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A Look at 2019 Fifth-Rounder Evan Fitterer

The young right-hander could wind up among the most important pick-ups from last year’s Marlins MLB Draft class.

Graphic by @TheBorasClassic/Twitter

Standing out in the 2019 Marlins draft class is no small feat. Most evaluators agreed that their haul, headlined by JJ Bleday, Kameron Misner, Nasim Nuñez and Peyton Burdick, was among the strongest of the year. The list of exciting names does not end there, though, as in the later rounds Miami came away with several players who, while not as complete or explosive as the early-round selections, show some very interesting ingredients that could allow them to rise in the rankings in the future.

Of the Marlins’ day two and three picks, one that has stood out to me in my studies this offseason is RHP Evan Fitterer, a 19-year-old out of the Southern California prep ranks. Fitterer had a strong commitment to hometown UCLA, a program that has produced numerous day one hurlers in recent history, but was lured to pro ball with a $1.5 million signing bonus (second-round money) in round five.

Mechanically, Fitterer has a pretty simple, drop and drive style delivery with good lower half utilization. Despite plenty of remaining projectability, Fitterer has already been able to touch the mid-90s with his heater, though for the moment he generally sits 89-92. Taking into account his mechanics, frame and velo numbers to date, I expect Fitterer will eventually sit in the low-to-mid 90s with the fastball, and the pitch could play better than its velocity given its significant life. While fastballs with heavy life have become somewhat out of vogue in recent history, sinking action is far from a bad thing, and Fitterer gets a lot of it on his heater. This allows the potential for significant weak contact ability, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if the Marlins worked to develop his four-seamer in addition to his preferred two-seam.

While his mechanics and fastball would be enough to intrigue to a degree, the most exciting part of Fitterer’s profile is his breaking ball, a bending slider that he throws with conviction, generating two-plane break. While he’ll lose location of it occasionally, he shows a lot of confidence uncorking his breaker, often throwing it multiple times in a row. At its best, it looks like a plus pitch, and he has nascent ability to throw it for strikes, as well as a chase pitch out of the zone.

Here’s an example of him dropping in a pretty backdoor piece:

As is the case with almost every prep pitcher, his changeup has seen very little use to this point, but the teams at Baseball America and FanGraphs both project it as a future average pitch. Fitterer also shows potential for above-average command—while is control will waver at times, he also shows the ability to work both sides of the plate with both his fastball and breaking ball.

After signing, Fitterer got in a quick debut with the Marlins’ GCL affiliate, recording nine appearances totaling 22 ⅔ innings. The results were solid, as he yielded 20 hits, 6 earned runs, 12 walks and 19 strikeouts, though he did also allow 6 more unearned runs. His ground ball rate in this tiny sample was notably a gaudy 66.7%, the highest of any pitcher in Miami’s farm system. More importantly, he apparently impressed evaluators in attendance, as the FanGraphs prospect team noted that he “was often the first player mentioned by our sources who saw the Marlins GCL/Instructs group,” which was by no means short on talent.

If his changeup and command stagnate, Fitterer could end up a relief prospect, but I have confidence that his package coalesces and he maintains a #4 starter projection, as I view the breaking ball as future plus, with the other traits being at least average. There’s potential for Fitterer to emerge as a top 10 organizational prospect in the future, and in most draft classes, he’d be one of the more exciting names to follow.