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2018 Phillies Draft Preview: Matthew Liberatore, LHP

Oakland Athletics v Philadelphia Phillies
Now Starting for the Phillies Number 17... Barry Goldberg
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Rumors don’t have the Phillies going High School Pitcher, but Liberatore has the stuff worth taking in the top 10, so since I lose sleep over fears of not profiling someone they might take, I’m including him. I’m also going to switch up my format for the next few prospects who I think are unlikely to be picked at 3 and I’m skipping the breakdown to save some time so I can crank more out.

Matthew Liberatore is an 18 year old, 6’5”, 190 lbs, Left Handed Pitcher from Peoria, AZ with a verbal commitment to University of Arizona. I haven’t seen any reports of signability issues, so I expect he’ll be a Top 10 pick. Several reports note a projectable frame with the potential for more velocity. That’s really promising for a kid who already sits 91-94 mph and reports have him ramping up to 96 (with one report of 97). He backs that up with a 12-6 Curveball with late break. It’s a potential plus pitch, though it does border on Eephus territory as he only throws it 72-75 mph. I don’t know how that’ll work against pro-hitters, but since we’re busy projecting fastball velocity, we can probably comfortably project the curve getting 4-5 mph faster with pro coaching and weight programs. A 76-79 mph Curve would be in the range you’d more commonly see. His final pitch is one of the better -and least used - High School Changeups you’ll ever see. He throws from the same arm slot, release point and arm speed as his fastball and has 8-10 mph separation. That’s the template you want in every change and is not overly common with High Schoolers. The feel must be natural because I read game reports in which he only threw the pitch 2 or 3 times and it’s likely his best pitch.

All 3 of the pitches above have Plus potential, the command is currently a decent bit of projection, but he sequences surprisingly well for a High Schooler. Liberatore has stretches where he locates all 3 pitches with rather good precision, but in the course of the same game his mechanics will go a bit inconsistent and he’ll leave pitches up and arm side. I expect a pro coaching staff can fix that, but even with the raw stuff the floor is likely a #3 Starter.

I’ve seen a lot of comps to a slightly less polished Mackenzie Gore, but since we don’t even know what Gore is yet, I’ll throw out another comp: Cole Hamels. They’re similar in size, their best pitch is a Change-up (Hamels’ Change was perhaps a little better, but it’s kind of rare for a High School Lefty to even have much of a Change), both throw a late breaking 12-6 Curve and Liberatore’s Fastball is actually very slightly better than Hamels’ heater was at the same age. For the record, on my current draft rankings I have Liberatore 7th, which is probably around where Hamels would have gone had he not broken his arm in High School. Of course a comparable player doesn’t mean the same outcome, so please don’t get the impression that whoever gets Liberatore automatically has the next Hamels. They’re similar, but Liberatore has a little work to do one each pitch and a decent amount of work to do on repeating his delivery, but if the Phillies took him at 3? I’d be okay with it.