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 last week (link), but ranks aren’t our main focus. Watching, reporting, keeping tabs on investments, and catching new names.
(Note: If you are on your phone, turn it horizontal to view the entirety of the game line tables.)
#112 Jack Kochanowicz, Single-A Inland Empire (LAA)
|The 2019 third-round prep out of Pennsylvania put on a clinic with his three-pitch nasty.|
TOP 10 ALERT! This isn’t a big name nor anyone who looked to be trending up, but it was a glimpse into the Angels’ hopes for Kochanowicz. COVID and injuries impeded the start of his career, but he’s now five starts into 2022 and the mid-90s fastball/curveball/changeup attack looked outstanding, particularly the curveball. This was some of the best combinations of overwhelming stuff meets good execution reviewed in Single-A this season. Some of the curveballs would’ve given MLB hitters no chance, let alone Rancho Cucamonga hitters. Here are the eight strikeout pitches:
The fastball velocity peaked at 96 mph, per broadcast, as it flew over bats. The majority of the first time through the lineup, hitters got fastball/curveball. The second and third times through, the changeup came out. It’s clearly the low-man on his arsenal totem pole, but there seemed a concerted effort to keep it involved, which I enjoyed. Not surprisingly, it was mostly responsible for the little offense the Quakes mustered:
Kochanowicz challenged himself by throwing all his offerings in all sorts of counts, and when the secondaries were executed well, he made hitters look silly. None moreso than Luis Rodriguez who went 0-3 with three strikeouts:
The Angels invested heavily in Kochanowicz, who’s been swept under the rug by most dynasty owners, but there’s a more than interesting set of tools here. The bugaboo has been the secondary command. This day it was there and it was punching below its weight. There will be plenty of ups and downs, but put Kochanowicz on the watch list for this second half, while other managers turn their attention off.
#99 Cristian Mena, High-A Winston-Salem (CWS)
|Three starts into a high-A promotion, the teenager easily shut down a Wilmington lineup.|
The 19-year-old is cutting his High-A teeth to a tune of 2.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 7.07 K/9, 3.21 BB/9, and 64 S% over a small three-start, 14-inning sample. Not bad production for a teenager at a new level. This outing was his best to date, albeit against a questionable quality of lineup. Our 5/18 review saw that he typically had a good, well-commanded curveball at Single-A, not one that lit the world on fire.
Tuning into this outing, the attack had a different feel to it, which was exciting to see the diversity of attacks. Taking a look at that 5/18 outing, I was referencing a two-seam fastball he started incorporating later in the outing. In this outing, a changeup, which I didn’t notice at all back in 5/18, was a big part of his attack. Wondering if what I called a two-seamer was actually a changeup, but my retro-sleuthing didn’t think this to be the case; either way, there may have been some changeups used on 5/18 that I missed. However, my conclusion is that the pitch I referenced then has a different pace than this day’s changeup. These things can be tricky and 100% accuracy without the help of some technology is impossible for me.
Mena’s working with a four to five-pitch attack that he’s proving can have a different mix given the day. The fastball isn’t overpowering right now and will probably govern his dynasty value, but here’s an advanced pitcher capable of optimizing his tools. His execution isn’t off the charts, but his ability to offer quality, competitive offerings from a slew of pitch choices can be too much for this caliber of hitter. Wilmington could hardly square him up. Here are the two hits and only baserunners allowed on the day:
A profile like this is going to naturally bring on questions of strikeout upside. I’m not writing off his chances of growing into more swing and miss, especially if some velocity and/or fastball growth takes place. Here are the five strikeout pitches from the day:
Mena became more interesting after this review. There’s a foundation of a real crafter here, and I don’t mean this in a negative sense. In a system lacking pitching excitement, Mena might get a whole lot of developmental attention and should have us moderately deep-leaguers too.
SUNDAY UPDATE: 5 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 3 BB, 6 K.
(Aka, exploring the far reaches of the execution spectrum.)
Maddux Bruns, Single-A Rancho Cucamonga (LAD)
|The all-mighty Dodgers’ first-round project continues to look a hot mess.|
The control problems were well known, yet the Dodgers went ahead and took the $2.2M gamble on the older prep lefty with big raw stuff. Through 22.2 innings scattered across 11 appearances, it doesn’t appear much progress has been made. This outing only lasted five batters. Four of them walked and one hit a double. The only out was a caught stealing. Inland Empire successfully stole two bases. There were two wild pitches, a passed ball when his catcher tried to steal a strike for him, and a balk scoring a man from third. To boot, one of the nine strikes earned was an automatic strike for a hitter’s delay. Over his season’s 22.2 innings, Bruns has walked 22 while striking out an impressive 38. If there’s some silver lining, strikes have actually come in at a 60% clip. Yet he’s taking 20 pitches to get through an inning. Much like this outing, my other look-ins have seen hitters fouling off a lot of fastballs. Hitters spoiling the tough pitches to get strikes doesn’t make it easier. Here’s a montage of the nightmare outing:
You can have all the sexy pitches in the world, but I want nothing to do with this kind of project. Many pitching coaches will tell you there might not be great ways to coach up command. Some guys either have it or figure it out with repetition. Bruns’ case might be more of a mental yips thing, but I don’t care. I can pluck talent as a dynasty manager in ways the Dodgers and their overzealous plan(?) can’t. I’m not buying there is a reward large enough to make this risk worth it. If the Dodgers pull it off, I’ll never question a single thing they ever do again.
