLUS.

Darin Horn, RHP — Coastal Carolina

Horn is almost certainly a reliever going forward, but the stuff is so good he had to make an appearance on this list. At 6-foot-3, 190 pounds, Horn is long and athletic, whippy and deceptive to the plate. He already looks like a big league reliever, though there is refinement ahead. Horn pitched in a jaw-dropping 28 contests last year compiling 64.1 innings, striking out 85 batters. He walked 29. Those outputs resulted in a 5.60 ERA and a 1.477 WHIP.

Horn can do things to a baseball next to nobody else can. He is a metric darling with a hellish sinker that’ll flirt with the mid-90s, generating north of 20 inches of arm-side run and tremendous sink.

His slider will sit 82-84 eclipsing 3000 rpms and, at his best, will register north of 15 inches of sweep. Horn has approached 3500 rpm with the breaking ball, something you’ll only see from the most elite arms in the game. Horn presents plenty of angles for hitters with a wide release point and a long arm swing that can make it tough to track the ball.

His operation is unconventional and a tad inefficient, something that has led to the walks. Horn generates huge torque and hip-shoulder separation with a whippy, rotational front leg and inconsistent landing spot; both of which lead to those aforementioned scattershot woes at times.

There may be some low-hanging fruit here to get Horn throwing harder and scouts hope the control and walks come down this spring. This is what high leverage upside looks like if it all clicks.

Horn has a chance to go in the 4-6 round range if he works multiple innings this spring and dominates the opposition. It’s tantalizing stuff, even if it’s destined for a bullpen role at the next level. He presently ranks as the 239th-best prospect in the 2024 Draft at FSS PLUS.

Joe Doyle
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