The Learning and Developing a Pitch series returned last month after being on hiatus due to the pandemic. Each week, we’ll hear from three pitchers on a notable weapon in their arsenal. Today’s installment features a southpaw, Damon Jones, and a pair of right-handers, Zach McCambley and Josh Staumont, on their curveballs and sliders.
Damon Jones, Philadelphia Phillies prospect
“My slider is kind of seam-shifted. I get a lot of horizontal — something like 23 inches, which is pretty crazy — and I kind of picked it up off a Pitching Ninja video. It was Trevor Bauer’s grip, but I changed it up a little bit. It was more my thumb. I left the fingers how he had them, but he touches his thumb and I kind of hook it on the bottom part of the horseshoe. I think that helps the ball come out of my hand a little bit later. Watching the video, he wanted to get it out early and let it spin. I want it to be more of a late, back-foot pitch. The more I can make it look like a fastball the better, and it’s been pretty similar for me in terms of release point, release height, and all that.
“This was in 2019 — I made the jump from High-A to Triple-A that year — and it was shortly after spring training. After my first or second start in High-A, I was toying with stuff, saw the grip, and started throwing it. The guy on the Rapsodo was like, ‘Can you repeat that pitch? Can you do it again?’
“Then, when I got to Double-A, Tommy Hunter was rehabbing with us. He told me, ‘It’s like an Andrew Miller type of slider, it’s just wipeout.’ I was like, ‘Well, he’s got a lot of showtime and has seen a lot of guys with good sliders, and he’s comparing me to the guy Andrew Miller was when he was in his prime.’ I was like, ‘I’ll take that.’ Read the rest of this entry »
The Learning and Developing a Pitch series returned last month after being on hiatus due to the pandemic. Each week, we’ll hear from three pitchers on a notable weapon in their arsenal. Today’s installment features three right-handers — Scott Barlow, Aaron Nola, and Nick Sandlin — talking about their curveballs and sliders.
Scott Barlow, Kansas City Royals
“I have both a slider and a curveball. I’ve started to integrate the curve a lot more, whereas in the past it was a lot of sliders. It still kind of is. But they kind of work hand-in-hand, and because I’ve thrown the slider so much in the past, my curveball is probably the better story. It’s been a big learning curve as far as when to throw it.
“I messed around with a curveball a lot when I was a starter, but then as a reliever… it was kind of weird, because a lot of relievers typically have two pitches, maybe three. Coming out of the bullpen it was kind of ‘When should I throw that third pitch?’ I think the more opportunities you get, and the more hitters you face, the more you understand when to throw that pitch.
“I threw a lot of sliders and curveballs in high school, but the breaks were a lot different because the arm speed was different. But with the curveball, I had an idea of the grip I liked and I stuck with it. It just really came down to committing to it, rather than having it being ‘poppy,’ having the same arm speed as the fastball, and then kind of adjusting. When you first learn to throw it hard, you tend to spike it a lot, throw in the dirt. You kind of understand how to adjust your sight lines — where to start that fastball arm action point — so you can get it in the right location. Read the rest of this entry »
Bryson Stott had a pretty good idea of what to expect coming into the 2019 draft. Ultimately taken 14th overall by the Philadelphia Phillies, the now-23-year-old shortstop out of the University of Nevada Las Vegas had reason to believe that he would be selected in that neighborhood of the first round. Our own mock draft had him going one pick earlier, while Baseball America ended up being spot-on with their prediction.
Stott likewise knew that several of his friends would be taken in the first round, albeit not necessarily by which organizations. He and a handful of former USA Baseball teammates would periodically update each other on what they’d been hearing, as well as any pre-draft workouts they’d been invited to. Specific expectations were couched in caution.
“As I’m sure you know, you don’t really get much before the draft,” Stott told me earlier this month. “It’s kind of, ‘You hear one thing and then something else happens.’ So it’s a weird time, and an exciting one, but still pretty stressful.”
As Stott pointed out, the entire 2018 USA team infield went in the first round the following year. Andrew Vaughn was at first base, Braden Shewmake was at second, Stott played short, and Josh Jung covered the hot corner. Will Wilson was an extra infielder, while Shea Langeliers and Adley Rutschmann were the catchers. Last year’s first-overall pick, Spencer Torkelson, was also on the team.
“It was a pretty good infield,” said Stott, in what could rightly be called an understatement. Read the rest of this entry »
MLB passed the halfway mark of the 2021 season over the long holiday weekend, providing a convenient spot to take a break, look back over the preseason projections, and hopefully not cringe too much about how the predictions are shaking out. Since this is the big midseason update, I used the full-fat ZiPS model for individual players in addition to the normal depth chart reconfiguring, with all the high-fructose algorithms rather than the leaner one used for daily updates.
Let’s start with the American League standings.
I was making a “do not panic” argument on behalf of the Yankees back when they were 5–10 and some people were digging for their doomsday preparedness kits, and while it might not be time to find where you left those water purification tablets, the situation is bleaker now than it was three months ago. Not that the team is actually worse; New York has been on an 88-win pace in the games since that reference point. But an 88-win pace isn’t nearly enough to get out of an early-season hole in a division where there are three other teams with more than detectable pulses. Even projected to play solid baseball the rest of the season, the Yankees have gone from the favorite to the projected fourth-place team.
Read the rest of this entry »
On hiatus since the onset of the COVID pandemic, the Learning and Developing a Pitch series returned last week with three pitchers telling the stories behind their sliders. Today, in the second of this year’s installments, we hear from Jake Brentz, Brooks Kriske, and Hirokazu Sawamura on their changeups and splitters.