#148 Nick Zwack, High-A Brooklyn (NYM)
|The 2021 17th-rounder out of Xavier is pushing for his second promotion of the year after his most productive pro outing.|
Sometimes a late-round college selection will get the fast-track “here’s your chance to prove it, no time for hiccups” treatment. Zwack may be on it after receiving a promotion after three Single-A outings, and he’s proving it, looking ready for more. We’ll see if a Double-A chance is around the near corner, but the 23-year-old may have put the final touch on his conquering of High-A. Now after 10 High-A starts, he’s gone 46 IP, 1.37 ERA, 0.85 WHIP, 9.78 K/9, 1.96 BB/9, 68 S%, and .178 BAA.
This was primo filling-up-the-zone, especially to start. Something like 24 of his first 29 pitches were strikes, and there were intentional chase oferings. With no gun graphic and a blurry broadcast, sleuthing the arsenal was a little tricky, but the attack was mostly a four-seam fastball said to be hitting 94 mph and a cutter (or hard slider). There was a more obvious lower slider tossed in. There were a few changeups too, but the fastball/slutter combo gave Aberdeen such a hard time, the changeup wasn’t needed. All four of the offerings were executed marvelously. It is fair to question whether he’ll be able to get away with some large chunks of the plate in the upper levels though. A lot of how we might value Zwack could depend on under-the-hood information I’m not privy to. Is there some subtle sorcery happening unbeknownst to the eye? I tend to think so. The arsenal doesn’t appear to be overtly nasty, but it produced swing and miss. There weren’t a ton of balls put into play, but when there was, the contact got loud. There were also at-bats full of fought-off offerings. Here are the only two hits allowed:
Here are the 10 strikeout pitches:
This wasn’t much different feeling than our Andrew Abbott review in way of putting the pressure on, albeit with, perhaps, lesser stuff. Zwack attacks relentlessly, giving hitters no room to breathe. Zwack rarely got behind in a count and continued to challenge. As a fan of pitching, I absolutely loved this outing, but to be a dynasty asset we really value, the “stuff” question needs a better answer than I have now. From an execution standpoint, this was as impressive as we’ve seen all season, and lands in our top 10.
#116 Mitchell Parker, High-A Wilmington (Was)
|The 2020 fifth-rounder out of New Mexico continues to impress with his undersold stuff.|
After a leadoff walk and subsequent RBI single by the first two batters of the game, this was top 10 caliber. There would be an infield single, an error, and three more walks but spread out, it never felt the Dash was a threat to him. There was a loud fly-out later in the outing, but hard contact was otherwise null. Parker had this lineup beat mentally and physically.
We don’t get a great angle here, and we didn’t get many catcher signs. The fastball hits the mid-90s. The broadcast liked to say he was throwing a two-seamer “running glove side”, but they may have meant cutter. There’s a curveball, and maybe we saw a few sliders at the end. The splitter looks like an interesting pitch, and there may even be a separate off-speed in a more traditionally shaped changeup. Parker might have two parachutes moving in opposite horizontal directions, as the splitter looks to have glove-side action. Here are a few complete at-bats ending in strikeouts. There are definitely mislabeled pitches here, as some “splitters” may actually be breaking balls. Slow it down and try and sleuth the grips if you like. It’s not easy with him. Regardless, here you go:
Parker just annihilated those guys. All the stated secondary confusion and the optics of these two at-bats are misleading the story though. The real story was his fastball (and pretty sure with cut action too). This was a very heavy fastball outing and he made the Dash look silly with the hard stuff, at one point striking out five in a row. Here are the 12 strikeout pitches:
Even if I’m clueless about what he was throwing, this outing really impressed. Walks have been a bit of an issue this season from the high lefty arm slot, but it’s not much of his history and he’s not wasting many bullets. Parker wasn’t wild, as almost all the pitches were competitive. Perhaps his stuff has gotten a little livelier and it takes time to calibrate it all? This guy’s really underrated in my opinion, even by me. I’m excited to see the whole attack against better hitters, and maybe with a radar gun and signs to steal.
