Mississippi State

Pitcher or catcher? Coast star's 90 mph fastball is just as good as his skills behind the plate

George County pitcher Logan Tanner throws against Gulfport during the first inning of their 6A South State baseball championship series at Herb Wilson field in Gulfport on Thursday, May 10, 2018.
George County pitcher Logan Tanner throws against Gulfport during the first inning of their 6A South State baseball championship series at Herb Wilson field in Gulfport on Thursday, May 10, 2018. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

When you get a glimpse of Logan Tanner on the pitcher's mound, you're instantly impressed with his power.

The 6-foot-2, 200-pound George County right-hander checked in at 95 miles per hour — speed that will surely draw the attention of MLB scouts — during a game at Brandon on April 28.

He is 7-2 with a 1.57 ERA in 12 appearances this season. In 62 1/3 innings, he has 102 strikeouts and 15 walks.

With that kind of heat and another year remaining of high school baseball, it's easy to assume that the Mississippi State commit has a bright future ahead of him on the pitcher's mound.

But Tanner can be just as impressive behind the plate.

The junior typically starts at catcher when he's not pitching and he's shown good athleticism and mechanics. He has a quick trigger release and flexibility — often doing the splits when he tries to frame a pitch on the corner of the plate.

While he's a firm verbal to Mississippi State, there's little doubt that MLB scouts will have a close eye on Tanner as he goes through his senior year.

If he continues to progress at catcher, MLB teams may have a tough decision to make on how best to use him.

“He receives and throws really well behind the plate,” said George County coach Brandon Davis. “It depends on which pro organization drafts him and what they want to do with him. With (former George County star) Walker Robbins, they had to decide whether he'd hit or pitch. Some organizations wanted him to pitch, but the Cardinals decided to let him hit.

“With Logan, I feel like he has to show improvement as a hitter. The defense is there and he has velocity on his throws, but he's going to have to hit well. He's developed as a hitter. If he continues to stay on that same pace, they're going to have to make a decision on whether to put him on the mound or at catcher.”

Tanner is hitting .366 with a homer and 19 RBIs for George County (26-4), which will play Desoto Central (27-8) at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Game 1 of the Class 6A state title series at Trustmark Park in Pearl. Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. on Thursday.

Dangerous duo

Tanner is part of one of the best one-two pitching combinations in the state with fellow junior right-hander Trevor McDonald serving as the second part of the equation. McDonald is 7-1 with a 1.41 ERA, 83 strikeouts and 28 walks in 64 2/3 innings.

Davis has had plenty of great arms come through his program like Cubs minor leaguer Justin Steele and the three Robbins brothers — Walker, Mason and Logan — but he believes that Tanner and McDonald may be the best pitching duo he's had.

“The main thing is both of them compete,” Davis said. “They're also not trying to do what the other one does.”

Tanner has a similar ERA to what he had during his sophomore year (1.22), but there's no question he's made significant strides as a junior. He offers four pitches — a fastball that stays in the low 90s, a curveball, a slider and a changeup.

“I've got way better secondary stuff than I did last season,” Tanner said. “My velocity has been up a tick or two. I just feel a lot better this year.”

Davis believes Tanner has become a more well-rounded pitcher as a junior.

“He's really learned how to pitch to the other team's better hitters. That's been his biggest improvement,” Davis said. “He doesn't let the bottom of the lineup get on base a lot.”

While Tanner will have the attention of MLB scouts, he verbally committed to Mississippi State in October and remains firmly entrenched with the Bulldogs and talks regularly with the staff.

He enjoyed watching MSU stun a Top 10-ranked Ole Miss team in three of four contests this season.

“I was fired up,” he said. “That's probably the best thing I saw all year.

“I'm ready to be up there with them.”