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 an offseason rank after a massive video review (link to offseason review series and rank list), but ranks aren’t our main focus. Watching, reporting, keeping tabs on investments, and catching new names.
We’re now at the halfway point of the Single-A, High-A, and Double-A seasons, and approximately 165 outings reviewed. There are still lots of players on the get-to list, but we’ll be spending more time revisiting players this second half.
(Note: If you are on your phone, turn it horizontal to view the entirety of the game line tables.)
Tekoah Roby, High-A Hickory (Tex)
|The 2020 third-rounder out of Florida continues to take strides forward against older competition.|
Roby has his fans, with his mid-90s invisa-ball four-seamer, 80 mph or less curveball, and 80 mph changeup, it’s easy to see why. Roby knows how to spin the baseball and you can tell all the way from Rome’s binoculars-needed vantage point. After logging only 22 pro innings heading into 2022, the Rangers are cutting him loose. The season’s numbers don’t wow, but there are steps in the right direction:
The big 6’4″ righty’s attack is north/south/fast/slow. The fastball isn’t big, clocked 89-92 mph, per broadcast, but Pina did well spotting it up to set up a split-finger fastball and curveball Eugene, quite literally, couldn’t touch. The two hits came off poorly executed curveballs. I don’t think Eugene even fouled off a split-finger fastball. The only well-struck ball of the game was a line-drive single by Luis Matos, and Ghordy Santos added a single later. The only threat came in the second inning when Pina surrendered his two walks on the day. There was wildness the first few innings, but after that, he peppered the zone with what may have a 33/33/33 mix. The stuff had Eugene so far back on their heels, simply throwing strikes and vaguely keeping the fastball up dominated. When hitters got down two strikes, the split-finger in the dirt was too much to lay off, as you can see for yourself. Here are the 13 strikeout pitches:
Pina’s done this to first place Eugene before, throwing five scoreless and striking out seven on 5/1. Since then, Pena’s put up good lines minus a blowup against Hillsboro. Considering the ability to execute well enough up and down, the bits of wildness, and the attack as a whole, it’s easy to think the MLB potential is reliever. We’ll keep an eye on how the attack plays against better hitters, but until then, any serious dynasty value as a starting pitcher is on hold.
Jordan Balazovic, Triple-A St. Paul (Min)
|Balazovic’s upside-down 2022 continues.|
This hasn’t been the ideal season for Balazovic (#8). It didn’t start until May, and there have been setbacks/reasons for caution with a left knee issue. It’s easy to look at the numbers and write off the hefty value placed on him, but there are plenty of interesting questions. The attack has been classic hard fastball played up in the zone and big breaker off of it. Plenty of work and utilization of a splitter came into play in 2021. And now, from what I could gather, there’s a different-shaped fastball being used. If that’s the case, we’re now two seasons into Balazovic toying with arsenal. This day was more of an East/West attack with a fastball riding arm-side and the slider over the curveball.
This is our third time reviewing Balazovic this season, and the dynasty value puzzle doesn’t feel any easier to figure out. The good-to-fantastic fastball execution is the foundation I bet on, but it’s been underwhelming. Even if this day was a different fastball, it was still the 2021 four-seamer in our past looks. Even more…weird…watching Balazovic has felt like the upside-down. Quality pitches get hit hard, bad pitches get strikeouts, and stretches of good pitching yield bad results while stretches of poor execution yield good results. North is east and west is south.
Here are the two hits allowed, off of the two different fastballs:
A caught stealing and a double play you’ll see shortly erased these two hits. Here are two of the three strikeout pitches we could debate the quality of:
And here is some good fortune:
Some of this is just pitching, and how it goes, but for us, Balazovic remains a tricky read. Executing the fastball at a high level is going to be paramount, wanting to see that before anything else. Debate away, as sound arguments justifying his value, or lack thereof, are out there, and denouncing either end feels foolish. Did the four-seam fastball not cut the mustard at this level, thus a scramble to find an alternative? The chicken or the egg-esque fact most pitchers with MLB longevity need to make shifts in the arsenal exists, so is this a plus in our book? It boils down to what narrative you want to attach to your evaluation. As for me, I’m not as confident as this offseason acquiring shares where the price felt like a steal, but it’s not panic time either. We were looking for clues the ability to make adjustments was in there. In doing so, it makes sense we have patience when these changes might be happening.
