Jeff Jacobs: Scouting report on East Catholic's Frank Mozzicato? 'Everybody loves Frankie'

Photo of Jeff Jacobs

The Mozzicatos of Ellington flew out to Los Angeles on July 2 and spent the following day touring LA, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

There was a drive south to meet the Padres for a day. They spent another with the Dodgers. And a third with the Angels before a JetBlue red-eye flight back to Bradley Airport early Friday morning.

“On nobody’s dime but our own,” Anthony Mozzicato said.

NCAA rules, you know. Frank Mozzicato has been committed to UConn since he was a sophomore at East Catholic and until he signs a pro contract, college baseball cannot be ruled out.

Will the lanky 6-foot-3, lefty pitcher and the sports story of Connecticut’s spring, go 27th to the Padres in the first round of the Major League Baseball Draft Sunday night? That’s where CBS Sports and Prospects Live have him. Or 29th to the Dodgers as Baseball America projects? Or in the second round on Monday?

Kiley McDaniel of ESPN had Mozzicato rated Thursday as the No. 21 prospect and “one of the wildest late-risers in recent memory.”

While we await the draft unknown, let’s listen to those who surround Frank Mozzicato.

The Dad: ‘Extremely proud’

There will be no blowout draft party at the Mozzicato home Sunday.

“Joe Rosen (the Boston agent who is Frank’s advisor) said you just don’t know how this will go and it could be very stressful, no party,” Anthony said. “There will be some family members and really good friends who have been part of Frank’s journey.

“MLB also invited us out to Denver for the All-Star Game, the home run derby, the draft. But within 2-3 days, he could be flying out for the rest of the summer. Frank said, ‘I just want to be in my own house.’”

Mozzicato turned 18 in June. And, bang, he could be on his own in some small town in North Carolina or Montana in a week. Is he ready?

“Frank is very comfortable in his own skin, not only in baseball but in life,” Anthony said. “He has no problem looking someone in the eye. He’s very engaging. He’s ready. But, obviously, there’s always that weird feeling as a parent.”

Frank and Suzanne watched their son closely this spring.

“Growing up for both our boys (Anthony pitches at Central Connecticut) we didn’t make things too big after a good outing or a bad outing,” dad said. “I’m not surprised by the success. I was surprised by the attention.

“We are extremely proud of the way he handled himself amongst all the scouts, newspapers, television. We noticed when one of his teammates wasn’t having a good game, Frank was over there encouraging him. He had always been that way and that didn’t change.”

All the Zoom calls with teams, filling out forms, interviews, Frank handled a lot on his own.

“We have a saying in our house: ‘You have to be extremely comfortable in uncomfortable situations if you want to be a pitcher.’”

May 17 was anything but comfortable. Frank’s grandfather Anthony had died at age 83 on May 12. His nickname was Muzzy and the plates in his South Windsor driveway still read Muzzy1. And now here was East Catholic sitting at, yes, Muzzy Field for an hour in a pregame rain delay five days after his death.

“My dad was a huge fan of both my boys,” Anthony said. “He and Frank had a great connection.”

Frank came out dominant for three innings. Lightning chased the teams off the field again for 30 minutes, yet there was Frank coming out again to finish off an 11-strikeout, 11-0 five-inning win he dedicated to his grandparents.

“The way he handled the delays, being at Muzzy, pitching like he did was really special,” Anthony said. “My mom was at the game. I know my dad was watching, too.”

The Catcher: ‘He never seemed worried’

Hank Penders, son of the UConn baseball coach, met Frank Mozzicato, son of an electrician, in the eighth grade at an East Catholic baseball game.

“The rest is history,” said Hank, who’ll play at Eastern Connecticut.

The batterymates and close buddies called their own game. “I got involved in a pitchout or two,” coach Martin Fiori said. “That’s it.”

Mozzicato has a four-seam and two-seam fastball. He throws the four-seam more. Both have good movement.

“We really don’t distinguish between the two,” Penders said. “The curveball is obviously his best pitch and he throws it in whatever count he wanted. It’s lethal.

