Rays’ 4th Rounder P Nolan Gannon: Upside Pitcher Here We Come!

By Robbie Knopf

The Rays’ have been extremely successful getting pitchers in the 4th round of the MLB Draft, selecting Jeremy Hellickson, Wade Davis, and Alex Cobb. Nolan Gannon looks to be next.

Gannon is 6’5″, 195. You don’t find pitchers much more projectable than that. He has a noticeably slender frame right now. But already he has shown some impressive stuff. Gannon gets a very good downward angle on his fastball, which has hit as high as 92 MPH thus far, leading to very good late sink. If Gannon can fill out his frame and get his fastball up into the mid-90’s, it could be an overbearing pitch. Gannon’s best secondary pitch right now is a curveball that as its best features dynamic 12-to-6 break. But he has all kinds of trouble with it.

In general, it’s harder for taller pitchers to throw a curveball because the angle they get on their pitches leads to more slider action. That has been a huge problem for Gannon. His curveball has gotten slurvy at times, which has limited its depth and made it more hittable. And what could be even worse is that in order to throw his curveball, Gannon utilizes a noticeably different arm slot something hitters in pro ball will take advantage of because it completely tips the pitch. Gannon shows flashes with his curveball but the Rays will need to get him to throw it out of the same or at least a similar arm slot to his fastball. It shows potential but it’s questionable whether he will ever be able to get it all together. It would not surprise me if the Rays tell Gannon to completely scrap his curveball in favor of a slider, which could be dynamic out of his arm slot. That will be interesting to see. Gannon has also just begun to throw a changeup, something the Rays will likely emphasize with him.

Gannon also raises some red flags with his delivery, which features a crossfire that adds deception but puts a little pressure on his elbow. That could be something that the Rays choose to correct. Part of the problem is that Gannon needs to put more effort into his delivery because his velocity has not really come yet. Maybe when his velocity comes his delivery were naturally smooth itself out or the Rays will help Gannon smooth it out. It’s a concern, but I don’t think it’s as bad as it would be if velocity wasn’t on its way for Gannon.

Gannon features some great upside. He has a pitch with clear plus potential in his fastball with natural sink and his curveball shows promise as well and it doesn’t work out he could resort to a slider that could be very effective for him. He also has a very good demeanor on the mound and is a fierce competitor. Gannon might have second starter upside, but a tons of things need to happen first. He needs to bulk up and add velocity. He needs to fix the arm slot for his curveball and get the consistent great break on it or else start over with a slider. And he needs to develop his changeup. But between his projectability and what he has shown thus far, his potential is clear. There’s a very small probability that Gannon will be able to put it all together and become another pitcher the caliber of a Hellikcson, a Davis, or a Cobb. But the potential is clearly there, and if Gannon can put it all together, the Rays will have another impressive starting pitcher in the fold moving forward.