Tanner Witt – Picture via CBS Sports

The 2020 MLB Draft was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. With the pandemic raging, Major League Baseball held a five round draft that summer. A lot of high school players chose to withdraw from the draft because they knew they wouldn’t be playing for a long period of time. To be quite frank, it was a wise decision and probably the best one for their development. One of those players was Tanner Witt, a two-way player from Texas who I just love as a professional prospect.

Witt took his name out of the 2020 draft to attend the University of Texas. In addition to pitching, Witt played a little third base for the Longhorns his freshman year in 2021.

Most scouts saw Witt as a pitcher in the classic Texas mold of Nolan Ryan and Kerry Wood to name a couple. He’s a big kid at 6-foot-5 and he’s pretty athletic. The issue for Witt right now, though, is that he underwent Tommy John surgery in the spring of 2022 and it does not look like he’s going to pitch all this spring. That could be a good thing for the Cubs as Witt is slated to go in the back half of the first round. 

Unfortunately, the Cubs pick 13th and then don’t pick again until 68. It would be quite a gamble to take him at 13 when he probably won’t pitch much this season.

As someone who just loves the potential of this kid, I’m not even on board with taking him at 13. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still dream.

And it’s easy to dream about Witt.

Here’s Why:

1. He throws in the mid 90s with some impressive vertical movement up in the zone.
2. His release point is extremely high at 7 feet. That tells you he’s coming over the top quite a bit.
3. He also throws a classic 12-to-6 curveball in the Texas style.
4. What pitches Witt has now are amazing and what you could build with him could be even more amazing. Even though he’s quite good now, he can be even better with some tinkering like a couple mechanical changes, maybe add a slider and work on his changeup.
5. He’s got big game stuff.  As a freshman, he adjusted well to the bullpen during the college World Series and played a key role in Texas getting to Omaha.

In his college career he’s only thrown 68 innings but he’s struck out 87. There’s no doubt there is swing and miss stuff here with 2+ pitches.

Here is what MLB Pipeline said about his future.

Scouts long have loved his athleticism and delivery, which could result in solid or better control and command once he’s fully polished. There are no red flags with him, considering the success rate of elbow reconstructions, and he also displayed intriguing power potential as a prep third baseman. It’s unclear if and when he’ll return to the Longhorns, or if he’ll just do bullpen workouts before the Draft in July.

Witt is still one of my favorite prospects. A lot‘s going to have to go right for him to get all the way up to 13. There’s almost no way that he’s going to slide down to 68. If he does that, then that means something really went wrong. But if Witt  bounces back and he starts throwing bullpens in June, then the 13 spot could come into play. I still think it’s weird to talk about taking a pitcher rehabbing from Tommy John surgery to be in the running for the Cubs number one pick. That goes to show just how either routine the surgery has become or proof that rehab strategies work in getting guys back from Tommy John surgery successfully.