Notes From The Field 3/10/20: Royals, White Sox, Mariners

March 8: Kansas City vs. Chicago

Kris Bubic is a 22-year-old lefty with prototypical starter size, who snuck onto the back end of Eric’s 50 FV tier after a strong year in High-A.

On Monday, Bubic worked up to 93 with the fastball, but sat lower and was in the upper-80s at times. He also mixed in a cutter, a roundhouse 11-5 curve with long but sharp break, and a fading changeup. Against one of the best lineups he’s ever seen, Bubic wasn’t sharp and paid the price. He nibbled a bit with the fastball and fell behind in counts too often. His change and curve had hitters on their front foot when in the zone, but didn’t miss any bats even when they were located well. He had trouble getting a feel for his change early, throwing four of his first five low and well outside to righties. At their best, both offerings were above average.

We shouldn’t make too many judgements from one spring start, particularly a game where Bubic didn’t catch a lot of breaks: He was charged with a questionable balk and gave up a couple of hits on slow bouncing grounders that went to the wrong places, which extended innings and fluffed up his pitch count. That said, he’ll need to find a way to miss a few bats, and if nothing else, this game helped illustrate why he’ll have to battle finer margins than most hurlers on our Top 100.

That afternoon, Luis Robert went 1-3 with two strikeouts and a nubber down the third base line. There will always be some swing and miss in Robert’s game, but it’s also worth reflecting on how a hitter’s strikeout rate tends to rise at the highest levels anyway, simply due to the quality of the pitching he’s now seeing. In both of his strikeouts, Robert fell behind in the count because he took (or fouled off) perfectly placed pitches near the low-outside corner. That’s an area of vulnerability for just about everyone; sometimes you have to tip your cap to the opponent.

March 9: Seattle vs. Milwaukee

Justin Dunn has some traits that suggest a future in the rotation — up to 95, three pitches that flash at least average, sufficient command of his offspeed — and others — periodic dips in arm strength, a breaking ball that can flatten, an inconsistent changeup — that indicate he may fit better in relief.

On Monday night, Dunn looked like the good version of himself. He sat 92-94, hit 95, and commanded the fastball well. The Brewers touched up a couple of center-cut fastballs in the first of his three innings, but he settled down and started locating closer to the corners. He elevated the pitch well, drawing multiple whiffs on heaters near or above the top of the zone.

Dunn also had success with his slider, a predominantly horizontal breaker with depth in the low-80s. He showed good feel for locating the pitch to the glove-side corner, and was also able to backdoor it to lefties. He missed bats with the slider quite a bit in his brief big league cameo last season, and got Avisaíl García to come up empty on it twice last night. It’s a weird offering — slider shape, curve length, and a velo band that’s a little further from the fastball than most sliders — but it’s worked for him and his ability to locate helps me feel a little more optimistic about a pitch that otherwise gives me pause.

He didn’t throw many changeups, but his best ones were in the upper-80s and with the kind of fading action that should at least run it off barrels. He struck out five Brewers in three innings — including Christian Yelich — and overall turned in the kind of performance that suggests the Mariners should give him every chance to make things work in the rotation. For better or worse, they’re well-positioned to do so in 2020.

Quick hits: Seattle’s Joey Gerber is a funky right-hander who touched 96 on Monday night. His arm slot is more low 3/4 than sidearm, an angle you don’t see too often. Between that and a busy motion, there’s a lot of funk in his delivery. He pairs his heater with a plus slider and an occasional changeup, and he should see the big leagues later this season… Aaron Fletcher is another low-slot arm, this time a sidearmer from the left side. After striking out more than a batter per inning across three levels last year, he pitched very well in the AFL. Up to 94, Fletcher’s deception helps average stuff play up… Jarred Kelenic didn’t get much action in the field and tapped out softly twice, but it’s remarkable how comfortable the 20-year-old looks on a big league field. He needs more at-bats against good pitching, but he’s physically very mature.

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4 years ago

Good stuff, thanks!