In just the second full day of games, we have our first exciting SP MLB debut in Brady Singer of the Royals.
The scouting report was simple: expect constant strikes with his lively two-seamer, whiffs from his slider, and a changeup that’s saved to fade away against left-handers. Singer held an average 10% SwStr in Triple-A last year, but his 22% strikeout rate spoke to a few more called strikes than normal.
That means dotted corners, surprise two-seamers, and less of the razzle-dazzle that we normally expect from a shiny new prospect.
Or at least that’s what I expected. Here’s what I saw.
He overthrew the first pitch to César Hernández (adrenaline does that!) but came back with this 95 mph two-seamer on the inside corner:
Man, this kid works fast. After establishing the inside corner, Singer surprised Hernández with this beautiful 85 mph slider:
At 1-2, Singer went back to the slider, landing just under the zone and induced a groundout. Great to see this ability with a secondary pitch early.
After missing up to start the at-bat against José Ramírez, he turned to a slider 1-0 that should have gotten the call. Love the confidence with his breaker:
He missed with his fastball away turning the count 3-0, came back with a fast to get to 3-1, but then this happened just a pitch away from a walk:
Whoa, a 3-1 slider to Ramirez. In the dirt. And it worked. You really don’t see pitchers in debuts focus on breaking stuff in the first inning as normally it’s “establish your heater and we’ll go from there.” This slider is obviously a major part of what Singer does.
The next pitch reinforced that notion. Singer bounced a slider 3-2 in the dirt for ball four and I was in shock. I like the confidence, but the adrenaline may be getting in the way of his performance.
After missing with a fastball inside 1-0, Singer fired a heater well in the zone for a lazy fly to right off the bat of Francisco Lindor. Good. He attacked with a fastball and wasn’t beat on it. Not the greatest fastball, but having success with a fastball in the strikezone is an obvious check-mark on the clipboard.
Quick note, there’s a zip to Singer’s heater right now. Maybe it’s the quickness of his delivery, but there’s an extra zing on each of these two-seamers.
It seems Singer loves that two-seamer riding back over the plate against lefties. He did just that for the first two pitches to Carlos Santana to climb to a two-strike count:
At 0-2, I imagined Singer would favor the changeup or slider, but Salvador Perez called a high heater and Singer delivered. It worked, but clearly wasn’t the best pitch call:
I like the idea of elevated heaters, I wonder if his two-seamer has too little rise to be a proper high fastball whiff machine, and I hope we’ll see sliders of a changeup replace that 0-2 pitch vs. lefties in the future.
Speaking of that changeup…where is it? We’re through four batters and it’s nowhere to be found. I’m excited for more.
I want to sidetrack for a moment before we head to the second inning. I both like and hate Singer’s approach toward home. His pace is phenomenal – see the sign, go right away – as it keeps his momentum flowing and puts batters on their heels. I do worry a little that his windup is too fast, preventing him to repeat his release point and timing on each pitch, something that is imperative if you are a slinger as it’s often harder to nail down that timing when throwing cross-body.
I wonder if this will make Singer inconsistent through the full game, especially with his heater.
After earning a 1-2 count from a pair of fastballs, Singer showed off what he can do with his slider. Watch him debilitate Franmil Reyes with a perfect slider on the corner:
There’s Singer’s first strikeout of his career. While I think his slider will miss some bats, I do wonder if the nature of his heater will cause at-bats to end earlier from aggressive hitters. We’ll see if he can strike the right balance moving forward (and we haven’t even seen his changeup yet!).
The first pitch to Daniel Johnson is a beauty, a fastball that drops and tails just off the outside corner, forcing a weak foul ball for strike one:
If Singer can nail this consistently, it will earn fouls and outs constantly to batters on both sides of the plate. Lovely.
Great 0-1 slider from Singer that fell to the ankles of Johnson. No bite on the rod, but you love to see that ability and the approach is great.
Instead of going back to the heater, Singer showed off this 1-1 pitch:
A changeup! It wasn’t as low as I’d want, allowing Johnson to get decent wood on it, but it was far enough away and still enticing to get the flyout. I’m not in love with it as much as I thought I would be – from a sample size of one, it doesn’t look to have the whiffability we’re looking for – but it certainly works.
With two outs, Singer turned to his slider for an easy first-pitch strike on the outside corner to Oscar Mercado:
Don’t underestimate a pitcher who can execute this pitch constantly. It’s a free strike often and those looking for heaters will frequently swing over the top of it even in deeper counts.
