Call to Arms – 5.22.17 through 5.28.17

I wanted to provide insight on some pitchers in the minor leagues.  Some older than others.  Some higher end prospects; some closer to 4A repertoire.  I watched seven games over the course of one week and here are my notes and thoughts about two pitchers from each of the games.

5.22.17 – AA – Arkansas Travelers (SEA) v. Tulsa Drillers (LAD)
Justin DeFratus (SEA)
Evening Line:  5.2 IP, 8 H, 4 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 2 HRA
A cagey journeyman that came up with the Phillies, and now in his 11th season in professional ball.  A sinker/slider type, he keeps his front shoulder closed to the hitter as long as possible.  DeFratus doesn’t really have the velocity or movement to challenge lefties on the inner half, his margin of error basically a softball sized target in on the hands.  He struggled to keep AAA hitters guessing tonight, though he was able to pitch to both sides of the plate.  I don’t want to base anything on a single game, but didn’t really see anything to suggest he’s more than an organizational arm that at best might get another opportunity as a long reliever.

Walker Buehler (LAD)
Evening Line:  4 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 2 K, 0 HRA
Buehler would’ve been hard pressed to continue his string of dominance (most recently a 3.2 IP, 9 K effort on 5.17), but he occasionally flashed the stuff that will likely catapult him into the top 40 discussion by the All Star break, if not the Dodgers bullpen by September.

Buehler struggled with command, throwing 63 pitches, 38 for strikes.  He sometimes rushes his delivery – the body getting ahead of the arm – leaving many 2 seam fastballs high and wide right.  Mechanics often remind me of Roy Oswalt, but the timing issue reminds me of Danny Salazar.  He was sitting between 94-98, topping out at 99, and flashing a plus slider and curve.  There were a couple instances he seemed to tip his breaking ball, and his tempo delivery seemed to allow AAA hitters better swings than his stuff should indicate.  Many of his fastballs seemed grooved to the same low inside corner location to lefties, which is just where they like it.  While not a fully finished project, and only a year removed from TJ, it’s still easy to see why he’s a candidate as a Top 10 pitching prospect going into ’18.

5.23.17 – AAA – Omaha Storm Chasers (KC) v Nashville Sounds (OAK)
Christian Binford 6’6″ 215 (KC)
Evening Line: 2 IP, 9 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 0 BB, 1 K, 1 HRA
This was my first look at Binford, a tall righthander who is not overpowering, mostly sitting around 89 MPH.  He works from the 3rd base side of the rubber and tends to throw arm side.  His off speed did not seem to fool anyone, ran into trouble in the 2nd and chased in the 3rd down 7-0 (ostensibly due to a liner off the left wrist).  Tonight was a tough outing, clearly not his best effort, but the lack of stuff and historically low K rates do not suggest bigger things in the future.

Daniel Mengden 6’2″ 190 (OAK)
Evening Line:  7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 5 K, 0 HRA
Looks fully healthy wrapping up his rehab stint in Nashville.  The mechanics are funky old school 70s and the stuff was too good for AAA tonight.  He has four pitches (fastball topping out around 94 but generally sitting low 90s) and commands them all, though none may grade as truly plus.  With little (if any) projection left, he is likely a backend rotation starter, but could have streaks of dominance and outperform expectations.

Side noteMatt Chapman, defensively, is a major league third baseman.  He turned a few nifty plays to his right and threw frozen ropes to first.  Contact issues with the bat (notwithstanding a bomb to left this evening) however, need improvement for that next step to be successful and longstanding.

5.24.17 – AA – San Antonio Missions (SDP) v. Tulsa Drillers (LAD)
T.J. Weir 6’0″ 205 (SDP)
Evening Line: 
3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 3 K, 1 HRA
Solid built right-hander with thick legs and simple, repeatable mechanics.  Does not bring arms overhead, and displays some athleticism. Fastball looked to be low to mid 90s, more comfortably thrown arm side.  He has a solid 11-5 hook and change with some sinking action.  Gave up a dinger on a fastball Jacob Scavuzzo (one of two bombs for the night) might’ve ambushed on the inside corner, but otherwise pitched well in 3 innings of work.  Weir has averaged 10k/9 with good control throughout each step in his career, and I would not be surprised to see him in the Padres bullpen at some point next season.

Isaac Anderson 6’2″ 185 (LAD)
Evening Line:  5 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 1 HRA
Begins the game from the stretch.  Throws a high 80s to low 90s fastball and showed a so-so slider.  Anderson also tossed a 12-6 curveball that occasionally flashed plus, though he struggled to locate early.  Appears to be an organizational arm.

5.25.17 – A – Peoria Chiefs (STL) v. Quad Cities (HOU)
Brian Dobzanski 6’4″ 220 (STL)
Evening Line: 
4 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, 1 HRA
Large man with reliever-ish mechanics, the former ranked HS wrestler will never have to worry about someone charging the mound.  Worked his riding fastball from high 3/4’s in the low 90s with breaking stuff that did not appear in the plus range.  Dobzanski struggled early, giving up a single, three walks and a HBP in the first.  He has not shown a propensity for the strikeout (currently around 6.37K/9), so it seems improvement is required to become more than an organizational arm.

