2023 Phillies Draft Preview – Tanner Witt, RHP
There may not be a bigger wildcard in this draft. Tanner was a 2020 prospect out of high school and I had considered drafting him back then as a third base prospect. He went on to pitch strictly at the University of Texas. He’s 6’5″ 215 lbs from Houston, TX. He’s a wildcard because he had Tommy John Surgery about 9 months ago. He should pitch in 2023, but he’ll probably miss the first month or so. That’ll leave teams with a sample size pretty small to judge his recovery. If not for Tommy John, he might be a top 10 prospect. If his speed, movement or control isn’t there in the spring, I might as well see him fall to the second round. The The Phillies were picking at the end of this draft, so picking a profile to start with was tough, so I went with one that I thought was interesting and is very realistic to go with at pick 29.
The velocity he needs to pick up again is a Plus Fastball that tops out at 97 mph, but usually runs in the 95 range. That’s no surprise, but Witt’s calling cards before his injury were his control and Improved control and high spin rates in a mix of 4 pitches. He spent his first year in the bullpen for the Longhorns and had some issues with walks, but was effective and racked up nearly 12 K/9. He went to Cape Cod that summer and impressed over 3 starts. That set him up for a sophomore season as the Sunday starter for the Longhorns (essentially the No. 3 starter). He had 2 very effective starts against Alabama and Rice before shutting down and having surgery.
For the rest of his arsenal, Tanner throws a plus 12-6 curveball as his primary offspeed pitch. It also has a Slider and Change-up where it works. The Curve is probably their best release. When he can locate it, it looks like a high ball and just falls off a shelf. The video below is from Pitching Ninja and is a video of Witt’s Curves (and a nice composition on his high 4-Seamer at the end, which shows why he’s so effective). This video has one thing I wish I would work on. The good news may be that some studies have shown that curveball movement increases for some pitchers after UCL surgery (although this can also affect control and command). Witt’s season ended a little over a week after this video surfaced.
There aren’t a lot of videos of Witt pitching in college, largely because late last season and summer showcases would have been the big periods when scouts, writers and prospects would have come out the most and he was out. I may revisit Tanner later this spring if it still seems like an option and as more data and perhaps video becomes available. As of right now I’ll say there’s a lot of risk here with a bullpen floor (if healthy) and likely the No. 3 starter ceiling.
I promise longer previews later and lots of them (with pick #29, there are a lot of options that could be the pick). Some of the reviews may just be quick paragraphs to get into it enough. In the meantime, enjoy this video of a well done student project on Tanner Witt from his high school days.
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