Welcome to a roll-up-your-sleeves weekly video review of prospect pitchers. These aren’t the “best outings” of the week per se, but rather an attempt to keep abreast of prospects’ development, getting a leg up on our dynasty opponents. There was a mid-season rank dropped 7/8 (link), but ranks aren’t our main focus. Watching, reporting, keeping tabs on investments, and catching new names.
NOTE: There will be no installment next week as it’s the All-Star Break. Any games reviewed this weekend will be included in the following weeks’ piece.
Nick Frasso, High-A Vancouver (Tor)
|The 2020 fourth-rounder struck out ten in four scoreless during his high-A debut. This second outing wasn’t that.|
And here is the lone strikeout:
Unable to review the impressive-looking debut, it’s hard to say what was different, but finishing off hitters was a struggle after getting ahead 0-2 or 1-2 on several occasions. The arsenal has bite, but it may be a weapon short of attacking all parts of the zone, specifically up. Not a deal breaker, but it could limit him. Frasso’s career has barely started and there are ingredients to be optimistic about, but this outing didn’t inspire sounding of the dynasty alarm. Perhaps next time does?
#54 Jordan Wicks, High-A South Bend (ChC)
|The 2021 first-rounder, and personal dynasty investment, put together this best pro outing as the polish and work on the breakers is showing.|
We last looked-in 5/19 wondering why the highly touted lefty wasn’t putting up better numbers in high-A and we found a whole lot of sliders. Sliders weren’t the reason he got paid the way he did. The big polished nasty is the changeup. It’s clear there’s a concerted effort to improve the spin. The following pitch is one of my favorite of the season:
Shook off the slider in a 1-2 count to get to the curveball, which he threw wildly a few pitches earlier. My man. This is pitching to be a better major leaguer. Wicks could probably run through high-A on his multiple mid-90s fastballs and the monster changeup, but he’s making concerted efforts to become a better breaking ball pitcher. The slider looked markedly improved from our May look, and now he’s polishing the curveball. So many lefties with nasty changeups but no spin have broken my heart in the past. This was awesome to see. The curveball still needs working, particularly commanding it, but there are obvious strides being made. Wicks’ five-pitch attack wasn’t the tightest performance viewed this year, but he executed fairly well. The two walks were a bit questionable and the lone hit sure looked like a guess a fastball was coming. Other than those three baserunners, Wicks was absolutely dominating hitters who had no clue what was coming. Here are the ten strikeout pitches. One of the three fastballs below, I think, was a two-seamer:
Wicks is proving to be an example of how jumping to stat line conclusions might not tell the story well. Wicks is working on rounding out a diverse arsenal housing all the gears and all the movements. My guess is we see him in double-A soon, as the last few outings have been like this. This kind of stuff gets me pumped! Like top 10 pumped.
SUNDAY UPDATE: Wicks gave up three runs on two home runs over three innings of work.
#79 Freddy Tarnok, Triple-A Gwinnett (Atl)
|The 2017 third-rounder’s triple-A debut held great results he probably didn’t deserve.|
Wondering if he was amidst a break-thru after a four double-A start stretch (21 IP) whereupon he allowed four runs, had a WHIP under one and struck out 31 compared to four walks, Tarnok was promoted to triple-A. The big weapon is the curveball. Along with it, a mid-90s fastball and changeup were the main mix this outing. There’s a slider as well, but it didn’t come out much. Tarnok’s arsenal is big league capable, the efficiency and consistency of execution have been the bugaboo. On this day, the command and efficiency weren’t great while there was a poor groove-a-fastball-down-the-middle-in-three-ball-counts plan that cannot sustain itself. The line was pretty, but the contact was very loud. There were three warning track flyouts, a flyout up against the wall, hard lineouts to both infielders and outfielders, and sharp ground balls. Fortunately for Tarnok, this was the only scoring Durham could muster:
For unknown reasons, I was keyed in on his battles against Xavier Edwards. Here are the three at-bats in their entirety:
One of the four strikeout pitches didn’t get caught on camera. Here is the other one outside the two Edwards’ strikeouts:
Tarnok may not be amidst a big breakthrough, but his career is one step away from the bigs. There seems to be plenty of polish still needed, but it was nice to see his stuff get away with poor locations and simplistic usage. This was a bit of a hot mess that didn’t get punished. Tarnok has an opportunity to round things into shape in Gwinett, but I don’t feel great about any streamer situations popping up. Tarnok feels quite raw for a triple-A arm.
