CL Game notes 3/6
Hunter: 4s 89-93 (3 swinging strikes, 3 called strikes); Cutter 87-89; Change 83; Curveball 75-76, 79-81 (1 swinging, 1 called strike).
Harry: 4s 92-95 (5 called strikes); Cutter 89-90 (1 called strike, 2 swinging strikes); Slider 84; Change 83-84
Oliver: 4s 87-89; CB 78 - 7pitch inning, 5 called strikes, 1 foul, 1go
Geary: 4s 88-90; Change 84
Eyre: 4s 89-92; Slider 81-82
Kiker: 4s 88-91; Slider 77; Change 78-80; Curveball 75-76
stolen base; trouble putting 1st hitter away after 9 pitch at bat; 90-91 first hitter; 88-89 last 2
FranFran: 4s 88-92; Slider 83
Ground balls galore, including 10 straight to start the game before first flyball out: 15/4, go/ao - Hunter 3-0; Harry 6-0
Leury Garcia - 2 errors (throw, missed catch) on consecutive hitters
Kiker: perhaps the only middle relief prospect in the minors who is a perennial and consensus top 10 ranked pitcher (mistaken as a starter)...
Geary: For some reason, I though he threw harder. For his career he sits 90-91, but was injured last year...
Willie Eyre: I seem to be the only one that likes him, especially as an emergency option in AAA, a guy with ML experience, throws 91-94 with an AA slider and a change that is a tic better than average.
Kiker redux: per various reports from Jason Cole during the offseason, if I remember correctly, Kiker changed grips on his curveball (or something)at some point prior to or during his minor league season in AA, so he was pretty inconsistent with it in 2009. In this outing, he threw 4 pretty nice curveballs - all for strikes - to both the lefties that he faced.
Harrison continues to be a ground ball machine these last 2 years. His fastball must be pretty heavy. Despite his velo range, he doesn't seem to get a lot of swing and misses on the pitch, but can throw is relentlessly for strikes. One thing to keep an eye on, going back to his first ~4 starts last year, is if he's being aggressive enough with his fB and attacking hitters. With that velo as a LH you'd think he could miss more bats with the pitch. I guess as long as his command of it is AA and it is in fact a heavy pitch it probably doesn't really matter - he will learn to miss more bats with it as he matures. His cutter seems to have improved as both of his swinging strikes came on the pitch; it seems quite a bit harder, as last year it was 86-88ish.
As for Hunter, his 4s was pretty effective, getting 3 swinging strikes on the pitch. Last year his CB was pretty much the only pitch he missed bats with. You hope this year that Hunter has a bit more velo separation between his 4s/CT, as both were pretty close last year. His velo was pretty good in this outing generally 90-93 which was a tic higher than last year when he generally sat 89-91 while his cutter was 87-89. As for his cutter, he didn't get any SM in this outing. I was a little surprised that he went with a cutter last year. His FB has natural cut (per some sources) and you can see that in his pitch fx data, looking like cutters on first glance at times (when he's 89-91 range). I thought that he might have gone to a sinker as it would have seemed to complement the movement of his 4s. He had a nice year so what do I know; the pair seems to work well together and I think that Hunter will use them even more effectively this year (as seen in this outing).
Evan Grant claims in his bloggy game chat that Hunter needs to throw more and better changeups to "stick in the long term" whatever that means. He's got it backwards really. Hunter worked on his changeup last year (during the 08-09 offseason and through AA and AAA stops) and it improved dramatically after he changed grips from 2008. That is really what _got_ him to the bigs last year - he's always had the AA CB and command - and you would only expect it to get better. The cutter is what _kept_ him in the bigs. I expect some regression from Hunter but I think he will have a solid year...
Grant seems to be obsessing on the fact that pitchers don't look in mid-season form (hardin -velo; Feliz - everything; Hunter - changeup), neither showing velo or command, or showing all of your pitches in your 1 or 2 innings of work. Come on Evan, this ain't your first rodeo. I think the blogging format gives rise to these kinds of pedantic observations turned articles. Spring training is what it is.
