It’s time for our final Weekend Prospect Report Card and this report is for Wake Forest’s ace Rhett Lowder. Each week I’ll be trying to provide report cards for the Top 10 College Draft Prospects throughout the NCAA baseball season. On Saturday, I released my first Weekend Report Card for the #2 draft prospect and top pitcher in the draft Chase Dollander, which can be seen by clicking here. On Monday and Tuesday, we released the Opening Weekend Report Cards for the Top 6 NCAA position players and the Report Card for LSU ace Paul Skenes, which you can read by clicking here and by clicking here. There will be no Weekend Report Card coming for Florida’s Thurstron Waldrep, but hopefully will be able to get some for him throughout the year.
It’s important to note that these report cards are reflections only of this past weekend’s performance and are not a grade reflective of their draft ranking or overall season performance. None of these players’ draft rankings will be affected by a single start. This is more an opportunity to track and see how each prospect does week to week throughout the season.
I am not sure what happened with the ACC Network/ESPN+ replay but unfortunately, Lowder’s first two innings pitched were cut off from the replay broadcast. Additionally, the coverage did not include velocity so it was very difficult at times to distinguish between his fastball and changeup, so this report card will not be as in depth as the ones we had for Chase Dollander and Paul Skenes.
Wake Forest opted to start Rhett Lowder on Saturday against Big 10 opponent Illinois rather than have him pitch Friday night against Youngstown State. With fellow projected first rounder Teddy McGraw skipping his opening start due to fatigue, I can only imagine that Wake Forest wanted the experience of Lowder on the mound against the stronger opponent in Illinois. And against the Fight Illini the reigning ACC Pitcher of the Year in Rhett Lowder seemed to pick up right where he left off last season.
The projected Top 15 pick threw 5 innings, gave up one earned run on 4 hits while striking out 10 and only walking one. For those that aren’t aware, Lowder’s arsenal includes a low to mid-90s fastball, a low-80s slider, and what might be the best changeup in the draft class that sits in the mid-80s. That trio of pitches, when mixed well, can induce a lot of whiffs and weak contact.
Funny enough, the two innings that were cut off from the replay broadcast were the ones where Lowder wasn’t at his absolute best. In the 1st inning he gave up a double, and walk, and an RBI single to put the Demon Deacons in an early 1-0 hole. I think he just missed a bit on a few pitches because other than that, his location appeared to be fine. He gave up another double in the 2nd inning that ultimately was left stranded after his third strikeout of the game, but throwing 39 pitches in the first two innings was not a dream start for Rhett Lowder in his season debut.
The first batter of the 3rd inning would single on a pitch left over the heart of the plate, but after that Lowder was unhittable, getting the next batter to ground into a 5-4-3 double play and striking out the last 7 batters he faced from then on. Overall, he struck out 10 of the 19 batters he faced. My previous Weekend Report Cards for starting pitchers were for Tennessee’s Chase Dollander and LSU’s Paul Skenes. They induced 14 and 12 swing and misses in their starts respectively. Rhett Lowder threw around the same amount of pitches as Dollander and 15 less throws than Skenes yet induced 22 swing and misses from opposing batters.
It was an impressive performance that may have gone under the radar after Lowder was relieved by star Northwestern transfer Sean Sullivan, who pitched the final 4 innings of the game and likewise struck out 10 batters to give the Demon Deacons 20 on the game. I’m tempted to give Lowder a B+, but you expect this kind of performance against Illinois and I would’ve liked to have seen him pitch another inning, though I understand the need to stretch these guys out a little bit. Not everyone can be Paul Skenes and throw near 100 pitches in their first start of the year.
Weekend Grade: B