Jake Brentz, Kansas City Royals
“I never had a changeup in the minor leagues. I was fastball slider/breaking ball, but I always mixed around my breaking ball. I didn’t really find a breaking ball that worked for me until probably a year and a half, two years ago — not until I got to Triple-A.
“Paul Gibson is our pitching coordinator here with the Royals, and last year at the alternate site he told me, ‘Hey, I would like you to develop a changeup; I think it would be a very valuable pitch for you.’ So I really focused on developing one, throwing it as many times as I could during an outing. We were just playing each other — nothing really mattered — so it was just developing and whatnot. I’d throw it back to back to back, and messed around with grips. I found one that really worked for me, and then worked on it more over the offseason. In spring training I wasn’t throwing it a lot at first, but Mike [Matheny] came to me said, ‘I think your changeup can be a devastating pitch, so we’re going to throw that a lot.’ Over time, I’ve continuing to throw it. Read the rest of this entry »
Kevin Goldstein and I have updated the pro portion of the Top 100, which means we quickly reviewed the placement of players in the 50 FV tier and above, and considered who was not yet in those tiers but should be based on how they’ve looked during the first month of the 2021 season. I still have three total org audits to do — Milwaukee, Oakland and the Cubs — before I start peeling graduates off the list. Those will be completed shortly. You can find the updated list here.
Also, if you missed it, Kevin and I updated our draft rankings and posted a Mock Draft on Monday.
The lone change up near the top of the 100 is Riley Greene moving into the top 20; he’s in the mix with several other similarly-aged players with the talent to be consistent All-Stars, like Bobby Witt Jr., Julio Rodríguez, and Corbin Carroll.
DL Hall moved into the 55 FV tier on the strength of his stuff. He’s still walking a fairly high rate of opposing batters but just on the strength of his three plus pitches, could be a Haderesque relief weapon even if he can’t start. Read the rest of this entry »
These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here. Today’s notes feature thoughts on three college hitters who played in the NCAA Regionals, as well as three pitching prospects currently in the big leagues.
Reed Trimble, CF, Southern Miss
Draft Class: 2021 Age: 21
Regional Line: 14-for-25, 4 HR
When I named Trimble one of Conference USA’s top prospects in a tournament preview post from a couple weeks ago, I made a mistake with respect to his draft eligibility. He’s indeed a (COVID) freshman, but his 21st birthday was Sunday, so he’s a draft-eligible freshman. Trimble hit .345/.414/.638 this year, and the Southern Miss schedule was no cakewalk even though they’re a mid-major. It included 12 games against eventual regional host and top-16 team Louisiana Tech, as well as games against Mississippi State, Alabama, Florida State and Ole Miss, and four against South Alabama, who made a deep regional run. Read the rest of this entry »
Like many of you, I spent a good portion of Memorial Day watching baseball. I started with the Rays and Yankees, and was watching the YES Network feed when rookie shortstop Taylor Walls stepped to the plate. Immediately, the broadcast went to a graphic of who the Rays elected not to call up after they traded Willy Adames to the Brewers: Wander Franco, universally seen as the best prospect in the game, and the red-hot Vidal Bruján. It was a nice little troll, but while so much attention is deservedly paid to the Franco and Jarred Kelenic types before and after they debut, not every rookie has the same kind of prospect pedigree. With that in mind, here are nine prospects who aren’t getting the same kind of hype but are performing at a level that might earn them a big-league look this year. Read the rest of this entry »
When the Cubs’ 2021 schedule came out, I circled May 17-20. That otherwise unremarkable four-game series with the Nationals would mark the return of 2016 World Series heroes Jon Lester and Kyle Schwarber to Wrigley Field. I knew they would receive an epic welcome from fans and I felt like I needed to be part of it.
The Cubs are pretty far removed from the juggernaut that won 103 games on the way to the team’s first championship in 108 years. While a relatively weak division means it’s certainly possible they could go on a run that would keep Jed Hoyer’s front office from being sellers at the deadline, it is far from guaranteed. Our playoff odds give the Cubs a 35.1% chance of making the postseason. It has left me looking for those moments of joy that fall short of the ultimate goal of hoisting the Commissioner’s Trophy at the end of the season but are still meaningful.
It occurred to me that I am far from the only fan looking for moments to celebrate beyond the expectation of playing in October. So I started looking for all of the silver linings to 2021’s cloudiest seasons. I identified all of the teams with less than a 20% chance to make the playoffs per our odds, then dug into the prospect lists, record books and clubhouse storylines to see what I might circle on the calendar for the sport’s less fortunate faithful. So here they are, a few moments of joy for the fanbases that may still be holding out hope that their team will channel its inner 2019 Nationals, but suspect they won’t. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s what struck me as notable. Today, I’ll take a look at the American League, with a National League post to follow next week. Read the rest of this entry »
These are notes on prospects from lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen. Read previous installments here.
Packy Naughton, LHP, Los Angeles Angels
Level & Affiliate: Triple-A Salt Lake Age: 25 Org Rank: TBD FV: 40
Line: 7.2 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 K
After he was sitting in the mid-80s in the time surrounding the 2020 shutdown, Naughton’s velocity has rebounded and he’s once again living in the 90-92 range with his tailing fastball. He’s another lefty of the east/west variety, relying on some mechanical funk, working his tailing fastball to both corners, and mixing in three secondary pitches. While Naughton locates his slider to his glove side very consistently, the same way a lot of over-achieving, soft-tossing lefties do, many of them have been a little too far away from the zone to be competitive and the pitch is average on its own. The same is true of his changeup. Naughton’s changeup execution is less consistent than is typical for pitchers who throw this hard but still end up as successful back-of-the-rotation types. He’s looking more like a depth starter than a true No. 5 at this point, but it’s good to see that his velocity has bounced back and that he’s pounding the strike zone like usual. Read the rest of this entry »