Tyson Neighbors overpowered opposing hitters with his impressive fastball, slider combination. His development on the mound led to an outstanding sophomore season at Kansas State this spring.
The right-handed pitcher served as a dominant multi-inning closer for the Wildcats, posting a 1.85 ERA with 11 saves, 86 strikeouts and 16 walks allowed in 48 2/3 innings to earn All-American honors.
Talent evaluators have taken notice of Neighbors’ performance and development over the last year.
USA Baseball selected him to the 31-man Collegiate National Team roster for contests against Chinese Taipei and Japan from June 30-July 12. Scouts also consider Neighbors a top prospect for the 2024 MLB draft, projecting him as a potential early-round selection if he has a strong summer and junior season.
“It means the world to be a draft prospect,” Neighbors said. “It has been my dream ever since I was a little kid to play a professional sport. To see it in the process and almost there, it’s everything. It’s what I’ve wanted since I was a little kid.”
Neighbors is a 6-foot-2, 220-pound right-handed pitcher who throws a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup from an over-the-top arm slot and deceptive delivery.
The righty has three legit pitches, headlined by his fastball, slider combination. His four-seam fastball sits in the mid-90s and touches 99 mph. It plays well up in the zone due to its natural late movement.
His slider is a high-80s offering that features tight-breaking action. The quality offering generates a ton of swings and misses and serves as his outpitch. He also mixes in a solid spike curveball with 2,950-3,200 revolutions per minute. It features a lot of depth.
Neighbors tunnels his pitches well, making it difficult for hitters to pick them up and anticipate what he is throwing. He also attacks the strike zone with all his pitches and has improved his control and command at Kansas State.
“The biggest strength in my game at this point is my ability to pitch with conviction,” Neighbors said. “Going on the mound and knowing that if I do what I know I can do, things will go in our favor. Just going out there and pitching with conviction and knowing my stuff will play in and out of the zone is huge.”
Due to the effectiveness of his top three pitches, Neighbors rarely throws his changeup. It flashes potential and is a pitch Neighbors has confidence in when he does throw it.
Neighbors is passionate about the analytics of pitching. He is in tune with the numbers and uses them as a tool to refine his pitch mix and give him an edge on the mound. This offseason, Neighbors wants to continue to enhance his pitches and improve his control and command.
“I’d like to throw more edge strikes,” Neighbors said. “I threw a lot more strikes this year. But I think I sometimes left pitches more in the middle instead of on the corner. I can be more precise on the accuracy in the zone and get more pitches on the edges of the plate. That would really benefit me.”
In his first two years of college, Neighbors showed notable growth in developing into the player and pro prospect he is today.
Neighbors posted a 5.40 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 14 walks allowed in 8 1/3 innings as a freshman in 2022. After his freshman campaign, he pitched in the Northwoods League, showings more success with a 1.06 ERA, 21 strikeouts, and eight walks allowed in 17 innings.
Neighbors threw more strikes in the Northwoods League, allowing for the step forward in performance. His improved mentality carried over into his sophomore season when he was one of the best relievers in college baseball.
As a junior, Neighbors hopes to build on last season and continue his success as Kansas State’s closer. Neighbors’ mindset, pitch mix and smooth mechanics would likely allow him to thrive in a starting role. But Neighbors believes he is best suited for shutting down games as a closer in pro ball.
“I truly think I’m a closer,” Neighbors said. “I have a bulldog mentality on the mound and thrive with adrenaline and high-pressure situations. That alone is what is best for the team and myself. I really enjoy it. I could start, but I think I’m more of that X factor out of the bullpen.”
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, 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.