Almost Mock Draft Revisited: A.J. Puk

Thus far in our look back at the Almost Mock Draft from May, we have taken a look at some of how the hot bats have sizzled — or fizzled — since being selected this past June. Today we turn our attention to one of the top pitchers taken in this year’s MLB Draft.

Almost Mock Draft: No. 4 — Colorado Rockies | Actual Draft: No. 6 — Oakland Athletics

Puk was one of a star-studded Florida Gators team that saw himself and four of his teammates get drafted before the third round. There was much speculation right up until about a week before the draft that 1-1 was going to be either the proven, collegiate arm of Puk or the potentially-high ceiling of Jason Groome to the Philadelphia Phillies. The Phillies went bat, and Puk slipped to No 6, landing on the Oakland A’s, who drafted his rotation mate Logan Shore early in the second round as well.

He is simply imposing on the mound, standing at 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, which makes sense as he was also a first baseman in his youth. Florida converted him to a full-time pitcher his sophomore season — after taking home top prospect honors in his summer in the Northwoods League — and he has never looked back. He went 9-4 with a 3.81 ERA, striking out 104 over 78 innings. He walked a high 35 batters as he continued to struggle with command learning how to hone his control.

It wasn’t Puk’s command issues that forced his slip from the top spot, nor was it his arsenal. The towering lefty has a fastball ready for the big leagues, sitting between 95 and 97, reportedly hitting as high as 99. Once armed with a curveball, he has completely abandoned it, developing a downward slider that comes across in the mid-80s. His changeup is a bit behind, but when he it in control, he uses is it as an effective deceptive pitch to compliment his fastball.

Some felt that the reason Puk fell may be some maturity issues stemming from his infamous arrest in 2015. Despite the fact that he bounced back and seemingly put those issues behind him, it is understandable that teams would question both his maturity and makeup. That being said, should Puk find consistency in his command and pitch like he always had, the A’s will be very happy that he slipped to sixth.

Puk has pitched in the New York-Penn League thus far after the A’s wrapped up their big lefty for just under $4.1 million, the exact estimated slot bonus for his pick. The bigger the workload he has received since his debut, the more exciting Puk has been for the Vermont Lake Monsters.

The 21-year old lefty made his debut on July 12, starting the game and tossing two innings of no-hit shutout ball. Despite not registering a walk nor a strikeout, Puk was in complete control, especially with his fastball, landing 12 of his 17 pitches for strikes. Six batters faced — his first batter he ever faced reaching on an error that was quickly erased by a double play — and six ground ball outs. It seemed that the heavy competition of the always dangerous SEC had Puk mentally prepared for the competition of the NYPL.

For more on Puk, head on over to Today’s Knuckleball for my full feature by clicking on the link below:

AJ Puk showing improved command in NYPL

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