“Although scouts didn’t really get to see a lot of his changeup, it’s a very good pitch. He has got to develop it a little bit more. He just didn’t have to use it much this year.”

Penders remembers Mozzicato rarely if ever walking a hitter on anything but a full count.

“He’d try to get them to chase at something, but people didn’t really want to swing,” he said. “They got away with a walk.”

Penders estimated Mozzicato threw 45 percent fastballs, 45 percent curves and 10 percent changes.

“A few times when he was down in counts, I’d be like let’s go with a fastball here, put it up the gut, and he’d shake me off,” Penders said. “He wanted curve. I’d hesitate, but he’d drop it in for strike virtually every time. We’d stick to what he wanted.

“The hitter has no idea what he’ll throw at any count. He’s one of the most unpredictable pitchers you’ll ever see.”

What became predictable was his success that continued through East Catholic’s undefeated season and ended with its first state title since 1997. Mozzicato allowed one hit and struck out 17 in a 7-0 Class M victory over Northwestern Regional. He finished the season 9-0 with 135 strikeouts in 552/3 innings, nine hits allowed and a 0.16 ERA.

“Frank’s a bit of a clown, like the rest of us,” Penders said. “He doesn’t take anything too seriously. He’s very calm on the mound. He calms everyone down before the games. He was a great balance for our team.

“A big-time situation? He never seemed worried.”

The Big League Scout: ‘Sky is the limit’

Mozzicato’s fastball averages 90-91 mph. It has been clocked as fast as 93-94. That’s up an average five mph from last summer. He worked on nutrition and training with Cressey Sports Performance since December and has pushed his weight from 175 to more than 185. Kevin Rival of New Britain, meanwhile, has been his pitching guru, adept at nuanced changes.

Will Mozzicato eventually be able to get the fastball consistently in the mid-90s through the fifth and sixth innings? Will he best hone his changeup? Can he also develop a slider or cutter? Those are the questions.

MLB scouts want to be anonymous before the draft. Here are the observations of one:

“Improved a lot this year would be an understatement, but here’s the thing: All the makings were always there. Mother Nature kicked in for him. He got bigger, stronger.

“If he bumped up 5 mph in a year, why not 2-3 in the next two years? All the arrows are pointing up. He’s what we call a max projection pitcher. He’s not even close to the finished product physically. He’ll probably end up around 215. With that will probably come more velocity. Not always. Exactly how hard will he end up throwing? That’s the great question …

“Some kids can naturally spin a baseball. His curve reminds me of Andy Pettitte. It has a bigger hump to it, but it almost accelerates down the last half of the break like Andy’s. That’s what guys have trouble with. It’s special …

“My guess is if he sits at 93 mph, with that curve and continues to develop a good changeup, that should be enough. He has such an easy delivery, so effortless, the sky is the limit to develop another pitch …

“He’s a projection guy, not a now guy. It’s unpredictable. But I think the industry has got it right: Late in the first round unless someone takes a chance.”

The Opposing Hitter: ‘He was just dominant’

Southington infielder Devin Pelletier, headed to play at Fairleigh Dickinson, faced off against his friend in intrasquad games with the AAU CT Rivals last summer. They’ve gone at it as opponents as far back as freshman year.

Most vivid are his three at-bats against on May 10. Mozzicato threw a no-hitter, striking out 17 over seven innings in East Catholic’s 8-0 win over Southington.

“One pitch from a perfect game except (Justin Chiulli) worked a walk in the third,” said Pelletier, a left-handed contact hitter. “I struck out once and grounded out twice. Considering only four balls were put in play the entire game, I guess you could say I had a little success.”

Pelletier, who had a .480 on-base percentage his senior season, laughed at “a little success.”

“What really makes Frank special is his ability to throw the off-speed at any count and locate that pitch,” Pelletier said. “Lefty on lefty is a big challenge, especially from his arm angle, he hides the ball well. He pounded me with off-speed early, threw me 75 percent curveballs.”

