Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Ace (Part I)


I'm still grinding out signability questionnaires and face-to-face interviews in Georgia. Let's just say that I was at a four-year college to watch a junior pitcher that Goldie flagged as having an abnormally high ground ball to fly ball ratio. Manny had scouted the same kid coming out of high school several years back and saw some potential there as well. So I didn't think it would be a complete waste of my time. After all, the kid was drafted near the 20th round coming out of HS but opted to accept a scholarship with the university instead.

He spent the last two years in and out of the starting rotation. Good new is that he's a proven survivor with a reputation of getting himself out of jams on a regular basis. Bad news is that he finds himself in one too many jams on a regular basis.

Anyhow, when we arrived at the field about an hour before the game, we thought we saw him in the bullpen playing cards. Not a great first impression. Especially since he was penciled-in as the starting pitcher. Sure enough, we watched him take the mound after a lackluster pen.

The righty was your classic breaking ball pitcher. Curves. Sliders. Slurves. All were released from a high three quarters slot with a nasty arc that looped pretty wide. You could tell that he had a high degree of confidence in his break and did not have much difficulty coming inside on R/H batters. On those rare occasions when he did miss, it was in the dirt at 59 feet. He also did an excellent job of mixing in both off-speed and fastballs to maximize deception. His fastball, however, needed the most work. It always seemed to be low and away with below average velocity. A very tentative delivery and hardly ever the same release point. It also seemed that he was only throwing two-seamers which tailed erratically. This is where he needs to improve if he wants to go any further.

But he certainly has the tools to improve. It would, however, take a considerable amount of time for him to obtain enough confidence to come inside on both R/H and L/H batters while increasing his velocity. In other words, he was another project. But after watching him pitch, we both agreed that he was worth the undertaking and stuck around to have a conversation with him.

I can honestly say that our conversation was an experience all in its own. It was the first time that I ever had a player tell me that he was seriously deciding on being a professional poker player instead of pursuing a career in baseball . . .

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