Smith is polished for a HS arm with good stuff highlighted by a plus curveball and a low 90s fastball (generally 90-93) with good command. He also showed very advanced pitchability, setting up and finishing off hitters with good sequences and an ability to execute in big spots. But as a small righty (6′ 0″ 175), many believe doesn’t have a lot of projection left and is close to maxing out his potential. That combined with his asking price allowed the Royals to land him in the 5th round. Speaking short term, Smith was one of the best HS pitchers in the country, though his ceiling isn’t quite as high as the elite level pitching prospects of his draft class.
Brickhouse is a different type of pitcher than Smith but they are similar in terms of present ability. But Brickhouse is also very projectable and thus has the highest ceiling of the group. Brickhouse has a quick projectable arm and a long, lean, athletic body. Brickhouse is rare in that he throws four quality pitches as a high schooler. His curveball is less consistent than Smith’s but flashes similarly hard break and his fastball also sits in the low 90s up to 93 with heavy run. Brickhouse also has a late breaking slider with tight spin in the low-mid 80s that is very promising, and showed off a quality changeup on occasion at high level showcases. If he can stay healthy Brickhouse has a chance to develop into a front of the rotation starter.
Junis is more raw than the other two, which is to be expected of a pitcher from a cold weather climate (IL). Junis is more physically imposing at 6′ 3″ 220 than Smith and Brickhouse, though his velocity is a notch below (generally 88-90). His loose arm action and fast arm speed portend for increased velocity as he becomes more efficient with his delivery. Junis hides the ball really well and drives it downhill from a high 3/4 arm slot, creating good sink and also features a plus curve. Though he has further to go than Brickhouse and Smith, Junis has a lot of upside and there is a chance that he winds up being the best of the three when all is said and done.
I like all three of these pitchers to varying degrees, as well as the Royals’ draft strategy of selecting high upside HS players with an emphasis on talent over price tag. It has allowed them to restock the lower levels of the system that have recently been depleted as the quality talent that formed their impressive farm system has moved up the ladder.
Of the group, Smith is the safest bet to reach the big leagues at some point, Brickhouse is the most likely to become an all-star and Junis is the wild card.