Pelletier kept looking for a fastball over the middle of the plate, something he could extend his hands on.

“That pitch never came,” Pelletier said. “He was just dominant.

“It must be a surreal feeling, being a regular high school kid and all of a sudden a huge check is deposited in your bank account. It must be the best feeling out there.”

The College Coach: ‘Biggest Frank Mozzicato fans’

Long before the army of scouts descended, before his name came roaring through the spring, Mozzicato committed to UConn in 2019.

“I was surprised the scouting community hadn’t picked up on what he was doing by last year,” Jim Penders said. “The rubber arm, the breaking ball, he could spin it as a ninth-grader, it was stupid how well he threw it.

“We’d love to have the opportunity to win with Frank, but it’s going to be very difficult to say no if he’s taken anywhere near where he’s projected. Unbelievable parents. Grounded. Respectful of everyone. Deflects credit. Well-rounded. If any kid can handle this at 18, it’s Frank.”

The bonus money slotted for the Padres at 27th, for instance, is $2.57 million. Who passes that up?

“Since I was in high school, I counted Carl Pavano, Brook Fordyce, Rico Brogna, Sal Romano and Charlie Morton as the only Connecticut players drafted out of high school to make the big-leagues,” Penders, 49, said. “It’s extremely difficult, but I’d never bet against Frank. Whatever happens, we’re going to be the biggest Frank Mozzicato fans.”

Penders said Frank likes to kid how Hank used to be a squirt, but now it hurts when he tackles him in a dogpile.

“There’s always been something loose, smiling, charismatic about him,” Penders said. “One time at a East Catholic basketball game, during warm-ups, he came over and hugged my mom. She’s like, ‘I love that Frankie Mozzicato.’ Everybody loves Frankie.”

The High School Coach: ‘The kid never changed’

Mozzicato already had his physical routine. Most of what Martin Fiori did with him involved mental preparation. With Frank distance learning because of COVID, they’d text and talk on the phone.

Mozzicato became East Catholic’s Monday guy. Scouts knew when he’d pitch. They knew he did his bullpen three days before his start, so he’d throw 25-30 pitches in a Friday game or afterward in the pen. Fiori sent the dates and times of his starts to a central email site for scouts.

“Frank’s stuff got better every time since January,” Fiori said. “Honestly, I didn’t think he’d be what he is right now at Game 1. I knew he was going to be a stud. I knew he was going to be really good but the velo kept climbing.”

So did the no-hitters, four in a row at one point, the hitless streak extending to 301/3 innings. They talked about him on ESPN. He went on Rich Eisen’s national radio show.

“People don’t seem to want to believe this, but we never talked about the no-hitters,” Fiori said. “If there was any pressure it was at the beginning of the season because his brother had a 0.00 ERA his senior year. Frankie wanted to tie it.

“The first game he gave up an earned run. We probably could have pulled the defense in, but we’re not going to coach for one kid’s stats. How ironic that one meaningless run was the only one he gave up all year.”

Fiori started out printing 20 rosters and lineups for the scouts. He soon found out 20 wasn’t enough.

“I knew it was serious when guys were getting on planes and two instead of one from a team were coming,” Fiori said. “At Bristol Eastern, there were 40 scouts. Our (state) semifinal game, I was told there were 70.

“We knew a little what it was like because of Jimmy Titus (drafted in 2019). This was Jimmy Titus on steroids. We put trust in each other. We talked about not worrying about the radar gun. I said to him, ‘I’ll tell you the good things these guys are saying, but I’m going to tell you some of their criticism.’ The kid never changed. He was great.

Fiori, who’ll be with the family on Sunday, said teams have him on the phone for an hour with questions. The Rays had him for 1:40. The one thing he can tell them is he knows when Mozzicato is on. He’ll jog to the dugout bobbing his head with confidence.

“After the third inning in the state championship, he came to me and said, ‘Coach, I can tell them what’s coming and they’re not going to hit me.’”

Frankie Mozzicato wasn’t lying.

jeff.jacobs@hearstmediact.com; @jeffjacobs123