A deep dive into why JC Flowers was drafted as a pitcher

FSU’s starting center fielder and closer, JC Flowers, was taken in the 4th round of the 2019 MLB draft by the Pirates. Pittsburgh took the 3-year starting CF and 1-year CP as a pitcher, not an outfielder. Many people have said scouts were split on the decision of which position JC would get drafted as, but I don’t buy it. As soon as scouts saw JC get on the hill this year, I’m sure their eyes were as wide as ever. Flowers was the number 1 RHP in the state of Florida coming out of high school, and if it weren’t for his intentions of going to FSU, he would’ve been drafted as a pitcher then too.

No matter how much of a breakout year JC had at the plate, Flowers was going to be taken as a pitcher. This is not because JC isn’t good at the plate or a very good CF prospect, it’s all based on potential. At the plate, Flowers has shown a ton of power potential this year and he is a premier defender. The only knocks on Flowers as a position player are his strikeout liabilities and plate discipline. Flowers would’ve likely fallen in the 5th-10th rounds as a CF, but the potential for him as an OF doesn’t come close to that as a pitcher.

JC will most likely be a reliever out of the pen, but his ceiling can go as high as an All-Star type closer in the back end of a Major League bullpen. A lot of people would say that the Pirates drafted him too high because he’s just a reliever, which may be true a few years ago, but not anymore. The MLB has had such emphasis the past few years in free agency and postseason play and the development of the “opener” role (created by former FSU player, Kevin Cash). Relievers have seen their salaries see a significant boost, and it makes sense. Relievers often decide how a game will end, shutting the door on a team or blowing a lead. The teams with the best bullpens often go the farthest.

JC consistently runs his fastballs into the 93-94 range, but at times he’s shown he can get it into the mid-to-upper ’90s. JC also practices with the position players every day, like he has been for the last 3 years. There aren’t many two-way players because of what it takes to maintain your arm and do the pitching exercises throughout the length of a whole season. Now imagine what JC could do if he works with pitchers, doing pitching exercises on the daily. Right now I would say JC has a grade of 60/80 on his velocity but easily has the potential to have a 70-grade velocity.

Flowers’ Fastball: 93-94 MPH

JC’s best pitch is his slider. All season long Flowers has produced ugly, off-balance swings against the slider. He’s shown the ability to throw it to both sides of the plates to both lefties and righties. He’s not just a guy that can only get out righties, he’s a complete reliever. Most of JC’s strikeouts this year have been on his slider, which is really his out pitch. He’s also shown the ability to throw it in any count. He can throw it for a strike and as a 2-strike pitch in the dirt to get a batter to chase. At times this season, I’d say JC had a better command of the slider than the fastball. This is an off speed that has the potential to be a plus plus pitch in the MLB.

Flowers’ Slider: 82-84 MPH

JC’s 3rd pitch is a changeup. He’s not used it often this year, as he does not need too much and it can sometimes leak over the heart of the plate. The pitch has been rarely in his junior year, but it could be developed into a solid off-speed pitch over time in the minor leagues. The pitch has the change of speed you want, but not so much the movement or depth, but a few tweaks in the grip could change that. With the nastiness of his slider, he may not need the change much, besides to keep lefties off balance.

Flowers’ Change: 80-81MPH

I do not like doing comps when it comes to the MLB draft, every player is there own guy and every player can go as far as their hard work takes them. But I will show how JC reminds me of 3 different MLB pitchers. JC has one of, if not the freshest arm in this draft. I would have to guess that he’s thrown the least amount of pitches of any college pitcher drafted within the first ten rounds of the draft. There’s barely any wear and tear there. Pair that with the 6’2, 185 frame and the freak athletic abilities he has and you get a top tier pitching prospect. Flowers also has an easy and repeatable delivery, one that has garnered interest from twitter famous “Pitching Ninja.” The ninja compared JC’s delivery to the hardest throwing pitcher in the MLB, Jordan Hicks. Both guys possess simple deliveries with plus arm speed, which generates their velocity. I do not believe that JC will throw nearly as hard as Hicks (102-104 MPH), but this does show the potential for a large boost in velocity.

The second pitcher JC reminds me of is Edwin Jackson. Jackson, who is famous for playing on the most teams in MLB history, has nearly the same exact stature of JC. Both pitchers are 6’2, while Jackson weighs about 20 more pounds than JC, but I think in a couple of years, JC could weigh 215 as well. When Jackson first came up, he possessed electric stuff, with one of the nastiest sliders in the game. Jackson has put up a 4.68 ERA over 17 years in the majors and thrown 1 no-hitter.

For me, the closer that JC equates to right now would be Tigers’ CP, Shane Greene. Greene is mainly a fastball-slider pitcher, a lot like JC. After some rough years as a starter, Greene was converted to a relief pitcher, and his career has flourished since. Greene isn’t the most popular name when it comes to relief pitchers in the MLB, but he currently leads the MLB in saves and has a 1.08 ERA. He throws in the mid-’90s with his fastball, combining it with a frisbee slider. With development, I think JC’s stuff could look a lot like Greene.

Think about this, JC didn’t throw off a mound for 2 years. He didn’t practice as a pitcher for 2 years. And all he’s done since stepping back on the mound less than a year ago has been named the ACC relief pitcher of the year, give up just 4 runs in 23.2 IP, and allow a batting average against of .188. If JC can develop more as a pitcher and less of a thrower, while gaining more control, he could become something special for the Pirates out of the pen. Combine Jordan Hicks’ delivery, Edwin Jackson’s size, and Shane Greene’s stuff and you get one hell of a pitcher.

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