October 5, 2016
Notes from the Field
Cal League Wrap: The Pitchers
And here we are at Part II of my California League review for 2016. In case you missed Part I, which covered position-player prospects, you can find it here. That article includes links to all of the Eyewitness Reports I filed this year, along with a published version of my 2016 Scouting Database for all of the hitters I saw with any regularity. I’m still adding a few stragglers to both that list and the one you’ll find below, so note to check back if you don’t see a guy you’re interested in reading about.
Today, it’s the pitchers’ turn. One note on my evaluation process, I’ve found that one of the things it’s really easy to do in player evaluation is get caught up in first impressions, and let them harden quickly into definitive opinions. And there’s certainly pressure for that process to take place; the job of an evaluator, after all, is to predict future performance and value likelihoods based on what he or she sees. But I’ve found that pitchers got the short end when I was first trying to evaluate them. I was disciplined and trained to give position players a few looks before starting to form real opinions about them, and that is of course a standard best-case approach. Hitting is hard, and anyone can misread the occasional flair off a burly slugger’s bat. But with pitchers, I found that if I saw a guy throw 90-100 pitches and work into a lineup for the third time, that’s a broader base of gained knowledge than I get from just a one-game look at a position player. And an internal scale for positional value adjustments became quickly apparent: pitchers start every five days, and broadly speaking we look at one-game pitching samples as on par with (ideally) three- or four-game.
I’ve tried to move past forming definitive opinions on pitchers off of one-game looks as much as possible, however. Some days you just can’t spin your breaking ball right, or find your balance point at the top of your drive, or get your spine position just right for a consistent release point. Some days…you just don’t have it. And I’ve tried to be as mindful as possible of that reality in particular when talking about and projecting arms this year, and that’s why you’ll note in the linked database a broad swath of pitchers, especially relieves, who lack OFP/Realistic numbers.
And now, on to the pitchers of the Cal.
Go North, Young Man…And Make Sure the Right Guy’s Starting Before You Do
Personal pity party aside, Grant Holmes was the best arm I did get to see this year, earning the only 60 OFP I put on any Cal League starter—and I did so only after revising up in the wake of some demonstrated growth mid-season. His fastball-curve combination gave him the best one-two punch I saw in a starting role, and he made significant strides in honing his changeup into a playable third pitch while cleaning up some elements of his delivery that had been in need of address in early-season looks. Dinelson Lamet, who snuck into the back end of our Padres’ Top 10 last winter, showed the goods in a limited Opening Day look. As a good example of what I was talking about above, I didn’t see Lamet throw a changeup in his five innings, and it was like 50 degrees and spitting rain. But the fastball-slider combination was delightful, as was the idea of his frame wearing 200 innings or coming out of a bullpen with the tying run aboard. And on the flipside, while it took me a hot minute to finally catch him, Josh Sborz made it worth the wait. It was an interesting profile, with two breakers and no change across multiple looks, but there’s a tasty fastball-slider combo there. And his organization-mate Mitchell White tantalized in an ever-so-brief late-season look. White showed superb athleticism, a gnarly cutter, and a four-seam-curveball mix behind it that left me excited to see him in a full-time starting role next year.