Jonathan Childress was a top prospect in the 2018 MLB draft as a senior at Forney High in Texas. But he made it to Texas A&M University instead of starting a professional career after his velocity slipped during his senior season.
The left-handed pitcher believed college baseball would allow him to develop and put him in a better situation for the draft. His college career hasn’t panned out exactly how he anticipated it would, however.
Childress made three starts his freshman year before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2019. He returned last spring to throw eight scoreless innings in two starts. But, his season ended prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This season will be a critical year for Childress. Three years after going undrafted out of high school, scouts project Childress as a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.
“In high school, I was too caught up in the draft process,” Childress said. “Now, I’m just not worried about it. I’m just worried about winning ball games because I know the rest will take care of itself.”
Childress is a 6-foot-4, 230-pound left-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, four-seam changeup, curveball and slider from a high three-quarters arm slot and delivery that features deception.
In his first 2 1/2 years at Texas A&M, he’s added about 35 pounds to his frame. His fastball hasn’t really experience an increase in velocity, though. In the fall, his fastball sat in the low-90s and featured arm side run. Childress hopes his fastball experiences an uptick in velocity this spring, he said.
His curveball has been his best pitch since his prep days. It is a put-away pitch that nearly resembles 12-to-6 break.
He has a good feel for his changeup. It has the potential to be at least an average offering in pro ball. Overall, Childress is comfortable throwing all four of his pitches for strikes.
“I think just my ability to spin the ball has been my biggest strength for forever,” Childress said. “I am confident in throwing my off-speed.”
Childress is due for a breakout season. If he can increase his fastball velocity and display durability, he has the intangibles, secondary pitches and control of his pitches to move up draft boards this spring.
“I just want to make it through a whole season,” Childress said. “I want to get to Omaha (for the College World Series). We have not been past a regional since I have been here.”
Texas A&M last advanced to the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2017. It also was the last time the Aggies won an NCAA regional. Childress believes the Aggies have the talent to compete for a national championship, if they can play with consistency in all aspects of the game.
Although his collegiate career hasn’t transpired as he initially anticipated, Childress believes he’s improved while at Texas A&M.
In his first two years, Childress learned from lefty Asa Lacy, who the Kansas City Royals selected fourth overall in the 2020 draft. Childress hopes he can fill the void left by Lacy in Texas A&M’s starting rotation this spring.
“He showed me what it takes to be a professional baseball player from in the weight room to his diet to his throwing,” Childress said. “He led a lot of the younger guys and took us along with him.”
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He has interviewed 253 of the top draft prospects in that period, including three No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today, MLB.com and The Arizona Republic, have quoted his work, while he has appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.