Ricky Tiedemann, High-A Vancouver (Tor)
|The 25 scoreless inning streak was snapped, proving it is, in fact, possible to hit him and score runs.|
Since promoted to High-A, Tiedemann has been lights out. In five starts (23.2 IP) he had a 0.39 ERA, 0.73 WHIP, 13.58 K/9, 1.94 BB/9, 67.5 S% while allowing no home runs. Tristan English snapped a 25 scoreless inning streak with this double after a competitive base on balls allowed:
Prior to that only a hit batsman got on base. Tiedemann’s mid-90s fastball, big sweeping slider, and occasional changeup attack was doing its thing; whiffs and weak contact. Here are the strikeout pitches:
Tiedemann showed athleticism on this play:
Tiedemann has shown the ability to stay on the edges with all three of his offerings, but Hillsboro got to him the last inning, whereupon three of the four batters faced hit their way on:
When a streak ends, it’s time to start a new one, and I suspect that’s just what Tiedemann will do. There’s a well-harnessed beast of a pitch here, velocity, tough angles, athleticism, signs of pitching over throwing…the dynasty value grows with every outing.
A.J. Smith-Shawver, Single-A Augusta (Atl)
|The 2021 7th-round Texas prep put a rough first inning behind him to put up four zeros.|
The Braves were able to sign Smith-Shawver away from Texas Tech, paying him as a late second/early third-round selection. Tiedemann is stealing the spotlight, but right behind him on the teenagers’ strikeout leaderboard is Smith-Shawver with 75 at the time of writing this. Smith-Sawver is an athletic 6’3″ who would have been a two-sport athlete in college. The fastball can hit 97 mph, and there’s a full array of secondaries; slider, curveball, changeup, and, perhaps, a cutter. Fayetteville is a horrible place to watch righties, so getting a great feel for the stuff or execution isn’t great. Here are the nine strikeout pitches:
Smith-Sawver hit the first batter of the game, allowed some hard contact, including three hits, and three runs came across the first inning. A single, two more hit batsmen, and an error would be the only baserunners the rest of the way, but the strikeouts and weak contact were plentiful. There’s some wildness at this point, but there are also stretches of impressive execution, at least on one axis. Looking forward to catching him at a better angle, assuming when we do, we’re more impressed. If this organization is shaping this talent, I don’t want to be late to the party. There are more popular 19-year-olds with nicer bank accounts out there, but there’s more than enough foundation of talent here, in a better place. There are signs things are moving in the right direction, like his walk rate getting cut in more than half over the last month, and higher strike percentages. There might be a sneaky-sneaky dynasty get here.
Owen White, Double-A Frisco (Tex)
|The 22-year-old (#32) gutted his way through a productive double-A debut when the breaking ball alluded him.|
The 2018 second-round pick finally got his pro career going in 2021, impressing enough in the brief archives, and garnering rave Arizona Fall League reviews, to land substantial dynasty value. After 81 strikeouts in 52.2 high-A innings, White got his chance to offer his lauded mid to high-90s four-seamer to double-A hitters. After a five-pitch first, rain showers came through, happening to coincide with White being unable to find feel for either of his breaking balls. Arkansas hitters didn’t catch on and sit on fastballs until the second time through, but even then, the fastball won most of the battles. Here are the five strikeout pitches, followed by the complete Joe Rizzo at-bat to end the fifth inning:
Here’s one fastball that lost the battle, and resulted in the lone run allowed while White was still on the mound:
Grinding into the sixth, White allowed a single and walked a batter while, again, trying to find breaking ball feel. One of these runners came around while White watched from the dugout.
