March 13, 2013
Five to Watch
There is a lot to like about Bumgarner, such as his age, strong walk rate, ability to miss bats, home ballpark, and the fact that he's coming off his most successful season in the majors. Not everything is coming up roses for the young left-hander, though: a significant drop in velocity toward the end of 2012 makes the zip on his fastball worth monitoring this spring.
The average velocity on Bumgarner's four-seam fastball peaked in the month of August, averaging 92.23 mph. It bottomed out the following month, averaging 90.69 mph in September. Mechanics were blamed for his late-season struggles, and prior to Game Two of the World Series, Bumgarner reportedly ironed his issues out with Giants pitching coach Dave Righetti. He pitched seven scoreless innings in that start, but his lost velocity was nowhere to be found.
Bumgarner has overcome a velocity drop in the past, and eventually regained some of the missing ticks. He set a new career high in innings pitched last year, and it's possible, if not probable, that he was just worn down at the end of the year. If that was indeed the case, then Bumgarner should continue to pitch at a high level. But if there is an underlying issue sapping his velocity, then he'll most likely disappoint owners that spend the early-round pick necessary to secure his services.
I'm a sucker for power, and Blanks isn't lacking in that department. Unfortunately, he hasn't been on the field enough to really showcase his pop on the biggest stage. Blanks received just six plate appearances in the majors last year before shutting it down due to a torn labrum in his shoulder. He underwent surgery to repair the tear in late April, and it marked his second major procedure since 2010, when he needed Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Injuries have limited Blanks to 316 plate appearances for the Padres since the start of the 2010 season, and only 403 more plate appearances in the minors during that timeframe.