Richard Gallardo, Single-A Myrtle Beach (ChC)
|After a five-inning outing whereupon he struck out none, the 20-year-old struck out everyone with an overwhelming fastball/curveball attack.|
Gallardo’s previous strike-out high as a pro was seven. Out of nowhere he sat down 13 and got my curiosity. Gallardo’s been putting up middling single-A numbers, but he’s only twenty years old with a deep arsenal; four-seam, two-seam, a “slider” looking more like a cutter, a changeup, and a curveball. During this outing, the fastball and its varietals plus the curveball was the main attack. There were a few changeups and a slider looking unremarkable showing a handful of times. Other than an inning he struck out the last two to get out of a jam, this was it in way of offense:
A look at the strikeout montage really does represent the look of the attack:
Gallardo was fantastic starting off righties with backdoor two-seamers catching black. Then it was a fastball up, curveball. There weren’t a lot of bells and whistles to the pitching, but it sure produced. Again, overwhelming a single-A lineup with a well-used breaker off a good fastball isn’t anything I sound the dynasty alarms over, but there were teases of what could be here. Gallardo wouldn’t have landed on the top 150, but he’s a guy who has ample avenues to grow while stacking up pro experience at a young age.
#61 Jared Jones, High-A Greensboro (Pit)
|The 2020 draft’s 44th selection continues to tease an exciting fantasy future.|
Jones has all the weapons you could ask for; a live fastball capable of upper-90s, two breakers he can spin with the best of them, and a changeup. He’s also proving horsepower at 20 years old, having logged 80.2 IP, showing the ability to hold strong deep into pitch counts, and getting 18 outs or more. But he’s also not producing as a guy with this caliber weaponry should because of inefficiency and not knowing how to optimize them. There may be a little sign of change, but nothing screaming the polish is coming on heavy yet:
Jones doesn’t give us the vibe of a PGA golfer on the teebox, or a professional bowler in the tenth frame. The delivery may lack the repeatability and/or he’s just not the freak muscle-memory guy to be that elite level executioner, but there’s still plenty of time. Dylan Cease didn’t get there overnight, and that’s what this dream outcome could be, with ample nasty still growing, and glimpses of a pitcher forming. If Jones can take a step similar to Mike Burrows this last year, this is a top shelf fantasy pitching prospect.
Bubba Chandler, Single-A Bradenton (Pit)
|The two-way 2021 third-rounder took a full-season mound for the first time, and it looked like it.|
A pitch’s name is given to it by the man throwing it, not Savant. Chandler’s curveball is called a slider above. His slider is called a cutter above. The sinker was another four-seamer, the curveball was his curveball, and there were more than two changeups, as one was called a cutter and one fastball. Savant measures a pitch’s characteristics, but for our purposes, knowing what the pitcher was trying to throw is what matters. The following at-bat is a good example, as the catcher signs were slider/curveball/curveball:
There’s no question Chandler’s inconsistent with his two breaking balls, in both spin and shape, but slow this batted ball down if you like and check out the grip. It’s no fastball:
Regardless of all this Savant stuff, the above illustrates how the two first-inning runs came to be. This was an exciting young baseball player’s full-season pitching debut though, and there’s a big fastball to anchor a bright future:
The secondaries aren’t void of potential either:
Chandler was far from in control of things up there. None of the offerings were executed particularly well. The mound presence has a lot of energy to it, but was it scared nervous energy or a horse in the starting gates kind of energy? Chandler has ample arsenal to dominate a single-A lineup and we’ll see how much pitching comes to him, as there’s plenty of space for growth. It will be interesting how long the two-way stuff lasts. So far he’s showing reasons to keep both sides going, but it could cause a slow progression on both ends.
