Well, here we are. It is officially the opening week of college baseball. Before the Cats open their season this Friday at TCU, we’re introducing you to some new faces of the 2020 team. Two pitchers that are expected to make an impact as freshmen are Cole Stupp and Zack Lee. The freshman right-handers were two of the most highly-ranked players to make it to campus under Nick Mingione. Here is what you should know about them before they take the mound this season.
Note: All speeds are courtesy of Perfect Game.
Cole Stupp, RHP, Milton, GA
It’s early, but I really like Stupp. He has a repeatable delivery, a good frame, and flashes several solid pitches at the age of 19. Stupp’s two best pitches right now are his fastball and curveball. His fastball sits in the upper 80s to low 90s, with a high of 92. The pitch that will give opposing hitters the most trouble will be Stupp’s curveball. Stupp’s high school and travel ball highlights show that he has good command of a curveball that breaks late and sits in the mid-70s. If Stupp develops his slider as Sean Hjelle did at UK, he could have three pitches that can effectively be used to get guys out. In the meantime, Stupp should get the opportunity to start in midweek games as a freshman.
Zack Lee, RHP, Effingham, IL
Lee is one of the highest-ranked recruits to make it to campus under Mingione. The Illinois-native was ranked as the 121st right-handed pitcher by Perfect Game and made Baseball America’s list of the 500 best MLB Draft prospects in 2019. Lee was mentioned as one of the standout prospects at the 2018 MLB Prospect Development Pipeline event in Chicago where MLB.com reported that “Lee, a University of Kentucky commit for the class of 2019, is a tall, lanky right-hander with a fastball that floats around 90 mph. He has four pitches and demonstrates solid control with them.” Lee’s fastball has seen an uptick in velocity since the event, now reaching 94 on the gun. In addition to the fastball, Lee shows the ability to control a slider, changeup, and curveball. But what I like most about Lee is his bulldog presence on the mound. New pitching coach Dan Roszel wants his pitchers to be the “tip of the spear”, and Lee personifies that motto. He has already pitched in several big games, including an 11-strikeout performance to lead his high school to a sectional title as a senior. Lee has the rare combination of talent and competitiveness that will make him a weekend guy for Kentucky in the coming years.
What can you expect from Stupp and Lee in 2020? Mingione has not shied away from starting freshman pitchers against midweek opponents. It was only three years ago that a freshman pitcher by the name of Zack Thompson dominated midweek games and helped to send the Cats to their first Super Regional. Stupp and Lee will have the opportunity to grow into a similar role as freshmen. I would expect that we will see both pitchers on the mound against conference opponents as they become more experienced.