Continuing my countdown of the Atlanta Braves top prospects, today we take a look at lefty Sean Newcomb. Previous scouting reports (since I arrived at Outfield Fly Rule):
Sean Newcomb, LHP
2016 Level: AA Mississippi
27 G, 27 GS
Newcomb was a 1st-round draft pick (15th overall) by the Los Angeles Angels in 2014 out of the University of Hartford. In 2015, Newcomb rocketed up the Angels farm system, making stops in class-A, A+, and finishing at AA with a combined 2.38 ERA and striking out over 11 batters per nine innings. The results, however, hid some concerning peripheral numbers. Most notably he walked over five hitters per nine innings.
Newcomb was traded that offseason to Atlanta along with right-hander Chris Ellis for shortstop Andrelton Simmons. He was assigned to AA Mississippi, where he struggled in the early going as his walk rate remained uncomfortably high and he was less fortunate than the prior year with batted balls (.321 BABiP against through May). Newcomb’s command gradually improved over the course of the year, and he pitched very well down the stretch, a 2.08 ERA in August with 3.34 BB/9 and 11.31 K/9. Newcomb was solid in the playoffs for Mississippi, getting two starts and pitching to a 2.45 ERA in 11 innings, walking nine and striking out 11. Baseball America named Newcomb the #8 prospect in the Southern League.
Newcomb is 6’-5” and 225 pounds, broad-shouldered and formidable on the mound. He has a deceptively easy delivery that he repeats well. Despite this, he has below average control that typically manifests itself in one inning a game where it becomes difficult for him to throw a strike. Newcomb’s fastball sits in the 92-94 range, hitting 96 with good movement. It plays up thanks to a plus curveball with a tight spin that can be hard for hitters to pick up. Newcomb has been working on a change-up that is at least average at this point and can be a weapon against right-handed hitters. When Newcomb is on, he pounds the lower half of the strike zone to get ground balls and swinging strikes, but he will occasionally buzz the fastball high to change the hitter’s eye-line.
Due to his frame, left-handedness, and stuff, Newcomb often gets compared to Jon Lester. Indeed, Lester had similar control issues in the minors as he was climbing the Boston farm system ladder. There doesn’t appear to be anything mechanical that causes Newcomb’s bouts of wildness, and it may just be an issue that will correct itself with repetition. The Braves have to be delighted with how Newcomb finished his 2016 season, and while results-wise he looks to have taken a step back, his peripherals such as FIP and BB/9 showed improvement. If Newcomb builds on that he could be a contributor in Atlanta by the end of 2017, and he has the stuff to possibly be a front-of-the-rotation pitcher if he can put it all together. Newcomb will likely begin the 2017 season in class AAA Gwinnett.