His prospect stock has seemingly plummeted, but is Gray really worse off now than he was four months ago?
I have been gushing about Gray since he was drafted, and perhaps more impressive than his track record on draft day was the level of improvement within months of the selection. Gray relied mostly on his high-90's fastball and exploding slider while in college, but the Rockies made the refinement of his changeup a focal point in his development. Mandating that he use the pitch in games, the cambio quickly evolved from a theoretically mid-range grade into a pitch that misses bats and fools hitters with deceptive arm speed. Gray was ranked as the 13th overall prospect by the BP crew prior to the season, but his ranking has plummeted since and the right-hander fell off the Mid-season list of Top 50 prospects.
A close look at the mechanics of two starters who've taken steps forward in 2014.
Pitcher breakouts are one of the most exciting aspects of each baseball season, but it’s hard to get riled up about them until we have a healthy chunk of the season in the rearview mirror. The halfway mark of the 2014 campaign has revealed a handful of players who have made great leaps in terms of value, both to their teams and on the stat sheet. Two of those pitchers are particularly intriguing. The Indians’ Corey Kluber and the Angels’ Garrett Richards have ascended to a higher plane of pitching performance this season, so let's dig into the components of each player's improvement.
Looks at the mechanics of two of the Astros' surprise successes, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh.
The Astros have unearthed a couple of legitimate All-Star candidates in their rotation this season, and though neither pitcher fits the “high-ceiling prospect mold” that has become characteristic of the franchise, Dallas Keuchel and Collin McHugh have quickly ascended from afterthoughts to valuable assets for the organization. Is their performance merely a blip on the radar, with regression looming to take each of them down a peg, or are there legitimate reasons to get excited about either of these two pitchers? Let's dig in.
The best of times for Clayton Kershaw coincide with the worst of times for Justin Verlander.
Just 15 months ago, Clayton Kershaw and Justin Verlander were neck-and-neck in any discussion of the top pitchers in the game. The Motor City right-hander owned the American League, and the west coast southpaw ruled over the senior circuit, with each having finished first and second in their respective Cy Young races from 2011–12. They entered the 2013 campaign as the unquestioned aces of competitive clubs, poised to stage another season as kings of the mound, but their careers have taken dramatically different trajectories since then.
A mechanical look at the debuts of a trio of promising pitching prospects: Sonny Gray, Danny Salazar, and Jarred Cosart.
In the week leading up the All-Star break, a trio of American League pitchers made their respective MLB debuts. The rookies were summoned from the minors in a span of three consecutive days and immediately sent into action, only to have each of their tours cut short with a return trip to the bush leagues. The call-ups were well-covered by my BP colleagues, and though the sips of coffee were brief, you can bet that the memories from their first taste of the majors will last a lifetime. Let’s take a mechanical look at what we can expect when this trio returns.
July 10 – Sonny Gray, Oakland at Pittsburgh
The A's tabbed the Vanderbilt product with their first pick in the 2011 draft (no. 18 overall). He was promoted aggressively, receiving an assignment to double-A Midland within two months of being drafted and after just two innings of rookie ball. The numbers from his first full season were less than inspiring, but he has rebounded this season with a sub-3.00 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning in over 100 frames for triple-A Sacramento. The All-Star break precluded the need for a fifth starter in the Oakland rotation, so the A's called up Gray to pitch out of the bullpen while Dan Straily stayed on turn with the River Cats.
Searching for the source of the struggles of Matt Cain and Jeremy Hellickson this season.
Matt Cain and Jeremy Hellickson are similar pitchers, with a likeness that extends to stuff, mechanics, and stats. Both pitchers have fastballs that average 91-92 mph on the gun, with plus command of great off-speed stuff to keep opposing batters off-balance. Each uses a 77-mph curveball around 12 percent of the time, but while Hellickson uses an 80-mph changeup at a 30 percent clip, Cain is a 15 percent cambio guy whose off-speed pitch comes in at a heavy 86 mph on average. He also adds a slider with the same frequency and velocity as his change. I have touted both pitchers for their excellent balance and strong posture, the underlying ingredients of top-notch pitch repetition, although the hurlers also share an affinity toward slow momentum.
Hellickson might be lower on the totem pole and several years Cain's junior, but the negative connotations associated with his profile are eerily reminiscent of those that Cain endured early in his own career. Armchair analysts who choose to focus solely on certain stats and eschew batted-ball numbers due to their inherent volatility have screamed “luck” in a reach to explain the consistently low BABIPs of both pitchers, with constant calls for regression to the league mean. Those same analysts can now be found basking under a cloud of smug, as both Hellickson and Cain are currently in the midst of the worst seasons of their respective careers.
Jason outlined some of the statistical differences in Masterson's 2013 performance, particularly noting his split stats versus left- and right-handed batters. Left-handed batters have accounted for 43 percent of all plate appearances league-wide since 2011, yet they tend to receive the majority of the attention when it comes to pitching strategy. Lefty hitters enjoy multiple advantages, ranging from the head start toward first base they get out of the box to the lesser gloves that typically populate the pull side of the infield (one of whom is tethered to the first-base bag).
Bryce Harper's supernatural baseball gifts have been evident since before he could drive. Today he’s a 20-year-old super-freak who is slugging over .700 in the majors. His rare combination of competitive intensity, Las Vegas moxie, and otherworldly talent has set the stage for a legendary baseball career as the next lightning rod in the game. His raw power grades out as a pure 80 on the scouting ledger, and though such elite marks are extraordinarily rare, the legit five-tool player also has a throwing arm that ranks at the top of the 20-80 scale.