Ethan McElvain is one of the top prep pitchers in the 2023 class. During his rise as a prospect, he has had the luxury of leaning on his older brother Chris for advice as he navigated the recruiting process and now as he handles the MLB draft attention.
It has been an invaluable experience to have Chris by his side. Chris pitched at Vanderbilt for three years before the Cincinnati Reds selected him in the eighth round of the 2022 draft.
McElvain is a left-handed pitcher with the size, pitch mix and upside teams covet. He is a Vanderbilt commit and a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.
He knows he’s in an ideal spot, possessing two great options. It makes it easier not to get caught up in the draft attention. He also does a great job of remaining focused on the present. He’s eager for his final season at Nolensville (Tenn.) High School and playing alongside his brother Evan, a freshman catcher.
“The draft is something I’m not worried about right now,” McElvain said. “(Chris) has helped a lot. He gives me a lot of great information, and it’s all extremely helpful regardless of which route I go.”
McElvain is a 6-foot-4, 225-pound lefty who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, slider, curveball and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot and a deceptive delivery.
His low-to-mid-90s four-seam fastball is a quality offering with rising action and a little run. He locates the pitch well and can attack both sides of the plate. His two-seamer is a power pitch that tops 93 mph with sinking action and run.
McElvain’s slider is his best secondary pitch. It’s an effective pitch he has confidence throwing in any count and for strikes. It serves as his strikeout pitch. His curveball is an up-and-coming offering, while his changeup flashes potential.
“I’m the kind of pitcher that no matter what the situation is, I’m always going to throw any pitch in my arsenal with the same intensity and intent as if I was throwing a perfect game,” McElvain said. “I have full confidence in my pitches and always am trying to execute my pitches to the best of my abilities.”
Over the last year, McElvain has worked on his curveball and changeup. He has always thrown a curveball, but as he started throwing harder, he lost some feel for the pitch, he said. He altered the grip of his curveball in the offseason, and it has looked like a solid pitch this spring.
McElvain’s changeup is a developing offering he can throw for strikes. He wants to improve his feel for the off-speed pitch.
“It’s the most underrated pitch in baseball,” McElvain said. “It’s an incredibly difficult pitch to hit if it’s a good changeup. I feel like always working on what feels best and getting it out in front of your nose. If you don’t get it out in front of your nose, you’re going to hang a changeup. A big part for me is the feel of it.”
McElvain’s skills will be on display at the next level next year. If he doesn’t start a pro career straight out of high school, he figures to play a role on Vanderbilt’s pitching staff as a freshman.
During the recruiting process, Vanderbilt’s track record of success and player development stood out to McElvain. The Commodores have produced at least one first-round pick in each of the last four drafts. The university’s location and strong academics also factored into his decision.
“Every kid’s dream is to play professional baseball,” McElvain said. “A lot of dynamic players have come out of Vanderbilt. The education is great. That is a really big thing for my family is our education. We really value our education. It’s 45 minutes from home, so that’s another nice part. The coaching staff is incredible, and the atmosphere of the city is amazing.”
Do you enjoy reading Baseball Prospect Journal’s draft content? Support our work and become a Patron!
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for eight years. He has interviewed 433 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com, The Arizona Republic and The Dallas Morning News, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.