Ohio State is not exactly known for its baseball program. Not too many high-level MLB prospects have come out of Columbus in recent years. Guys like Nick Swisher (2002), Cory Luebke (2007) and J.B. Shuck (2008) have been the biggest names to come out of the program over the last two decades — which isn’t saying all that much. However, OSU has some real big league talent heading into the 2020 MLB Draft.
This year’s draft is set to begin this Wednesday, June 10 at 7 p.m., and will be broadcast on both MLB Network and ESPN. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, this years selection process will only feature five rounds (160 total picks) as opposed to the usual 40 rounds. The first night of coverage will include the first 37 picks, which covers the whole first round and Competitive Balance Round A.
Even with the incredibly shortened draft, Ohio State is likely to have two players selected — with one of those Buckeyes being left-handed pitcher Seth Lonsway.
It hasn’t exactly been a straight and easy path for Lonsway to get to this position. Named Ohio’s Mr. Baseball out of high school, the southpaw was projected to be at the very least a 5th-round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft. For whatever reason, he would disappointingly fall all the way to the 19th Round, where he was selected by the Cincinnati Reds. He instead elected to accept Ohio State’s scholarship offer, and began his collegiate career as a Buckeye.
Lonsway hit another roadblock before he got to take the mound in Columbus. Due to an issue with his high school transcript, the NCAA deemed him ineligible for the 2018 season, and he would be forced to redshirt his freshman season. That summer, he pitched in both the Cape Cod League and the Prospect League before making his Ohio State debut in 2019.
The lefty made an immediate impact with the Buckeyes, helping lead the team to a Big Ten Tournament title in his very first season. Lonsway finished the 2019 season 8-4 with a 3.70 ERA over 17 starts. His 126 strikeouts were enough to lead all Big Ten freshmen, and his 71 Ks against B1G opponents were the most within the conference. In 92.1 innings pitched, Lonsway limited opposing batters to just a .214 batting average.
The lefty only continued to get better as the year went on, becoming an absolute force around postseason time. In one of the team’s final games of the year against Purdue, Lonsway struck out a career-high 14 batters over eight innings while allowing just two hits, two walks and an unearned run. In his two starts in the Big Ten tourney, with one coming on short rest, Lonsway pitched to a 1.74 ERA with 12 Ks over 10.1 innings.
As a result of his stellar play, Lonsway came away with a bunch of hardware following his first collegiate season. After winning Big Ten Pitcher of the Week three times over the course of the year, he was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team, was a First Team Perfect Game/Rawlings Freshman All-American, was Third Team All-Big Ten.
Unfortunately, with the COVID-19 pandemic ruining the sports world, Lonsway was not able to have a repeat performance as the 2020 season was cut short. The redshirt sophomore was only able to make four starts this year before everything shut down, pitching to a 3.00 ERA with 42 strikeouts and 18 walks in 18 innings. Without a season to play, Lonsway returned to his parents’ home in Celina to prepare for the MLB Draft.
With only one full season of data to work with, Lonsway is an incredibly intriguing MLB prospect. While he has good stuff and strikes out batters at an above-average rate (13.7 K/9 in 21 total starts), he can be erratic at times, and his odd over-the-top delivery mechanics seem a bit out of sync on occasion. However, despite some control issues, Lonsway is listed as a top-50 prospect by MLB.com. Here’s what the scouting report says:
“Lonsway has one of the best curveballs in the 2020 Draft, a bender with power and depth that earns comparisons to Barry Zito’s hook when at its best. He showed more velocity than ever this spring, working at 93-94 mph at times and topping out at 96 with riding action on his four-seam fastball. He has added a solid slider/cutter to give him a harder breaking ball and shows some feel for a changeup, though he doesn’t use it very often.”
According to the scouting report, Lonsway was well on his way to pitching himself into a first-round selection in 2020, but an eight-walk performance over two innings against Stetson in his final start really highlighted his location issues. It goes on to say that Lonsway is almost unhittable when he throws strikes with his fastball, but that can be a struggle at times, potentially landing him in the bullpen if he can’t improve his command.
At 6-foot-3, 200 pounds, Lonsway does have good size for a pitcher, and has certainly shown he has the stuff to be a successful player in the big leagues. If he can clean his mechanics up a bit, he would likely have a much easier time throwing strikes. Either way, look for Lonsway to be one of the rare early-round Ohio State MLB Draft picks of the last decade.