Grayson Hitt stood out during Alabama’s fall baseball season. The left-handed pitcher showed an uptick in fastball velocity in the fall after adding about 25 pounds to his frame during the offseason.
The junior pitcher hopes his success in the fall carries over into the spring. Hitt joined Alabama as a well-regarded prospect but has sometimes struggled to live up to those expectations, experiencing mixed results in his first two years.
Hitt has learned from the adversity he faced as an underclassman and used it to improve his weaknesses in the offseason. He believes his physical growth and refinement of his five-pitch mix will allow him to thrive this spring.
If Hitt can take the next step forward in his development, he has the potential to be one of the top pitchers in college baseball. He also will enhance his status for July’s MLB draft, with scouts projecting him as a possible first-round pick.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” said Hitt on the draft attention. “A lot of people come in and talk to me and have given me some attention. I have had a lot of hype around my name so far. It’s easier to take it one day at a time when I have the people around me that I do.”
Hitt is a 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander that throws a four-seam fastball, cutter, slider, curveball and changeup from high three-quarters arm slot and athletic delivery.
His fastball is an above-average offering. The pitch sat in the low-90s last year, but due to the added strength he added in the offseason, it is now a 93-97 mph pitch. He also has improved his control and command of the pitch. He generates swings and misses with his fastball up in the strike zone.
Hitt’s mid-80s slider serves as his strikeout pitch. He threw it frequently during his sophomore season, possessing plenty of confidence in the quality-breaking pitch. He also mixes in his curveball, which he uses to give hitters a different look.
Hitt added the cutter in the Cape Cod League last summer. He refined the pitch in the fall and believes it will serve as a good pitch against right-handed hitters this season.
“I grew up a competitor and have always had friends who competed with me,” Hitt said. “My will to win is great, and I just want to go out there and give it my all. I think that is my competitive advantage.”
Hitt improved his changeup in the offseason after it wasn’t a consistent offering in previous seasons. He believes he now has the confidence and feel for his changeup. He wants to use the changeup to induce ground balls or swings and misses.
“I just need to throw it with conviction,” Hitt said. “In the past, I have tried to slow it down with my arm. I thought it should be 80-83 mph, but I think I am going to throw it harder, probably 87-88 and just let it run away from right-handers.”
Hill posted a 6.61 ERA with 84 strikeouts and 45 walks allowed in 79 innings in his first two years at Alabama. If Hitt’s pitch mix takes a step forward and his walks decrease this season, he will play a valuable role in Alabama’s starting rotation.
Alabama hopes to return to the NCAA Tournament after falling short last season with a 31-27 record.
The Crimson Tide have qualified for the NCAA Tournament three times in the last 10 years. This season, the Crimson Tide feel they have the pieces to compete in the Southeastern Conference and advance to the NCAA Tournament.
“We were that close and just go ahead of ourselves late in the season,” Hitt said. “This year will be different. We will realize we need to take it one game at a time. Everything will unfold and take care of itself.”
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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.