Singer tried to go back to the slider, but missed too far away, leading to this heater in the zone for a grounder:
It’s not a perfect heater and got a whole lot of the plate. I think Singer was a little fortunate to get a groundout on a 1-1 fastball close to middle-middle, but I may not be giving his fastball’s enough credit for its deceptive vertical drop.
Moving forward, I love Singer’s approach to attack the zone with a slider that can miss bats. I do worry if his fastball command is a little too unruly at the moment and if his changeup is good enough to survive more times through the lineup. Let’s find out.
Roberto Perez stepped in for the third inning, quickly getting to a 1-1 count on two fastballs, the latter a meaty heater in the zone.
Singer turned 1-1 to a slider that fell in for a strike, which you love to see. Now 1-2, he threw a slider nearly identical to the one that got Franmil Reyes, but a little farther out as Perez wisely resisted:
Perez may have been fooled but lucked out as the pitch just fell off the plate. Singer was so close to another K on the board.
So Singer did it again. And better:
I absolutely love this. Singer saw that Perez was fooled and had the confidence to throw a more tempting pitch that Perez couldn’t lay off again. Singer executed. Singer got results. Fantastic.
With one out, Bradley Zimmer stepped in and took a 94 mph heater that fell just off the plate, but delivered a strike call. A missed fastball alter and at 1-1 against a lefty, Singer turned to his changeup for the second time this game:
Ohhh I like this pitch. A lot. More times than not, this pitch is swung on and dribbled toward third base for an out. It had more fade that the first one to Johnson, and I hope Singer’s future changeups look more like this one than the former.
Knowing Singer, at 2-1 and behind in the count, Zimmer expected a slider to help steal a strike and get back in the count. Unfortunately for Singer, the pitch was in Zimmer’s wheelhouse:
I dig the approach and it almost got an out, but Singer has to throw a better one. Anywhere but there, really.
The lineup turned back around and Singer pumped an inside two-seamer to César Hernández. Still loving that inside heater to left-handers, though I imagine he understood Zimmer’s ability to turn on these easily and held back in the previous at-bat.
After going inside, Singer elected to work the outside part of the plate and Hernández made him pay:
This is the major problem with Singer. Two-seamers are easier to put in play as their movement can often follow the trail of the bat. This pitch started on the inside corner and trailed away, getting staying in the zone the entire way and Hernández was able to stay with it to slap a single to center. It’s harder to do that with four-seamers as they can dive above barrels, resulting in pop-ups or whiffs.
Now with runners on first-and-second with the mighty Jose Ramirez at the plate, the typical approach is to throw a first-pitch breaking ball as many big boppers look for a fastball to crush early. Singer threw the slider and Ramirez, being Ramirez, didn’t allow it:
It was a questionable pitch. I like the idea of a slider, but not here, the danger zone for lefties as Ramirez was able to drop the barrel of the bat and knock in a run. Maybe a touch of bad luck as it could have been a double-play ball, but nevertheless, this slider either needs to be farther down or on the outside corner, not a strike, down-and-in.
It got harder for Singer as Francisco Lindor followed, now with men on first and third. Singer missed up badly with a heater, but earned a foul with a slider to get to 1-1 before this pitch:
It’s exactly the same pitch JoRam slapped for a single, but it resulted in a whiff here. That’s baseball. That’s also sequencing (Lindor looked bad on the previous pitch), but you get the point.
Seeing a slider whiff, Singer wisely went back to the pitch at 1-2 and got the well-deserved strikeout:
Great recognition inside the moment. Lindor struggled to hit the slider at 1-0 and 1-1, and went back to it for the third pitch in a row to get a much needed out.
Now with two outs, Singer was feeling his slider and tossed one right down the middle. Carlos Santana fouled it off and the confidence is still soaring. Does he go back to it for the 5th pitch in a row?
He did, but it missed inside. Now 1-1, you have to think it’s another fastball…
Nope. He deserved that call. The brass! Absolutely love it, even in a difficult location like that.
So now 2-1 Singer went with a slider. Again. I haven’t seen that since Lance McCullers Jr. in October 2017. He nipped the top of the zone as it got a little away from him, but it’s strike two.
At 2-2 Singer went with his eighth. Slider. In. A. Row:
So many thoughts. Eight sliders in a row in absolutely bold and I feel bad for Singer. It’s uncharacteristic for Perez to allow a ball to get this far enough away to score the runner from third and you don’t want to regret that pitch call given the result.
