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April 12, 2013
A Pair of Astros
Here at Baseball Prospectus, we don't hold grudges. So, when the Astros hired Mike Fast, no one took it out on their prospect rankings. Even when they hired Kevin Goldstein, and a real opportunity to get back at the poachers was presented, things remained cordial.
Now our old friends work for a club that doesn't get much love. But they did trot out a pair of pitchers in the last couple weeks that Jason Parks covered in his 2013 rankings. With a little bit of PITCHf/x data in hand, let's talk about Paul Clemens and Mike Foltynewicz. We'll give them a little love, tough love if required, but nothing like the love Gio Gonzalez shows his hand.
After spring training, the Astros hosted the Chicago Cubs for a pair of exhibition games in Minute Maid Park. The second game of the set included four innings out of Foltynewicz, the 10th-ranked prospect. His presence on the list gives us a smattering of notes:
“Fastball works in the low-90s and can touch higher; shows a good curveball with some depth, and a good changeup with some fading action.”
That’s enough to work with for now. Heck, just something on a single pitch is a hook, and that's three. Foltynewicz threw 62 pitches, of which 60 were picked up by PITCHf/x.
Foltynewicz was very effective against the Cubs, striking out seven and allowing just one hit and one walk over four innings. He was facing a minor-league team, though. Brad Peacock worked three innings and faced the Cubs regulars, but almost all of them took the night off after the first at-bat, with the exception of Nate Schierholtz, who was the designated hitter for the evening. So we got two Foltynewicz-Schierholtz battles, each of which resulted in a strike out. Must've been the extra vowel giving the pitcher a slight edge.
Foltynewicz's fastball was faster than advertised, coming in at over 97 mph on average for the night (two-seamers were just under 95). He only dropped in one changeup, and it didn't show any fade, but dropped instead. His breaking stuff was a bit of a mixed bag, with two different-looking sliders (84) and two different looking groups of curves (78). One of the sliders almost fits with the curves, so they could all be variations on a single pitch.
Release point variance could explain the breaking-ball pattern.
But his average release points against righties actually indicate the variance is related to pitch type.
For more details, see his full Brooks Baseball player card.
Moving into the regular season, we have the debut of Paul Clemens, who did not make the top 10, but showed up in the list of Factors on the Farm:
“Not the sexiest of prospects, but an arm that could help the major-league club in middle relief in 2013.”
Prescient. Clemens made his debut in the fifth inning, after Erik Bedard's night ended early on April 11. We heard it about on Twitter. First from his general manager:
Which prompted a tweet from Goldstein:
I'm not sure I want to take what Parks considers to be “sexy” as a general rule, so I'll let you explore Clemens’ player card and decide for yourself.
Clemens threw around 94 mph with both his fastball and a pair of sinkers, mixing in a change (85) and curveball (78).
That's a pretty big curveball. Here’s a side view:
The biggest yakker Foltynewicz threw in his game was barely enough to get into the group that Clemens threw consistently. Also note that the speed gap between their fastballs was not present (on average) for their curveballs. Extrapolating from Parks's notes on Foltynewicz, we can also declare Clemens to be the owner of a curveball with depth.
What have we learned? Foltynewicz threw harder than expected, but his changeup was not as advertised. There appears to be some kind of inconsistency (by design or otherwise) in his breaking stuff that may be related to his arm angle. Clemens is popular on Twitter, throws plenty hard for the big leagues, and also has a nice curveball.