Sunday Notes: Connor Seabold and the Art of the Changeup

Connor Seabold is a control artist with a plus changeup. Those qualities helped entice the Red Sox to acquire the 24-year-old right-hander as part of the August trade that sent Brandon Workman and Heath Hembree to the Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for Nick Pivetta. Seabold has since been added to Boston’s 40-man roster.

His artistry isn’t limited to the baseball field. Seabold’s father is a graphic designer, and the 2017 third-round pick out of Cal State Fullerton is a chip off the old block when it comes to pictorial ability.

“My first semester in college, I actually tried to be an art major,” explained Seabold, who impressed at Boston’s alternate training site and will compete for a spot in the Red Sox rotation next year. “That didn’t go well, especially with my baseball schedule — I had to tap out of it — but I can pick up a pencil and pad and draw whatever I’ve got on my mind. I’ve always kind of had a knack for it.”

Pitching is an even bigger passion, and it’s the development of his signature offering that’s turned Seabold into a promising prospect. Not only that, his low-90s four-seamer is sneaky good. Both came to the fore when I asked righty about his repertoire.

“I’ve been told that my fastball plays to the same kind of movement and plane that Gerrit Cole’s does,” said Seabold. “Obviously with not that kind of velo, but it has similar ride and action to it. And even before Devin Williams started blowing up, that’s how I started throwing my changeup. He’s obviously done wonders with his — the UFO changeup, or whatever they call it — and I try to emulate that. I’m really pronating to get side spin, and the movement I get is kind of like a reverse slider.”

Seabold began throwing his changeup that way in 2019 — the grip is a circle — and velocity-wise the pitch is typically in the 80-to-83-mph range. He also throws a slider and a curveball, the second of which is new to his arsenal. As for his study habits, Cole and Williams aren’t the only masters of their crafts that he keep a close eye on. The way he sees it, why not learn from the best?

“Another guy I have some similarities with is Max Scherzer,” said Seabold. ‘That’s as far as my arm slot, which is around three-quarters, but there’s also the way he throws his changeup — it’s a similar action. Then there’s his slider, which is kind of what I’ve been trying to get out of mine. He also throws that slower curveball, which I’m looking to add to my arsenal.”

Seabold has walked just 2.1 batters per nine innings since entering pro ball, and that brings us to yet another influence. The 6’ 2” 200-pound hurler once modeled his game after Kyle Hendricks’, and to a certain extent he still does. His command is exemplary, he mix-and-matches with aplomb, and his changeup is his best weapon. That’s Hendricks-esque. The veteran Chicago Cubs right-hander is known for his artistry on the mound, and that’s something Seabold can relate to — not only on the field, but outside the white lines as well.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Rondell White went 11 for 15 against Sterling Hitchcock.

Devon White went 12 for 20 against Dave Fleming.

Frank White went 13 for 22 against Wilbur Wood.

Roy White went 21 for 56 against Sam McDowell.

Bill White went 22 for 50 against Al McBean.

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How predictable — or unpredictable — are the major- and minor-league phases of the Rule 5 draft? I asked that question to Baltimore Orioles Director of Minor League Operations Kent Qualls following Thursday’s annual exercise, which saw his club select five players. They also lost two, and it was those subtractions that he alluded to in his response.

“I don’t think there are that many surprises,” said Qualls, who has been in his current role for eight years. “I think most clubs know who their bubble guys are. In our case, like [Director of Profssional Scouting] Mike Snyder mentioned, we spent a lot of time talking about Pop, Fenter, and others. So we obviously knew it was a possibility. But the deeper your farm system is, and the stronger your organization is… you see more players typically taken from those clubs.”

Zach Pop was taken sixth-overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who subsequently swapped him to the Miami Marlins for a PTBNL. Gray Fenter was taken later in the first round by the Chicago Cubs. [Eric Longenhagen’s scouting reports for the major-league phase picks can be found here.]

