[originally published Feb 19, but most people probably missed it, so we've re-dated it.]
Pitching mechanics have become a hot topic of late. I often (but not always) talk about a pitcher's delivery in my Top 11 Prospects series, but it has really gone one step further, with any number of people and websites breaking things down, often in a way that is, frankly, just wrong. I'm not saying they're all bad, but I've also seen some laughably bad analysis out there. I've tried to discuss it in chats a few times, but for whatever reason, it finally crystalized for me during an e-mail interview with the folks at Phuture Phillies, which can be read in its entirety here.
phuturephillies: Phillippe Aumont seems like one of the more polarizing prospects among Phillies fans right now. On the plus side, you have the big arm strength and great sinker, which will play well in Citizens Bank Park, but on the downside, I’ve seen some criticisms of his mechanics, and he does throw across his body. How much should we worry about him breaking down, and will it be better for his arm to potentially be pitching three days in a row, or once every five days? With his fastball being as good as it is, can he be a mid-rotation starter even if his curveball and changeup are just average big-league pitches?
Kevin Goldstein: I’m not saying his mechanics are perfect, but unless you are talking to a scout or listening to a pitching coach, I wouldn’t worry too much about what people say about a pitcher’s mechanics. Again, I have no idea where these criticisms you mention are coming from, so I might be totally barking up the wrong tree, but there’s a lot of people out there masquerading as some kind of mechanics expert, and it’s all quite silly. Does he throw across his body? Absolutely. Is he off-balance on landing? Absolutely. Will he get hurt? Maybe. But that’s the life of the pitcher. You a big Felix Hernandez fan? You think he’s good? I sure do, but those are hardly pretty mechanics either, but what can you do? You start messing with it, and you don’t have Felix Hernandez anymore. Pitchers get hurt—a lot. Like a crazy amount. It’s part of the game, and it’s just something we might be better off accepting. Watching grainy YouTube videos in an attempt to figure out who and when is a fool’s errand. Ok, now that I’m done ranting, back to Aumont. I think he could definitely be a mid-rotation guy, but I also think he can be much more if some things work out. The fastball really is a special pitch. I’ve seen the guy in person on multiple occasions, and it’s very, very hard to find that kind of velo/movement combination in a fastball, and he will flash a plus breaker. There’s a lot of upside here, it just comes with some risk. How many high-upside prospects don’t come with a lot of risk? You don’t need more than one hand to count them. Man, I went on way too long there.