Josh Hartle is the latest highly-regarded prep pitcher to come from the state of North Carolina.
In recent years, North Carolina has produced two left-handed prep pitchers who went in the first round of the MLB draft. Left-hander MacKenzie Gore was the third overall pick by the San Diego Padres in the 2017 draft, and lefty Blake Walston was the 26th overall pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2019.
“It is really cool to see local guys have success,” Hartle said. “It really motivates me to be the best I can be, so I can be the next guy and better than them as well.”
Hartle has a chance to follow Gore and Walston as a first-round pick when the 2021 draft rolls around in July. Hartle is one of the top left-handed prep pitchers in the 2021 draft class and possesses a high upside.
Besides likely having a chance to embark on a pro career after his senior season at Reagan High School in North Carolina, Hartle also is a Wake Forest commit.
“It is pretty surreal,” said Hartle on the draft attention. “I always dreamed about it with meeting with teams and stuff like that. I am really focused on getting to Wake and playing in the ACC, really.”
Hartle is a 6-foot-5, 200-pound left-hander who throws a four-seam fastball, changeup, curveball, and slider from a three-quarters arm slot. He also possesses an effortless delivery.
His low-90s fastball is his best pitch, as he has confidence in the offering and locates it well in all quadrants of the strike zone. He also shows feel for his curveball and changeup.
Hartle started throwing his slider this summer after he competed in the Perfect Game National Showcase in hopes of creating a different look to challenge hitters. Although he is new to throwing the pitch, he has already gained confidence and displayed some consistency with the pitch.
Due to his clean delivery and command of his pitches, Hartle has all the traits necessary to serve as a starting pitcher long-term. Hitters also struggle to hit Hartle, as he has a unique arm angle that creates deception.
“I feel like my command is above-average,” Hartle said. “I feel like I have some of the best command in the class. My mental game also is a strength. I am really strong mentally. I love to compete and play hard.”
Although Hartle’s fastball sits 89 to 92 mph, he believes it is only a matter of time until his fastball consistently hits a higher velocity. Scouts agree with that assessment and feel the lack of premium fastball velocity has allowed him to refine and gain more comfort with his secondary pitches.
This offseason, Hartle plans on adding strength to his frame and focusing on his nutrition, he said.
“I feel like once I add more weight that my stuff will tick up,” Hartle said.
Hartle hopes his offseason work will pay off this spring as he tries to lead his high school team to a state championship. Reagan High School advanced to the final four of the state tournament his sophomore year in 2019. RHS was the favorite to win the state title until the COVID-19 pandemic ended his junior season prematurely, Hartle said.
It will be a pivotal season for Hartle as he prepares for the next step in his baseball career.
Hartle committed to Wake Forest as a high school freshman. He considered Vanderbilt and Texas Christian but developed a strong relationship with the Wake Forest coaching staff. He also believed Wake Forest was the best place for him to develop as a pitcher.
Wake Forest is an advanced college program when it comes to using analytics. The Demon Deacons have a state-of-the-art pitching lab for injury prevention and performance enhancement.
“In the end, it was mainly the coaching staff that caused me to commit,” Hartle said. “But then later on, their player development was a really big deal for me because I’m trying to play in the major leagues one day and have a successful career there.”
Read more in-depth stories on top 2021 MLB draft prospects here.
Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for six years. He’s 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’s appeared on radio stations as a “MLB draft expert.” Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.