JP Massey committed to the University of Minnesota in the fall of his senior year of high school in 2017.
Minnesota was one of the first schools to reach out to the right-handed pitcher from Chicago and that initial interaction paid dividends.
It also helped when Massey garnered some attention from major league teams in the spring leading up to the 2018 MLB draft. Despite the pro interest, Massey had his sights set on Minnesota. He believed college was the right route for him personally and for his development on the mound.
The decision to attend Minnesota has paid off for Massey over the last 2½ years. Massey has enhanced his pitching skills to develop into one of the top pitchers in college baseball. Scouts also project Massey as a potential early-round pick in July’s draft.
“It’s exciting. You work your whole life to get to a position where you can maybe fulfill your dreams and play professional baseball,” Massey said. “At the end of the day for me, especially during COVID, it makes you appreciate the daily process because you don’t know what tomorrow holds. I am just focused on helping my team to the best of my abilities this season.”
Massey has mostly pitched out of the bullpen in his first two years at Minnesota. As a freshman in 2019, Massey made 15 appearances, including three starts, and posted a 5.40 ERA with 31 strikeouts and 22 walks allowed in 25 innings.
In an abbreviated season last year due to the pandemic, Massey recorded a 4.66 ERA with 24 strikeouts and 12 walks allowed in 19 1/3 innings. He made five appearances, including three starts, during his sophomore campaign.
Although Massey’s statistics don’t jump off the page, his intangibles do. He is a 6-foot-5, 207-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a fastball, slider, changeup and curveball from a three-quarters arm slot. He also has an athletic, loose, repeatable and low-effort delivery.
Massey has a solid fastball-slider combination. His fastball sits in the mid-90s while his sharp breaking above-average slider serves as a quality outpitch. Massey throws his slider as hard as he can and it possesses solid metrics.
His changeup and curveball show glimpses of potential but currently are average offerings.
“For me, my biggest strength I think is my size and athleticism,” Massey said. “I can do a lot of things on the mound and that allows me to have a lot of success in terms of velocity, deception and things like that that make it a really uncomfortable at-bat for hitters.”
In the offseason, Massey focused on adding strength to his frame. He worked with Chicago White Sox Director of Strength and Conditioning Allen Thomas and added 22 pounds. Massey is friends with Thomas’ son, Alek, a second-round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2018.
Massey hopes the added strength can help him with his consistency and durability this spring. He likely will serve as Minnesota’s top starting pitcher after No. 1 starter and right-handed pitcher Max Meyer went third overall to the Miami Marlins in last year’s draft.
This spring, Massey also wants to show improved control and command with his pitching repertoire. He has struck out 11.2 batters per nine innings while allowing 6.9 walks per nine innings in his first two years at Minnesota.
“Early in my career, it was just a lack of strength,” said Massey on the walks he allowed. “I think as you get a lot larger, I think your margin for error grows. If you are doing a lot wrong, it causes many inconsistencies when you aren’t as strong. Getting a lot stronger and understanding how to be more directional on the mound has helped me repeat my delivery and be confident.”
Expectations will be high for Massey this spring. But he has the skills and potential to be a potential breakout candidate.
He also hopes to lead Minnesota back to the NCAA tournament after the program did not qualify for postseason play in 2019.
“My goal is just to be consistent every week,” Massey said. “I want to give my team the best opportunity to win no matter what role I’m in. I just want to go out there and win a lot of ball games. We have the goal here of winning the College World Series, and that’s the most important thing to me.”
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.