Hoping to see the bullpen MASH crew throw next week: Beltre, Ray, Mags. All three threw a bullpen yesterday apparently all of them could make an appearance early next week.
Three "H" Club
Holland has been working in the bullpen with a full windup whereas previously he had been working with hands held low (Cole); Harrison's mysterious "quick windup" that he ha "brought back" or whatever it is - broken out during his dominant stretch in May-June? - is supposed to be "violent", max effort; not sure what to make of this talk (source - can't remember). I do recall that TX tried to get him to pitch out of a full windup after the trade from Atlanta...; Hurley is reportedly working on a "different" changeup up, and by that, I guess that means different grip (source- can't remember). This it too bad really,as I guess it indicates that he can't get a feel for his old one. If you recall Hurley's long changeup journey,he finally settled on a grip that worked for him and allowed him to finally wield a ML average pitch during his rookie year. Now he'll have to find a new one yet again...
B-Mac's new delivery is a lower 3/4 arm slot so that he might end up looking a lot like Feldman in the long term (slot, sinker, cutter, groundballer).
How soon people forget how highly rated Matt Harrison was when acquired by TX. BA ranked him as the #3 prospect in a strong Atlanta system going into 2007. They had him ranked as the #12 TX prospect going into 2008. He would have probably been higher had he not gotten hurt in the second half (Toe/leg injury) and shut down early. During the first half of 2008, we heard the first whispers that Harrison was regularly touching the mid-90s. He then comes in and has a very nice rookie debut followed up with a terrible first month of 2009 (after coming into camp way overweight) but then turned it around enough to have one of the most dominant runs of any TX starter during the year throwing about 24 scoreless innings with 2 complete games, 1 shutout, touching 98, with a great GO rate. He then pitches hurt his next 4 starts and people are convinced he's a flash in the pan. OK. Give me 4 more left handed Harrisons for my rotation please. I'll take my chances.
I think that his ceiling is a 2_3 - a fringy #2 or an excellent #3. What will he have to do to reach that ceiling? Miss more bats with his 4s while maintaining his great GO rate; turning his CU into a consistently AA offering- he throws it in any count right now (but didn't throw it enough in 09 (10%) his second best pitch, unless the cutter proves better in the end); continuing to improve his slider; pairing his cutter/4s into an effective combination - if he doesn't miss more bats with his 4s maybe the cutter can be that pitch, but then, i think that would make him more of a #3 at that point. His FB command is already AA, to fringy plus (when he is in a zone) and he commands it to all quadrants. His feel for pitching is AA. The one thing that gives me pause is his lack of aggressiveness on the mound when he is going wrong, particularly his unwillingness to attack hitters and pitch off of his fastball, as well as has lack of intensity/commitment on and off the field. He's still young - 24 1/2, debuting at 22 1/2 - has more starts under his belt than either Holland or Hunter, so, yeah, there is plenty of time...
I'm hoping that Jason Cole spends a lot of time covering the B games during the next three weeks. Scheppers and Kirkman start tomorrow.
Ryu the day
No JK Ryu sighting to date. He was an intriguing sign but I wonder if he reneged on his contract or failed a physical or something. He didn't even receive an NRI to my knowledge.
The consensus among bloggy Rangers beat writers now is that the Rangers don't like Arias anymore. We've now come more than full circle, actually twice over, since last season's proclamations by JD that Arias' arm is healthy (repeated this year, again - at least Arias didn't skip winter ball again):
1. end of season/off season - "Arias' arm is fine, better than last year, close to 100% and is having a fine winter ball."
2. "The utility infielder spot is up for grabs and will assuredly be filled by someone in camp though there are rumblings about Arias' makeup (yet again)."
3. "Arias' arm is meh and he is not a winner - here's a list of possible MIF trade options..."
JA, please go away.