Payton Tolle shines on the mound at TCU

Payton Tolle emerged as one of college baseball’s top two-way players in his first two years at Wichita State. Most expected him to transition into a similar role at TCU after he transferred to the premier Big 12 Conference school three hours south of his hometown of Yukon, Oklahoma, before his junior season.

Tolle remained a two-way player at TCU. But it was his success on the mound that captivated talent evaluators. The 6-foot-6, 260-pound left-hander struck out 125 batters in 81 1/3 innings to earn Big 12 Pitcher of the Year.

Tolle’s success and development at TCU solidified him as a quality MLB draft prospect this spring. Scouts consider the lefty a potential second-round pick in July’s draft.

“It’s exciting because this has always been the goal and dream,” Tolle said. “I haven’t thought about anything other than playing baseball for a long time. I’m super thankful to get this opportunity to have the chance to do it. It’s something I’m looking forward to, and it has something that has been at the top of mine since middle school.”

This spring, Tolle posted a 3.21 ERA with 125 strikeouts and 37 walks allowed in 81 1/3 innings. Offensively, he batted .182 in 55 at-bats.

Tolle showed above-average power and notable offensive tools in his two years at Wichita State. He hit .313 with 16 home runs and 68 RBIs in 316 at-bats and recorded a 4.56 ERA with 146 strikeouts and 41 walks in 152 innings.

Scouts believe Tolle’s future is exclusively on the mound and are extremely intrigued about his skill set. Due to his size, he is an imposing figure on the mound and creates an average of 7 feet, 4 inches of extension, which is above average and more than most draft-eligible pitchers.

Tolle throws a four-seam fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup from a three-quarters arm slot and repeatable delivery. His fastball touches 96 mph with some late movement and plays up due to his extension. His slider plays well off his fastball as a sweeping breaking pitch that generates swings and misses.

Tolle’s changeup and curveball are improving pitches he didn’t need to rely on much this spring.

Scouts rave about Tolle’s competitiveness and makeup. He has an intriguing pitch mix and overall potential, and scouts are hopeful he can tighten up his control more in pro ball.

“A lot of my strengths come from the mental side,” Tolle said. “I try not to be fazed by anything. I’m one of the biggest competitors you’ll ever see on the mound. I keep fighting until I have nothing left in me. That is a big strength. I’m not going to lay down for anything.”

Payton Tolle
Photo of Payton Tolle courtesy TCU Athletics.

When Tolle joined TCU in the fall, a curveball was one of the first things they started working on. The pitch is big, loopy and slower than his other pitches. He uses the curveball to keep hitters off balance and occasionally to steal a strike, generate a swing and miss or induce weak contact.

The curveball is an evolving pitch and one he hopes to continue to improve on at the next level.

“The curveball is not quiet where I can throw it all the time, but I’ve developed a much better feel for it,” Tolle said. “There were a couple of outings we threw it quite a bit because of the feel I had for it. It’s a pitch I can get guys off the fastball for a pitch or two because then it’s just a fourth pitch they have to think about.”

Tolle has had the unique opportunity to learn from two former MLB pitchers during his college career. At Wichita State, he had Mike Pelfrey, a 12-year MLB player and former first-round pick, as his pitching coach. Tolle then transferred to TCU to play under head coach Kirk Saarloos, who has become a well-respected coach, especially with developing pitchers, after a seven-year MLB career.

Saarloos has developed into a mentor and friend for Tolle. He helped Tolle on the mound with his pitch mix and mentality. He also was there for Tolle as he dealt with the death of his mother in May after her nearly eight-year battle with Stage 4 colon cancer.

Saarloos and the TCU coaching staff have had a lasting impact on Tolle. He’s grateful for the year he had in the program to develop on and off the field in preparation for the next step in his career.

“As a person, they’ve pushed me to be better off the field and prioritize that,” Tolle said. “They want to create better men. It’s great to have guys who are great coaches on the baseball side, but you want guys who are going to set the standard of what it’s like to be a man with religion and relationships. I think that’s where you’ll get the best coaching staff when they do that.”

Read more in-depth stories on top 2024 MLB draft prospects at Baseball Prospect Journal.

Video of Payton Tolle.

Dan Zielinski III has covered the MLB draft for nine years. He has interviewed 518 of the top draft prospects in that period, including four No. 1 overall picks. Multiple publications, including Baseball America, USA Today,, 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.

Dan Zielinski III
Dan Zielinski III
Dan Zielinski III is the creator of the Baseball Prospect Journal and has covered the MLB draft since 2015. His draft work originally appeared on, a sports website he started in December 2011. He also covered the Milwaukee Brewers as a member of the credentialed media for four years. Follow him on Twitter @DanZielinski3.

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