Magdiel Cotto allowed two runs against top-ranked Tennessee in his final start last season. The Kentucky left-handed pitcher looks back on that start and believes it was a changing moment in his career.
The start gave Cotto confidence and carried it into the Cape Cod League last summer. After mixed results in his first two years of college baseball, Cotto took a promising step forward in the prestigious summer league. He excelled as a starter, posting a 2.67 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 12 walks allowed in 27 innings.
Cotto hopes his consistent and improved mindset in the Cape Cod League will help him in his junior season at Kentucky. The lefty hopes to establish himself as a starting pitcher this spring as he tries to take another step forward in his development.
Scouts rave about Cotto’s potential and project him as a likely early-round pick in July’s MLB draft.
“For me, I just need to continue to be consistent,” Cotto said. “I finally found that consistency in the summer. I just want to go out there every seven days and give my team a chance to win a ball game.”
Cotto is a 6-foot-5, 242-pound left-handed pitcher who throws a four-seam fastball, two-seamer, slider, curveball and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot and smooth delivery.
Cotto uses his fastballs regularly, typically attacking hitters in the upper half of the strike zone. The above-average fastballs sit in the mid-90s.
His changeup also is a quality pitch that he tends to throw to right-handed hitters to generate a swing and miss or ground ball. His slider took a step forward last summer and serves as a strikeout pitch. He tends to use it more consistently against lefties.
“The biggest strength in my game right now is the competitive edge I got back over the summer,” Cotto said. “I am a guy who wants to go out and throw a lot of innings. That is something I am looking forward to doing this season. My goal is to throw 60-plus innings. I’m excited to do it.”
In the offseason, Cotto added a curveball to his arsenal. It tunnels well off his fastball, and he plans on using it as a pitch to catch hitters off guard and steal an early strike.
Besides incorporating his curveball, he wants to show improved control and command with his pitches this spring. If he can fine-tune his pitches and demonstrate the ability to shut down hitters over multiple innings, he has the potential to start long-term.
“The main thing I want to see growth on is consistency,” Cotto said. “I saw it a little bit this summer. I want to continue to ride that way and see that consistency throughout the season, whether out of the bullpen or as a starter. Anytime they need me to throw, I want to be consistent and give my team a chance to win.”
Over the last two years, Cotto split time as a starter and reliever, posting a 6.53 ERA with 45 strikeouts and 23 walks allowed at South Carolina and Kentucky.
This season, Cotto hopes to prove to scouts he has the skill set and potential to dominate college hitters as a starting pitcher. He is starting this season as a reliever for Kentucky, throwing a scoreless inning against Elon on Feb. 19.
Kentucky will need Cotto and others to step up this season after finishing 33-26 last season. The Wildcats are replacing the majority of their starting lineup and some key spots on the mound this season. They brought in a talented transfer class and will have to figure out roles early on in the spring.
This spring, the Wildcats hope to qualify for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2017.
“It’s a theme here, we want to have consistency,” Cotto said. “This year, we have a schedule that is tough. We can’t have a weekend off. We have a team that loves to play. Every weekend we come out and play, it’s going to be the same intensity. We are going to go out there and handle our business.”
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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.