Following up, I asked Qualls how the Rule 5 draft compares to the amateur draft [officially the Rule 4 draft] in terms of predictability.

“I think it’s pretty similar,” answered Qualls. “Sometimes there’s a player that’s taken higher than you think he would go but, but in general, a lot of the names that we were talking about on both phases were taken today. I think we’re on the right guys, the right group of guys. We’re happy with the players we were able to select.”

The Orioles took Mac Sceroler fifth-overall from the Cincinnati Reds organization, Tyler Wells from the Minnesota Twins in the second round, and three players in the minor-league phase.

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A question from another reporter elicited a response that merits mention. The Baltimore Sun’s Nathan Ruiz asked Mike Snyder about the challenges faced over the past eight-plus months.

“Evaluating players in this environment has been a constant battle,” said the scouting director. “That applies to Rule 5, to free agency, to all of our trades. But we feel we’re probably a little bit better situated for this type of player evaluation compared to other MLB clubs, just given how efficient we feel we are operating off of video data… we’ve been baking in greater variability. Next season, I’d anticipate we’re probably going to be surprised more often than we are in a normal year. Players might make a positive leap that the league as a whole didn’t necessarily see signals of ahead of time. That might be particularly true on the pitching end, with a full season of pitch design [and] strength work that’s largely out of the public eye.”

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A quiz:

Who were the first African American siblings to play in the major leagues in the modern era?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS ITEMS

Dick Kaegel has been named the 2021 winner of the J.G. Taylor Spink Award, which is presented annually to a sportswriter “for meritorious contributions to baseball writing.” Kaegel covered the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals, and served as editor-in-chief of The Sporting News.

Al Michaels has been honored with the Ford C. Frick Award, for excellence in broadcasting. Michaels called games for the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants in the 1970s, and then for both NBC and ABC. Among his notable postseason calls was Dave Henderson’s home run in the 1986 ALCS.

Bill Spanswick, a left-handed pitcher who appeared in 29 games for the Boston Red Sox in 1964, died earlier this month at age 82. Spanswick was paired with Tony Conigliaro on his 1964 Topps Rookie Stars baseball card.

Rogelio Moret, who pitched for the Red Sox, Braves, and Rangers from 19701-978, died last week at age 71. A native of Puerto Rico, Moret went 14-3 for Boston in 1975, then was traded to Atlanta that winter in exchange for Tom House.

The Los Angeles Dodgers have promoted Janet Marie Smith to Executive Vice President. Her previous title was Senior Vice President of Planning and Development.

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The answer to the quiz is the Drake brothers. Solly Drake played for the Cubs, Dodgers, and Phillies from 1956-1959. Sammy Drake played for the Cubs and Mets from 1960-1962.

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The shoved-down-our-throats reorganization of minor-league baseball included the landscape-altering elimination of short-season affiliates. Asked about the impact of that dissolution during a media session on Thursday, Detroit’s Dave Littlefield responded much as the decision-makers in the MLB office would like him to.

“Overall, I think it’s going to be a very much a positive as to how things are going to be aligned moving forward,” said the Tigers’ Vice President of Player Development. “I think it’s better for the player-development system — how it all lines up in the first year in particular — and we’ll be making adjustments as necessary. We’ve got four strong affiliates, we’ll have better facilities, overall better working environments. I think it will benefit the players in a very positive way all across the board. In general, the whole industry is looking forward to it.”

Reservations-free sentiment or obligatory positive spin? Your guess is as good as mine, but that’s what Littlefield chose to share.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Softbank Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudo has been named winner of the Matsutaro Shoriki Award, which honors the greatest contributor to Japanese professional baseball. Kudo has won the award in each of the last three years.

Orioles pitching prospect Alex Wells won’t be playing for the ABL’s Sydney Blue Sox this season. The 23-year-old Newcastle, Australia native had been expected to do so, but that changed when Wells was added to Baltimore’s 40-man roster.