T.J. Sikkema, High-A Hudson Valley (NYY)
|The 2019 draft’s 38th pick is finally getting his pro career rolling…like a locomotive through butter.|
With under 11 pro innings logged heading into the season, the former Missouri reliever is turning heads in what is essentially the start of his pro career. During his first 36.1 IP; 2.48 ERA, 0.83 WHIP, 13.38 K/9, 2.23 BB/9, 68 S%. This was his longest outing to date, pitch count-wise, and it’s unclear what the future plans are in terms of role, but he was dominant setting down the first 15 batters faced, perfect until a 2-2 back-foot breaking ball clipped Gilberto Jimenez. Sikkema struck out the next batter to get through five having only faced 16. Sikkema was inside/outside, up/down, fast/slow, slower, medium…just tying these guys in knots.
Sikkema’s attack isn’t about power, but rather a tricky wide angle, varying speeds, maybe even varying breaks, and locating. I haven’t seen Sikkema enough to know if the different shaped breakers are intentional or not, but it sure made for pretty pitching. Here are his ten strikeout pitches and don’t quote me on all of them:
The sixth inning got away in terms of command. The only real hard contact of the day was here after a walk (McDonough would later score after a steal and fielder’s choice to account for all the scoring):
Longing to see more, there are exciting aspects to Sikkema’s profile. Curious to see more of his stuff and learn if he is really a master of his secondaries or more inconsistent. Sikkema will be interesting to watch this second half, especially if they accelerate his level and try to get the 23-year-old caught up for time lost. Don’t be fooled by a lack of power as the strikeout upside is there.
#59 Mason Montgomery, Double-A Montgomery (TB)
|The 2021 sixth-rounder has racked up 103 strikeouts since we last saw him on 4/23. Drawing the best offense in the league for his double-A debut, he didn’t disappoint.|
There’s no denying the results of Montgomery’s first full pro season. The strikeouts coming from his three pitch attack, out of a deceptive short-armed slot, stem from hitters unable to recognition pitches until too late. I assume some pitch analysis stuff will point toward the fastball shaped in a desired fashion. Here are the six strikeout pitches from this double-A debut:
There were back to back walks in the second inning, against the meat of the Birmingham order, and then back to back singles later to the meat of the order, but other than that, Montgomery overwhelmed while throwing strikes. Montgomery hasn’t convinced he’s an execution machine, but he enacts a plan well enough for this level. There are glimpses of what I question happening at the major league level, namely the attack isn’t going to have longevity moving through lineups multiple times. Here’s a second look by a hitter who has logged major league time:
The stats will get people’s attention, but it’s fair to ask if the attack is short a dimension of big time fantasy appeal. The Rays will certainly find a use for him, and he could very well find a fantasy role too, but in a quest for the next fantasy ace, this isn’t it for me.
#24 DL Hall, Triple-A Norkolk (Bal)
|The 2017 first-rounder is knocking on the big league door, showing multiple weapons capable of piling up strikeouts.|
Durability and horsepower have been question marks, but whether or not Hall can execute pitches at the requisite level of an MLB starter might be the biggest mystery. There are signs Hall is wrangling the juicy four-to-five-pitch mix:
There were breakers involved in the attack, but the fastball/changeup combo was doing its thing and then some. Hall didn’t silent the lingering efficiency and command questions though. He did well enoug throwing strikes and kept pitches off the middle of the plate, but there were still plenty of deep counts, misses, and a few walks. There’s no doubt Hall has taken strides in way of command, but I’m skeptical we ever get a precision monster, which tampers the dynasty excitement. Hall’s chance to strikeout 15 MLB hitters on a day and give his Stans a chance to rub it in my face should be coming soon.
PPL&R 2022 Top 10 Outings
(This season’s outings that WOW’d us or got us thinking about a player in a different, positive manner.)
Graphic by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)