A Conversation With Cleveland Pitching Prospect Peyton Battenfield

Peyton Battenfield has been one of the best pitchers in the minors this season. The 24-year-old right-hander is 6–0 with a 2.15 ERA, and those aren’t even the shiniest numbers on his stat sheet. In 88 innings — 57 at the Double-A level, 31 more in High-A — Battenfield has 116 strikeouts to go with just 14 walks and 52 hits allowed.

The Oklahoma State University product has logged those numbers with a pair of organizations, the first of which was his second in pro ball. Houston’s ninth-round pick in the 2019 draft, Battenfield was dealt to Tampa Bay the following January in exchange for Austin Pruitt; last month he went from the Rays to Cleveland in exchange for Jordan Luplow and DJ Johnson at the trade deadline. He hasn’t skipped a beat since his most recent change of uniforms. In four starts with the Akron RubberDucks, the former college closer has punched out 21 batters against two free passes and 10 hits over 20.2 frames.

Battenfield discussed his breakout campaign a few days before being traded to Cleveland.


David Laurila: You’re having a great year. What has been behind that success?

Peyton Battenfield: “For me, it’s just attacking the strike zone with all my pitches. It’s getting ahead and not being afraid to give up hard contact. I’m going to throw my best stuff in there, and whatever happens, happens. The outcome will be the outcome.”

Laurila: Was not aggressively attacking the strike zone ever an issue in the past?

Battenfield: “When I was coming out of the bullpen my junior year [at Oklahoma State]… it’s not that I wasn’t attacking, it was more the situations I was coming into. A lot of times there were runners on base, so I had to be more precise and was trying to nibble the corners a little bit more. Now that I’m starting, I automatically have no one on when I step out there, so I get to just pound the zone. When you’re pitching confidently and throwing a lot of strikes — especially quality strikes — and changing speeds and changing the plane of the ball, you’re usually going to get good results.”

Laurila: You’re attacking the zone, but are you also trying to miss bats?

Battenfield: “I don’t necessarily try to do it, but it kind of just happens. I’m trying to give them my best pitch, and if do they put it in play, that’s fewer pitches for me to throw. As a starter, I’m trying to be efficient and go as deep into ballgames as I possibly can. Strikeouts just kind of come along the way. Missing barrels just come along the way.”

Laurila: It used to be common for pitchers to say they’re pitching to contact. More and more, I hear them say they’re pitching away from contact.

Battenfield: “I mean, I always love to see strikeouts. Obviously, if the ball is put in play… anytime you’re pitching to contact, you’re risking giving up hard contact. But my thought process is, ‘If I’m throwing my best stuff, what are the odds that they’re going to hit it hard consistently?'”

Laurila: Has your stuff ticked up this year?

Battenfield: “My velo is up a little bit. Depending on the day, I’ve been anywhere from… there have been a couple games where I’ve been 93–95 [mph], but for the most part I’m usually 91–94.”

Laurila: A solid fastball, but you’re not high-octane.

Battenfield: “No, I’m not. I don’t have an electric fastball, but I do get good carry. And with the angle I throw from — the angle of approach — I’m downhill. I’ll get those balls at the bottom of the zone looking like they’re going to be a ball, and then they’ll ride back up into the strike zone. I get a lot of takes on fastballs that are at the bottom of the zone.”

Laurila: What about on elevated fastballs?

Battenfield: “I get a lot of carry there as well. I work up-and-down more than left-and-right. For me, those have been the best places to go. I throw a curveball, so if I throw a fastball up in the zone for a strike, I can throw a curveball right off of it.”

Laurila: Do you know what your spin rate and spin efficiency are?

Battenfield: “I’m not sure what my spin rate is. The last time I heard, my efficiency was around 98%, although I could be wrong about that. I haven’t seen anything on my spin rate or my efficiency for over a year. Those aren’t things I’m really worried about. I know how my ball moves, plus, if they were to start ticking down on a consistent basis, [the coaches] would let me know. For now, with everything going the way it is, I don’t think it’s anything to really concern myself with.”

Laurila: What do you consider to be your best pitch?

Battenfield: “The most confidence I have with a pitch is my fastball. That’s definitely my go-to in any situation, because I know I can throw it where I want to throw it. I also get a lot of swing-and-miss on my fastball. Outside of that, it just kind of depends on the day for my secondary pitches. Hopefully, I have a third or even a fourth pitch working. That’s going to give me the best outcome possible.”

Laurila: Your repertoire is four-seam/curveball/slider/changeup. Correct?

Battenfield: “Slider, cutter… that pitch is kind of loosely defined. I call it a cutter.”

(Battenfield breaks down his cutter in the forthcoming installment of the Learning and Developing a Pitch series.)

Laurila: What about your changeup and your curveball?

Battenfield: “I’ve been using my changeup — it’s pretty much a standard circle — a lot more in Double-A. The second week I was here, I came into the dugout and our pitching coach said, ‘Hey, we probably should use the changeup more, especially in fastball counts.’ Since then, it’s kind of become my go-to secondary. My curveball… horizontally, I get around negative-four, so it’s pretty 12–6.”

Laurila: Any final thoughts?

Battenfield: “Just that I need to keep going pitch-to-pitch and attacking the zone. From there, whatever happens, happens. [The future?] The way I see it, the right doors are going to open when they open.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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