If you missed Friday’s FanGraphs Audio episode, it includes a conversation with former Minnesota Twins infielder Glenn Williams, who runs Team Australia and also works with the ABL.

Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is playing third base for Leones del Escogido in the Dominican Winter League. The 21-year-old Toronto Blue Jays corner infielder had a two-home-run game earlier this week.

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When I talked to Tom House a few months ago, I asked the renowned pitching guru about one of his former Atlanta Braves teammates. House played with the late Carl Morton in the minors in 1967 and 1968, and later in the big-leagues from 1973-1975. Morton spent the interim seasons with the Montreal Expos, with whom he captured NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1970 after going 18-11 with a 3.60 ERA.

“Carl ‘Blue Heat’ Morton,” House replied when I brought up the name. “A redhead. He was one of the best pitchers for the Braves for about three years. In fact, he and Phil Niekro kind of carried the staff in the lean years when I was with them. He was actually my roommate. He was also probably the most process-oriented pitcher I’ve ever been around. His locker was pristine, and he was ritualized with his routine. He was a good friend and a good player. Unfortunately, he ended up having a heart attack while [jogging]. It was a sudden and tragic end of life.”

Morton was just 39 years old when he died in 1983. He won 15 or more games four times, and finished his career with a 102 ERA+.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The Perth News, Ben Smith shared how Pittsburgh Pirates prospect Robbie Glendinning is hoping to turn major league pain into Australian Baseball League gain.

Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein expressed that the Hall of Fame must act with more urgency.

Lookout Landing’s Becca Weinberg wrote about how the data revolution is making its way to women’s baseball.

MLB.com’s Maria Guardado wrote about The Katy Feeney Leadership Symposium, which is geared toward the professional development of women currently working in baseball.

The Washington Post’s Barry Svriuga wrote about what’s lost when minor league baseball leaves.

Did Cleveland’s Pete Dowling toss the American League’s first no-hitter in 1901? Gary Belleville explored the possibility at SABR’s BioProject.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

Bryce Harper logged 51 hits and drew 49 walks this year. He had a .268 batting average and a .420 OBP. Salvador Perez logged 50 hits and drew three walks. He had a .333 batting average and a .353 OBP.

Pedro Martinez went a combined 24-2 with a 1.68 ERA against the Cleveland Indians and Seattle Mariners.

Clayton Kershaw is 10-0 with a 2.19 ERA in 15 career starts against the New York Mets.

Joe Torre hit into a National League record four double plays during a July 1975 game when he was playing with the New York Mets. All were immediately preceded by a Felix Millan single.

Detroit Tigers second baseman Dick McAuliffe came to the plate 689 times in 1968 (including the World Series) without hitting into a double play.

Harmon Killebrew, Stan Musial, and Manny Ramirez all grounded into 243 double plays.

On December 10, 1935, the Philadelphia A’s traded Jimmie Foxx to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for George Savino and Gordon Rhodes. Savino never made it out of the minors. Rhodes went 9-20 in his one season with the A’s. Foxx logged a 1.061 OPS and homered 198 times over the next five seasons.

On today’s date in 1999, the Florida Marlins acquired Johan Santana from the Houston Astros in the Rule 5 draft, and in a pre-arranged deal promptly flipped him to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for Jared Camp.

Players born on today’s date include Larry Doby, who on July 5, 1947 became the American League’s first Black player. A seven-time All-Star who finished his career with a 137 wRC+, Doby was voted into the Hall of Fame by the Veterans Committee in 1998.

Socks Seybold played for the Philadelphia A’s from 1901-1908. Socks Seibold played for the Philadelphia A’s from 1916-1918.





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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Tony
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Tony

What are the rules in the minor league Rule 5 draft? Does a team have to put the player selected on their 40 man roster?

Pirates Hurdles
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Pirates Hurdles

No they do not. Any player who is not on the team’s 38 man triple A roster can be selected and assigned to whatever level the new team selects.

Tony
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Tony

Thank you!