#36 Blake Walston, Double-A Amarillo (Arz)
|The lengthy lefty put in a nice day’s work, but still left us longing for more punch.|
Walston has the full, four-pitch starter’s arsenal with the velocity of the fastball sitting low-90s this day. The fastball was the victim during the two batted-balls turned runs scored:
Stadium guns aren’t the most reliable, and Walston’s fastball is said to get up to the mid-90s, but in the last few viewings, it didn’t seem to be much of a trouble pitch for hitters. Walston’s real juice is in the secondaries:
Walston typically works with a fire lit under him, yet he was a bit subdued this day. This wasn’t the crispest version we’ve seen, and he got himself into harmless trouble. Having just turned 21, he is holding his own at this level: Over his last six Texas League starts, he has 32.1 IP, 3.62 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.62 BB/9, and 63 S% and allowed three home runs in a very home run happy league. Questions about the fastball keep Walston a tier lower than I hope we find him soon.
Blayne Enlow, Double-A Wichita (Min)
|Our former #106 showed why he’s probably a top 150 snub, with his capable fastball/curveball attack.|
Enlow’s putting Tommy John surgery behind him and is a guy to keep an eye on for the second half. Pitch counts have stayed below 66 up to this point, but there are flashes of what the Twins’ $2M investment could be. The fastball touches the upper-90s, and the curveball looks like his best secondary. There’s a cutter I may have mislabeled below and a changeup as well. The following is the most “driven” a ball got against him this outing:
After a few infield singles and a walk, Enlow found himself in the only real trouble of the day. Bases loaded with one out (pitch two may have been a cutter):
Unfortunately, the strikeout curveball got through the wickets and allowed the one run on the day. Here are the five strikeout pitches on the day:
Enlow’s sub-3 ERA over his last four starts and one strikeout per inning production over the last six appearances is encouraging. Walks have been an issue, but he doesn’t have the look or history of a guy struggling to command. There are weapons here capable of fantasy rewards.
Andrew Painter, High-A Jersey Shore (Phi)
|Finally getting eyes on the 2021 prep first-rounder, he looked as good as you could dream of for three perfect.|
To answer all the questions about Painter after the top 150 list went out: TOP TEN ALERT! Both our weekly fun list and the overall list. There’s really nothing more you could ask for from a 19-year-old in pro ball. He has a full starter’s arsenal, velocity on fastball, spin, break, and fade on secondaries, ability to spot pitches with intent, ability to have feel for multiple secondaries, size and build you can speculate serves him well, and a nice little subtle fist pump when he gets excited. He was great through three innings this outing. Coming out the gates spotting the whole toolbox well, giving most Hudson Valley hitters no chance. There’s nothing more to say than I’d value him for dynasty about as much as Ricky Tiedemann, Nick Lodolo, Taj Bradley, Gavin Williams, and Eury Perez. Having only a three-inning sample to make such a claim doesn’t bother me either. Here are some gifs of pitches split by inning: (The Jersey Shore graphic will share the situation and velocity. I didn’t want my stupid scribbles on this pretty perfection.)
Painter is the rare first-year pro making the no-prep-pitchers-in-FYPD philosophy look mighty foolish. Teenagers with this much stuff just don’t pitch like this often. It’s a cheat code arsenal meets execution machine fairy tale sort of dream.
#55 Quinn Priester, Double-A Altoona (Pit)
|The 2019 first-rounder put together his best start of the season…and yet the command still got scary.|
Since the last review (6/19), pitch counts have increased, strikes are more frequent, runs are (for the most part) staying off the board, and walks haven’t been chronic. Despite all the good news, there are still the following moments inducing uneasy feelings about the whole thing:
Rodriguez didn’t seem too badly injured but he did leave the game.
Priester has arsenal for days. Not a question. MLB whiffs are in the hard stuff and secondaries. It’s been the execution of the weapons. At just 21 years old, there’s plenty of time to tighten things up. Injuries haven’t helped either, but Priester seems primed to log innings this second half of the season. The execution was probably the best I’ve seen from him, with the attack primarily being fastball and his ridiculously good curveball. Here are the six strikeout pitches:
There were singles and the hit batsman early, but Priester settled in to retire the last ten batters faced, outdueling a top ten pitcher, inducing strikeouts and weak contact when up against it early. I’m still hesitant to value Priester amongst the big pretty boys, but this outing was a step in the right direction. Ditch the scary stuff and sporadic wildness, and it gets much easier to plant the exciting value down.
#7 Gavin Williams, Double-A Akron (Cle)
|The 2021 first-rounders trip into a deep pitch count, didn’t get far in “out years”.|
This is our third look at Williams, and the arsenal looked great again. Fastball was hitting 97 mph, per the broadcast. The curveball was doing its devilish thing, and hitters looked overmatched. Walks are starting to stack up, which isn’t great. During this outing, the three walks contained a total of 23 pitches, all going to full counts, and all potentially robbing him of the third strike. I’m not worried. Williams actually surrendered some extra-base hits, one of which resulted in all the runs allowed by either starter. The triple here led to unnecessary danger (was that really a triple?).
Here are the five strikeout pitches:
We’ve seen Williams tighter than this, but he’s showing he doesn’t need to be his best self to have good outings. That’s typically a required trait for MLB starting pitchers. Williams came up short vs. Priester this time, but William’s relentless offering of competitive pitches will go further than that of Priester.
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)