Now 3-2 Singer threw his ninth slider in a row and got the out. I can’t believe I just typed that. Kids these days.
Through three frames, Singer is using his slider religiously. I’m in shock as I envisioned a two-seamer heavy arm with a complementary slider and changeup. What I got was a slider focused slinger without the sparkling command of a two-seam specialist, while his changeup sits neglected in the corner. I’m not complaining, just surprised.
Ten. Sliders. In. A. Row. He can’t keep getting away with it. Maybe he can, as that started the fourth with a strike.
Finally, he went a heater and despite missing it so badly above the zone, Franmil Reyes swung out of his pants for strike two. Wild.
The non-breaking ball world didn’t last long as Singer returned to the slider at 0-2 for his fourth K of the game:
It’s working and I can’t complain about it. I really hope it’s always like this.
With lefty Daniel Johnson up next, Singer went back to a heavy fastball approach…and I can see why he focused on so many sliders. This may have been something Singer discussed with Salvy in-between innings as he’s not featuring the heater command I was expecting to see.
Okay, just kidding. At 3-2, Singer displayed that pristine command with a fantastic fastball on this inside corner to freeze Johnson for the backward K:
Glorious. If you asked me what pitch I was hoping to see today, it was this one. A pitcher who primarily throws two-seamers should be able to nail the front-hip heater. I’m glad to see Singer can.
At two outs, Singer tossed a poor slider followed by two fastballs over that plate, the latter of which pounded into the ground for an out. A much needed one-two-three inning for Singer.
He looked a bit better here, but I haven’t seen his two-seamer jam right-handers yet and I’ve only seen a pair of changeups. I’m not sure his massive dosage of sliders is enough at the moment and it could get tough in the fifth and sixth.
Singer began the inning with a perfect slider to Robert Perez:
And guess what, after getting to two strikes, Singer did it again.
I’m very impressed with this breaking ball today. Given his overall 10% SwStr rate, I didn’t anticipate a putaway pitch like this slider. It may be because he’s featuring it so heavily, preventing at-bats to end with his heater per usual. I just need to see consistent fastball command and a more present changeup to make me sold at this point.
Bradley Zimmer is back in the box and after getting 0-2 quickly with a pair of fastballs, Singer falls to 2-2 after missing badly with a heater and slider. Great to see a 2-2 fastball result in a can-of-corn to left, though it was a bit hittable slightly up and out over the plate.
Back at the top of the order, Singer fell behind César Hernández with a pair of sliders in the dirt, but fired this elegant heater for strike one:
I absolutely love this. I want more. If Singer can consistently nail this up-and-in surprise two-seamer to lefties, he’ll be a pesky arm to face. Singer got to 2-2 with a nearly identical pitch, a little higher up but earned the favorable call, but ended in a walk after a poor slider and a fastball that just fell off the outside corner.
At 74 pitches, José Ramírez returned to the plate. Singer featured a blend of sliders and heaters – including a slider mirroring the RBI single JoRam had in the 3rd, but this time ending in a whiff – before finishing with a 3-2 heater that would have gone for ball four if JoRam hadn’t gone around on a check swing:
It wasn’t a dominant at-bat and left me with a feeling of good fortune over dominance. Regardless, Singer’s seventh strikeout on his final pitch of his game. I’ll take seven strikeouts in five any day of the week.
I’m amazed to see a 40% (32/80) CSW from Singer today. His fastball had its moment but also was a bit more erratic than I’d like to see – not entirely surprising given the low arm angle paired with a tilted wrist that gets Singer on the side of the ball on release. It amplifies horizontal movement but also makes it a bit more unruly. I’m in the camp that would rather see pinpointed four-seamers than relying on the aggressive lateral movement, but it worked today. Hopefully it works tomorrow.
The slider was the king in this one and easily was the most impressive part of his game. I didn’t expect to see nearly 50% usage on the pitch, nor a 26% SwStr on the breaker, but I loved his confidence to throw it whenever he needed a strike, even in a 3-1 count.
This game leaves me with two major questions: Will Singer be able to lean this much on his slider moving forward? If his slider isn’t returning a 26% SwStr rate, will his fastball command be good enough and will his changeup be able to carry a heavier load? I’m leaning no for the latter, but possible yes for the former.
I’m curious to see more from Singer. This wasn’t the strongest lineup out there and what we saw today could be a misrepresentation of what we see over the long-haul, with fewer whiffs and a foundation rooted in fastballs returning outs. For now, I’m excited to have a new Royals arm to keep a close eye on.
(Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire)