Touching BasesJuly 15, 2010
Stuff of the Futures
By Jeremy Greenhouse

One of my favorite qualities of the incredibly rich PITCHf/x data is that it allows one to analyze a small sample and draw some substantial conclusions about a pitcher. Harry Pavlidis has been publishing his Arms of the Week series for some time, and he's already taken a look at the southpaws of the Futures Game. Twenty-four pitchers unveiled their stuff to a world-wide audience on Sunday, and here's what I got.

When I say that conclusions are there for the drawing, I mean that with a guy like Tanner Scheppers, whose fastball reads 98 miles per hour, we can comfortably say that he could fit right in with the Rangers' bullpen. The Rangers, to their credit, want Scheppers to start, but he's got the classic power fastball you see from late-inning dynamos like Jonathan Broxton, Brian Wilson, and Daniel Bard. Scheppers flashed a breaking pitch twice, which was very solid. As a starter, he profiles as A.J. Burnett 2.0.

Scheppers was the most impressive, whereas Jeremy Hellickson was the most important. Hellickson is breathing down the neck of Wade Davis, and his performance did little to quell the fears of the Rays' fifth starter. Reportedly a pitcher who sits 91-93, Hellickson was able to work at 93-94 with average movement on his fastball. He probably was dialing it up a bit for his brief stint in the limelight. There have been reports that he's been tinkering with a two-seam fastball, and he might have thrown a couple, but I'd say it's his weakest pitch, unless it is used exclusively to same-handed batters. His breaking pitches were fine (he throws two types of curves), he didn't show his cutter, and I try to stay away from analyzing the effectiveness of changeups based on velocity and movement (his was an 84-MPH straight change).

The next-best prospect who pitched was Julio Teheran. He showcased his 96-MPH four-seam fastball, which should be a plus pitch. His breaking stuff is advanced enough that it's easy to see why he would be dominating the low levels of the minors. I'd guess his perfect-world comp would be Josh Beckett.

Henderson Alvarez of the Blue Jays is currently starting, and impressing, in High-A, but to me he profiles more as a right-handed reliever. His best pitch appears to be a sweeping low-80s slider, and his hard fastball runs away from RHBs, so unless his changeup develops into something, Alvarez looks like a sinker/slider guy out of the pen.

Simon Castro has a good enough slider, but his fastball lacked luster. A 91-MPH tailing fastball will get hit in the Majors, so he'll need to cut down on his walk rate. He pitches with very little separation between his fastball and his change.

The Rays' Alexander Torres displayed some strong stuff, but he obviously has trouble commanding it, with a career Minor League walk rate above five per nine. His boring fastball ran 94-95 and he threw one breaking pitch with serious life. Unfortunately, it sailed a foot high. Very similar pitcher to Gio Gonzalez for me.

Trystan Magnuson's best pitch is a cut fastball that comes in at 88, moving across the plate. He also throws a split-finger fastball at 88. And his actual fastball is only a bit harder at 92-93, which makes for a unique repertoire. I don't know how much success it'll have.

What exactly is Anthony Slama the future of? He's 26 years old and he strikes guys out in relief. Fastball, slider, change. He'll destroy righties, but I don't think he'll ever be a closer/setup guy due to his projected massive platoon split.

Jordan Lyles' off-speed stuff has developed past his limited fastball. His changeup dives away from lefties, his slider can neutralize righties, and his curve will most definitely play. But it's telling that in a game where he had to throw a total of 15 pitches, only six of them were fastballs. They say pitching backwards can work in the N.L. Central, though.

Bryan Morris threw exactly one pitch, and oh what a pitch it was. 93.3 miles per hour. Bad movement. 0.38 StuffRV/100. Thanks for coming.

I like Mike Minor. Renowned as a collegiate, command, polished, you might as well say crafty, lefty, he came out with a surprisingly strong fastball. 93 with life. He threw changeups as his other offering, neglecting to toss in a breaking ball.

Stolmy Pimentel's pitch of note is his curve. Thrown at only 72 miles per hour, it moves nearly a foot across the plate, but doesn't drop much at all. Bronson Arroyo has a curveball like that in his arsenal, but not many others do.

Zach Britton threw only fastballs and sliders, but both of those pitches are more than big league ready. He has a hard, heavy sinker that will give lefties nightmares, can add some velocity with his four-seamer, and he boasts a true slider. You just don't see a left-handed pitcher with that biting slider and power fastball too often, and when you do, he can dominate. I think Britton's a stud, and the strikeouts will come.

Shelby Miller's got a live arm, and if you didn't know about his 95-MPH rising fastball, now you do.

Hector Noesi has been terrific this year, with a 6.35 strikeout-to-walk ratio in the minors. One of many Yankees between A and AA dominating the competition. His stuff, highlighted by a 93-MPH heater, does profile as a back-end guy, but that doesn't mean his impeccable command can't pull him to the front end.

Philippe Valiquette might have been throwing two types of fastballs. He might not have been. Tune in next time to find out. Why was this guy pitching in this game? Bleh.

Jeurys Familia dialed it up to 98. I'm very surprised to see that he's a starter in the minors, considering. At 20 years old, he can afford to throw one off-speed pitch out of a dozen offerings. Lots of time to work on that secondary stuff and that command. For now, that velo will do.

Zach Wheeler, a 2009 draft pick, throws hard, and he threw a single changeup with extreme movement. Very good changeup. He didn't get a chance to use his curve, which he called his out pitch last year.

Christian Friedrich threw three fastballs, and that was it. It was a rising fastball, and you never know how that will play in Coors.

Eduardo Sanchez also threw nothing but fastballs. A couple ticks harder than Friedrich, but he doesn't have the advantage of being left-handed. The most interesting note about Sanchez is that he was born a week apart from me. Therefore, I will pretend to be his distant cousin in order to obtain free access to Redbirds games. He will gain more from our relationship than I ever could.