Having not seen White this season until now, I’m curious if this breaking ball stuff has been an issue or not. Regardless, the fastball continues to impress, and White’s ability to get creative impressed more. Looking forward to more opportunities against better lineups. There’s part crafter, part big stuff here, and that’s what we’re hunting.
Hayden Wesneski, Triple-A Scranton/W-B (NYY)
|Our first look this season was a tough day at the office for our #69.|
The line between positive and negative results can be razor-thin:
Not that the execution of these second-inning pitches was great, but a little better centerfield play, a nice snag at first, and this outcome is very different. Pile on some other challenges, perhaps not processed internally very well, and it’s a tough day at the office:
Right after the above walk, a hitter fresh from Double-A having a killer season, who hit a double in his first Triple-A at-bat:
Of course, if you don’t allow balls to be put into play, these things can’t happen. Something’s changed:
But there was strikeout life his third inning:
Wesneski has plenty of tools to turn into a successful MLB starter. So do lots of other pitchers. And so do lots of pitchers in Wesneski’s organization. Execution is what’s going to set him, or darn near anyone else, apart, and it’s simply not been there. Taking ahold of a Yankee’s rotation spot is no small task, and unless Wesneski is lighting the International League on fire, dynasty value remains subdued.
Antoine Kelly, High-A Wisconsin (Mil)
|The Midwest League’s strikeout leader shook off early hiccups to strike out eight of the last nine batters faced.|
It’s not how you start, but how you finish, right? This was one of the most dominant finishes to an outing reviewed all season, as he struck out everyone in Quad Cities lineup (not named Juan Carlos Negret) the last time through. Back in the second, Negret was responsible for all the runs allowed:
The former second-round pick throws from a wide lefty angle, offering a fastball sitting around 93 mph, a sweepy slider, and a changeup, giving both lefties and righties tough angles. Here are the nine strikeout pitches from the day. Note how they didn’t start coming until the fourth inning, and don’t quote me on all the pitches labeled:
The 22-year-old has always carried a future relief pitcher tag with him, and it’s understandable given the control problems in the past. But Kelly might be headed in the right direction. Strike% is rising, and he’s given up home runs in four of his last six starts, suggesting, perhaps, more wildness in the zone. If you’re “wild” and you start throwing it in the zone, being wild in the zone is a logical next hurdle. Kelly did well filling all parts of the zone, with all his offerings, including the middle/middle part. Quad Cities is a good High-A lineup and they were aggressive early, with some success. Reluctant to bet he’s moved past the once “certain” bullpen future, while also recognizing the upside if it does come together…Kelly may be a sneaky nice upside play. A Double-A try would help us get a better sense, and that opportunity may come soon.
Emmet Sheehan, High-A Great Lakes (LAD)
|Our first look since week one, the 2021 sixth-rounder may be set to do things in the second half.|
We took a peek at Sheehan the first week of the season and then he landed on the injured list for six weeks. Upon return, there’s been rough and short relief appearances. Yet, over his last two outings (both extended relief) he’s gone 7 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 15 K, 73 S%. Sheehan’s big weapon is a four-seam fastball coming from a lower arm slot with the illusion it’s rising. This one fooled me from my couch:
Here’s a look at the low arm slot he comes at hitters with:
The fastball was responsible for six of the seven strikeouts:
Here’s an at-bat all three pitches came out:
The above error was followed by two singles, but Sheehan didn’t allow loud contact. The secondary command took a minute to come around, but there were also several one- or two-pitch at-bats early, not allowing the arsenal to get worked in. This was impressive pitching and not all heavy lean on one pitch. It seems fair to question how good the breaking ball is, but he did use it to steal a few strikes, and the changeup seems to come from a different release point than the fastball, which isn’t what you want. It remains to be seen if Sheehan can get to the requisite level of arsenal and execution to start, and this second half of 2022 might give us better answers.
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)