Enoli Paredes 5’11” 165 (HOU)
Evening Line: 
5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 0 HRA
Smaller right hander with good athleticism.  Keeps his hands below head and mechanically reminds me of Octavio Dotel.  Fastball movement is lively, sits 90-94, which he could locate away to lefties.  His breaking ball flashed plus with good speed differential between offerings. Paredes has the stuff to remain an intriguing rotation arm, but size and walk rate will both work against him.

5.26.17 – AA – Altoona Curve (PIT) v. Eric SeaWolves (DET)
Artie Lewicki – 6’3″ 195 (DET)
Evening Line:  6 IP, 5 H, 3 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 HRA
Repeatable, methodical mechanics, arm rotating from belt to chin.  He appeared to locate his low 90s overhand fastball to both sides of the plate, and does not overthrow.  Also has an effective curve he was able to throw for strikes.  Lewicki is a capable and effective pitcher, though lacking a true plus pitch.  Add to the health issues (TJ in ’13), middling K’s per 9 (around 7.5) and solid but not exceptional command, and he feels like a back-end rotation starter as his most likely destination.

J.T. Brubaker – 6’4″ 175 (PIT)
Evening Line:  5 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 0 HRA
Rolls with a motion similar to Spencer Adams, and looks like a reliever at first glance.  Does a good job of hiding the ball from the hitter, keeping the front shoulder closed and ball in glove until the last minute.  He’s another low 90’s fastball guy that does not appear to have a plus pitch.  He’s never produced K rates to indicate dominance, and he looks just rough enough that backend rotation would be his best case scenario, and middle relief is more likely.

5.27.17 – AAA – Durham Bulls (TAM) v. Pawtucket Red Sox (BOS)
Hector Velazquez  – 6’0″ 180 (BOS)
Evening Line:  7 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 0 HRA
Velazquez has a quiet motion, similar to Doug Drabek.  He barely steps with his front foot, before rocking into an easy weight transfer towards the plate.  A control and command pitcher, he barely eclipses 90 MPH , but features a solid curve and a nice split-finger that he doesn’t tip off.  He’s a fun pitcher to watch, working the ball to all four quadrants, and the split-finger might grade plus.  The polish alone, and ability to throw the ball where he wants, is plenty to work over AAA hitters.  The lack of a big fastball, however, would indicate a ceiling of a 4th/5th starter.
*Editor note – Velazquez was called up for a spot start with the Red Sox a couple weeks ago and got hammered. 5 IP, 9 H, 6 ER.  Was sent right back to Pawtucket.

Jacob Faria – 6’4″ 235 (TAM)
Evening Line: 4 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 2 ER,  1 BB, 7 K,  1 HRA
Faria is a somewhat awkward thrower – reminiscent of Andy Benes – frequently falling to the first base side of the mound.  He is tall and throws straight over the top, and has an occasionally plus change-up that keeps left handers honest.  He generates plenty of swing and miss, yet seemed to be sitting around 93 MPH.  The curve is average and Faria doesn’t have much control (career walk rate roughly 4 per 9 innings) or command (69 pitches, 44 strikes in only four innings, and the HR allowed was a fastball left over the plate to a hot hitting Bryce Brentz), so it’s hard to picture him as more than a bullpen arm without improved mechanics.  He was knocked out early tonight with a line drive to the back leg in the 4th, although he did finish the inning.
Side note – the game is worth revisiting just for the wonderful and too brief interview with Maybelle (All the Way May) Blair in the 3rd inning. She pitched one season with the Peoria Redwings, and told a few stories about the shooting of A League Of Their Own, and has 80 grade joie de vivre.

5.28.17 – AA – Reading Fightin Phils (PHI) v. New Hampshire Fisher Cats (TOR)
Sean Reid-Foley – 6’3″ 225 (TOR)
Evening Line:  6.2 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 9 K, 1 HRA
Reid-Foley has walked 21 in 31 innings, which is not going to get the job done.  Despite only walking 1 tonight, he displayed little command, throwing only 69 of 102 pitches for strikes.  The Fightin Phils have lost 8 in a row before tonight, and mustered only 2 runs in six of those games.  Reid-Foley does a good job with his weight transfer, getting up to 96 MPH, but he too falls off to the left, struggled to repeat his mechanics, and overthrew on several occasions.
But after ignoring Kingery on first, allowing an easy steal, and a subsequent 1st inning HR to Andrew Pullin, Foley settled down.  If Reid-Foley can revert to 2016 form, he could be a #2-3 SP, but if he continues to average 5+ walks per 9, his future is in the bullpen where he might be closer material.
Shane Watson – 6’4″ 200 (PHI)
Evening Line:  4.1 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 4 K,  0 HRA
Watson has a rocking, rolling awkward motion, coming from a high 3/4 angle to the plate.  He sat in the low 90s, up as high as 94.  While his walk rate (5.08) is similar to Foley, his K rate (also 5.08) is not.  It’s difficult to picture Watson getting to the Show, barring further developments.

Article featured image of Jacob Faria – courtesy Durham Bulls &

Baseball has been a lifelong obsession, going back to the shorts and softball uniforms of the South Side Hitmen. A pitcher through high school, my idols were Nolan Ryan and Goose Gossage (and my Winning Ugly hero, Lamarr Dewey Hoyt, whose motion I can still emulate in my living room). I began playing rotisserie baseball around 1990, and took a brief hiatus during the steroid era (when Brady Anderson hits 50 HR, it was time for a new hobby).

Since reading Bob Shaw's excellent work on pitching mechanics decades ago, I've been watching baseball from a pitchers perspective for over 35 years.

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