One prospect dominates the present and future of lefty pitching, while another southpaw is falling off the wagon.
For this series, I will be shuttling you through the minor leagues to discover the best talents at each position and ranking them in tiers according to skill, current and future ability, and whether the player in question is from Texas. Need to catch up on how I’m doing the rankings and the top right-handed pitchers? Take a look at Part I.
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Trying to determine the best way to utilize a fastball/changeup combination in a pitching sequence.
Were you to take a web journey to a search engine and query the terms "fastball, changeup, sequence," a slew of sites would surface, many of which include in their brief synopses that a sequence of this sort helps keep hitters off balance. Conventional wisdom dictates that these two pitches, when thrown one after the other, can fool a hitter based on their similar movement and vast velocity gap.
Taking the teams out of the equation to answer who the best talents are in this year's draft.
To be clear, this is not a prediction of how the players will be selected, nor is it any kind of mock draft. Instead, this is a pure ranking of talent based on a combination of ultimate ceiling and the probability of reaching it after numerous conversations with scouts, cross-checkers, scouting directors, and front office officials.
Diagnosing how a phenomenon gets hot, goes bad, and comes back might involve changing things up.
Three years ago, Joel Zumaya took the AL by storm, flashing an overpowering fastball on his way to a full season of stellar relief. Since 2006, though, he's fallen on hard times. Now that the big righty has recently reclaimed his role in Detroit's bullpen, let's take a look at his prospects for future success by using all of the tools at our disposal.
Zumaya broke camp as a member of the Tigers' bullpen in 2006, after fellow rookie Justin Verlander had claimed a rotation spot in spring training. Except for a single appearance in relief as a 17-year-old in the GCL, Zumaya had worked exclusively as a starter in the minors, but his migration to the pen didn't come as a complete surprise. Although Baseball America ranked him among Detroit's top four prospects in each year from 2004-2006, talent evaluators frequently cited his intensity, max-effort delivery, inconsistent mechanics, limited repertoire (before 2005), and three DL stints (for back and shoulder spasms) as factors arguing for a shift to short relief work.
Dissecting a day at the office for the Mets' Johan Santana.
Due to local blackout rules and the lack of a land-line phone capable of proving that my Penn State University residence was not in Philadelphia, I relied on MLB Gameday instead of MLB TV for a good chunk of the 2007 season. The application had been around for a while, but I soon noticed strange terminology and new data accompanying each pitch. Why are there two velocity readings? What does 13" of pFX mean? And what the heck is BRK? A little research soon made sense of the information, and within a few months I became hooked on the data set known as Pitch-f/x. Fast-forward two years, and Pitch-f/x continues to evolve, revolutionizing baseball research in the process. Unfortunately, with updates to system configurations and the amount of information offered, too many readers and baseball fans experience confused reactions similar to mine when they first encounter the data. In an attempt to quash this issue, it seemed prudent to explain some of the more commonly used numbers, discussing what they mean as well as how they should be used. Instead of merely defining terms, the system will be explored in action, with periodic discussions of its inner workings, much as Dan Fox did back in May 2007.
Already well-rewarded for a few years of excellent major league service after uninspiring minor league performances, how'd he get from there to here?
Recently the Rays locked up James Shields to an extension, one that serves both parties very well. Shields gets paid well with a guaranteed contract for a few seasons before he would have been arbitration-eligible, and the Rays win out even if Shields is only a league-average pitcher for the duration of the guaranteed years of the deal. The questions we are interested in today have to do with just what can be expected from Shields in the near future, and how he came to be in his current position.
Is it there, or isn't it? Dan dives into Dice-K's data to find out.
"Hmm. How should I answer that question? I knew this question was coming today. And I was preparing some optional answers for this particular question. Should I say, 'I have that ball?' Or I could say, 'Which particular ball are you referring to?' Or 'Which ball are you calling a gyroball?' Overall, if I have the chance, I will pitch that ball."
--Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka, answering a reporter's question during his first press conference after arriving in Fort Myers for spring training.