For fans of a certain age, a lanky pitcher with a blazing fastball and a delivery that’s all arms and legs conjures up images of Tim Robbins’ character in Bull Durham. And while physically, Taylor Jungmann certainly recalls Ebby Calvin "Nuke" LaLoosh, spiritually he’s closer to Crash Davis. He’s got a million-dollar arm without the five-cent head.
Mature, polished, consistent - those are the terms that come up in scouting reports for the junior right-hander. Augie Garrido told the Statesman that Jungmann is "functioning like a professional pitcher in a college environment."
Hard to argue with that. Jungmann did not allow a run in five of his first six starts this season. Even after a somewhat mortal outing last Friday against Missouri, he still carries a stat line of 0.94 ERA, 8 BB, 45K, opponent batting average of .156 that puts him among the elite college pitchers if not at the top of the class. Draft watchers have him in or near the Top 10, in a grouping with UCLA’s Gerrit Cole, Georgia Tech’s Jed Bradley, Virginia’s Danny Hultzen, and Vanderbilt’s Sonny Gray.
Even so, there are some lingering questions about his long-term prospects. Scouts fret about the awkward head snap at the end of his delivery and worry about how Jungmann lands stiffly on his front leg. His velocity is generated mostly with his arm, rather than out of his hips, but that may be okay since he appears to throw without a lot of effort. He's shown he can go the distance without showing signs of fatigue. It puts potential MLB suitors in an interesting spot: tinker with his mechanics and hope nothing goes wrong, or don’t fix what’s not broken?
And as with any young pitcher, there’s also a worry about the number of innings. None of the other top college pitchers have thrown as many innings as Jungmann through their first seven starts this year. Not counting high school, Jungmann threw 94.2 innings as a freshman then led the Longhorns with 120 innings pitched last year.
Before a team invests millions in his baseball future, they’re going to want to know what kind of person they’re getting. It’s difficult to get a sense of who Jungmann is -- he’s not overly demonstrative on the mound, there's no digital trail on Twitter or Facebook, and he doesn't do many interviews. He’s now in his third year in the program, but nearly as unreadable as when he stepped onto campus. Maybe that's a good thing.
Garrido provides a small glimpse inside when he called the 21-year-old Jungmann "an old soul". That’s high praise coming from our own philosopher-king. And on those terms, Garrido’s characterization is spot on. Jungmann exudes a calm, wise presence while mowing down opposing batters and has also been known to leave UFCU Disch-Falk Field in a robe while showering fans with quotes from the Dalai Lama.
Another deep run in Omaha and a Top 10 draft pick would cement Jungmann’s UT legacy. Get out there and watch him while you can because we're lucky to have him. Next stop for the T26 Train is in Waco tonight at 6:30 in a split series with Baylor. The Horns come back home Sunday at 1 p.m. hoping to close out a consecutive conference sweep.