(Photo via Auburn Tigers website, seen here)
On Saturday, June 9, two highly touted pitchers squared off on a hot Florida afternoon. In Game One of the Gainesville Super Regional, Brady Singer and Casey Mize faced each other for the second time in the 2018 season. On April 26, Singer’s Florida Gators beat Mize’s Auburn Tigers 3-1. The two will forever be linked as SEC stars, first-round draft picks, and as Golden Spikes finalists. Singer, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound righty, was selected 18th overall in the MLB Draft by the Kansas City Royals as they accelerated their rebuild by stockpiling advanced college pitchers. Mize, who is 6-foot-3, 220-pounds, is the Auburn ace with exquisite command and a devastating splitter who the Detroit Tigers selected first overall in the MLB Draft. Even though this game was neither pitcher’s best performance, tuning into the ESPN broadcast and watching these two perform for the first time provided me with some insight on what makes each of these colleges pitchers outstanding.
Singer had a shaky start to the game by failing to field a simple comebacker and then making it worse by firing the ball past the UF first baseman. Florida’s coaches and fans (not to mention Royals executives) held their breaths as Singer had his hamstring examined by Florida’s trainer. However, Singer stayed in the game and recovered nicely by striking out the next two batters, the first of which was on this high fastball.
Mize had an uncharacteristically poor outing, allowing seven hits, six runs, and four walks in five innings. He had TWELVE walks in 2018 prior to this outing! However, Mize’s stuff provided some flashes as to why he was the consensus number-one overall pick.
As I was expecting in such an important game, both pitchers exhibited outward signs of emotion. Singer slammed his glove and hat down in the dugout after a shaky third inning, while Mize was pumped up after striking out a batter to end an inning.
Singer is a very intense competitor, and his tantrum last season when a rain delay halted his start is must-see content. The intensity is also present in Singer’s delivery, which is high-octane and probably the quickest motion I’ve ever seen. This does mean that sometimes Singer misses his spot due to his arm dragging behind his body, but it also means that he generates very noticeable momentum towards the plate.
Once Singer recovered from a shaky start, he settled in nicely, allowing two walks and two runs in 6 2/3 innings. Five of his nine strikeouts occurred via the fastball, while the other four were due to a nasty slider. Singer’s slider reminded me of Jake Junis’ slider, mainly because they each break on a similar plane at a similar velocity and both offerings miss a lot of bats. Singer had six swings and misses with his breaking ball in this matchup. I was pleasantly surprised at the swing-and-miss ability of Singer’s fastball, especially his two-seamer.
The late run on Singer’s heater led to nine fastball swings-and-misses against the Tigers.
Singer was quite inconsistent with his fastball command, but when it was on it was dominant. He constantly challenged hitters inside, forcing them to either swing over the top of the pitch or foul it down the left field line. This in-and-out combo of the slider and two-seamer was effective and should be a large part of Singer’s pitch sequencing going forward. He also mixed in a few changeups and get-me-over curveballs that weren’t very impactful.
Mize had more command issues in this start than Singer, which was an uncommon problem for the broad-shouldered righty in 2018. His best outing of the season occurred in March, when he tossed a dominant no-hitter against Northeastern, striking out 13 while walking none. Even though he was roughed up by the Gator lineup and struggled with his command, I saw signs of why Mize is so highly thought of by the Tigers (both the Auburn and Detroit versions). I liked his slow and deliberate windup, in which he is able to use his whole body to drive through each pitch. This seems more repeatable than Singer’s quick motion. Mize touched 95 once with his four-seam fastball and sat between 91-93 miles per hour. His offspeed pitches are very advanced for a college arm, and they’ve contributed to many of his 156 strikeouts, which was 36 more K’s than the next closest SEC pitcher.
Along with his notable splitter, Mize features a cutter/slider combo that compliments his hard fastball. Yet even with this complete repertoire, Mize consistently missed the catcher’s target, and the Florida offense capitalized multiple times. Here we see Auburn catcher set up on the inside corner, but Mize misses to his glove side and this ball is smacked to the wall for a long single by Florida right fielder, Wil Dalton.
Mize was up and down through the first four innings but unraveled in the fifth, throwing a first pitch ball to the first five batters in the frame. He left several pitches up and out over the plate, and several runs later Mize was taken out of the game. Florida cruised from there to an 8-2 victory. It was a disappointing end to an outstanding collegiate season by the talented righty.
So, what’s next for these two young arms? Well, after a dramatic walk-off win in Game 3 of the Super Regional, Florida and Brady Singer will advance to Omaha for the fourth consecutive season, while Mize will move forward with contract negotiations and eventually report to the Tiger’s organization. Both young men have bright futures ahead of them, provided they stay healthy, which is never a sure thing with any pitcher. Even though Mize and Singer have ideal pitcher’s bodies that are strong, the Royals and Tigers need to manage their usage going forward due to their high amount of college innings. Be sure to keep an eye on the progress of these two pitchers as they develop and chase their dream of playing Major League Baseball.