Phillies Prospect Ethan Lindow Is a Craftsman Who Learned From a Master

Ethan Lindow is low profile at this point in his career. A fifth-round pick four years ago, the 22-year-old southpaw sits humbly at No. 25 on our Philadelphia Phillies Top Prospects list. His lack of stand-up-and-take-notice stuff is largely responsible for his modest ranking. Atypical in an age of high velocity and nasty benders, Lindow is a command artist who attacks hitters with a ho-hum heater and a top-shelf changeup.

The lack of buzz belies his success at the lower levels of the minors. In 211.1 professional innings, Lindow has chewed up batters to the tune of a 2.73 ERA while allowing just 176 hits and 54 free passes. Moreover, the Locust Grove, Georgia native’s ledger includes 220 strikeouts, a noteworthy number given his finesse identity.

A former Phillies prospect now pitching for the Oakland A’s is a comp that came to mind when I spoke to Lindow shortly before he made his Double-A debut with the Reading Fightin Phils. It turned out that it’s someone he’s considered himself.

“He’s a guy I kind of always looked at,” Lindow said of Cole Irvin. “I’d be like, ‘Man, that’s a guy I’d compare myself to.’ I’ve just always been one of those crafty lefties. None of my numbers are going to light up the boards, so I go off my command and movement, and let my defense work.”

Lindow logged a no-decision in Tuesday’s outing, allowing two hits and a pair of runs in three innings against the Erie SeaWolves. Befitting Baseball America’s having rated him as having the best control in the Philadelphia system, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound hurler walked just one batter. He punched out four, including Riley Greene, one of the top prospects in the Tigers system.

Jumping back to comps, it bears noting that John Means tossed a no-hitter on Wednesday, and he didn’t do so throwing gas. The Baltimore Orioles southpaw spotted 92-mph fastballs, threw a heavy dose of changeups, and mixed in the occasional breaking ball. His command was impeccable. Meanwhile, Irvin earned some accolades of his own. A night before Means dazzled the Mariners, the crafty Athletic held a normally-formidable Blue Jays offense to three hits and one run over eight exemplary innings. Mixing and matching an array of offerings, he went to his changeup nearly 30% of the time.

Asked what he considers his best pitch, Lindow initially told me that it was his cutter, but then decided otherwise. He ultimately chose his changeup, “a traditional two-seam circle” that gets good tail and a decent amount of depth. Among those who have provided tutorials is a Hall of Fame left-hander whose style was, like Lindow’s, far more about finesse than raw power. Growing up, one of Lindow’s travel-ball teammates was Tom Glavine’s son.

The Atlanta Braves legend influenced not only the development of Lindow’s change-of-pace, but his pitching approach overall.

“He was never a velo guy, and I’ve never been a velo guy,” explained Lindow, whose fastball ranged between 88-92 in his first start of the season. “He’d always talk about being a bulldog on the mound, attacking hitters, and letting your defense work. He jumpstarted [the changeup] becoming such a good pitch for me, and also getting the most out of my foot placement on the rubber. I’m on my arm-side, and because I throw a little across my body, my arm tends to be a little farther out. I think being on that side plays an advantage to me against the hitter visually.”

Glavine was masterful in his ability to command the ball to both sides of the plate, and while today’s game is all about the up-and-down, that’s not Lindow’s strong suit. Which isn’t to say he’s not adapting as necessary. He knows he needs to work all four quadrants effectively in order to pitch at the highest level. Acknowledging that he’s “always been an in-and-out guy,” he’s nonetheless become more adept at raising and lowering eye levels.

Many of baseball’s best do exactly that, and as the saying goes, opposites attract. The young Phillies prospect has learned from Glavine and observed Irvin, but he’s also gleaned pleasure from a pair of power-pitching righties. Asked who he most enjoys watching, Lindow name-checked Tyler Glasnow and Jacob deGrom.”

It goes without saying that Lindow would recognize either of those All-Stars were they to stroll into one of his bullpen sessions. That wasn’t what happened when he first met Glavine.

“I was playing in a travel-ball tournament,” recalled Lindow. “He had on a ball cap and glasses, and hadn’t really been talking to his son too much. I was throwing my bullpen and he walked up and started talking to me. He was going on and on, and I’m listening to him, thinking, ‘Wow, this is some good stuff.’ Then I go back into the dugout with my buddies, and I was like, ‘Who was that guy in the bullpen helping me?’ [Glavine’s son] was like, ‘Are y’all serious?’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘That’s my dad.’

“I mean, I knew who his dad was,” continued Lindow. “But I hadn’t met him, and I didn’t know he was there. I guess I was so locked in with my pitching that I didn’t think about who it was until I got back to the dugout.”

Locked in or not, Lindow is never going to be Glavine. To this point of his career, he has a long way to go to match the success of an Irvin or a Means. That said, none of the three lit up a radar gun or was lauded as an elite prospect. All they did was record outs. A few short and promising years into his career, that’s what Ethan Lindow has shown he can do.

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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kick me in the GO NATSmember
2 years ago

Good stuff