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Prospect Pitcher Review: May 30th – June 5th

Oh Henry's, what do we do with you?

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.

(Note: If you are on your phone, turn it horizontal to view the entirety of the game line tables.)

 

Tuesday 5/31

 

Tommy Henry, Triple-A Reno (Arz)

 

 

Most pitchers don’t head to the PCL to shave off 1.5 runs from their Double-A ERA, but that’s exactly what Henry has done as a 24-year-old notching his first ten Triple-A starts, with a 3.30 home ERA in Reno to boot. Hunter Brown is the only qualified arm under 28 years old with a better ERA in the league. The strikeouts numbers aren’t gaudy, but they were this day. Henry has now tallied 45 strikeouts in 47.1 innings.

Our 2021 looks left us wondering if Henry’s delivery, particularly the arm slots/pace, needed improvement. In short, questioning if different pitches came out noticeably different seemed fair. Here’s a snapshot of those concerns:

(June 2021)

I’m no pitching coach, but there seemed to be some discrepancies there, hard to think he looked deceptive mixing his offerings. This day’s outing felt very different in these regards. Here are his 11 strikeout pitches on the day:

The second biggest question from 2021 was how well Henry could handle right-handed hitters, as the splits weren’t great. The above highlight reel sure gives hope, but here’s how they look in 2022, still leaving questions:

It appears Henry has taken steps forward with the fastball, which is perhaps a bit livelier. His attack in this dominant outing was a bit unique in that the fastball was the foundation, but the secondary he’d go to would vary from at-bat to at-bat. Fastball/slider one guy, fastball/curveball the next, then fastball/changeup, etc. The attack wasn’t so much a mix of secondaries within an at-bat. It still feels fair to question MLB strikeout upside, but the dynasty interest has jumped for me. While Drey Jameson and Ryne Nelson are facing minor league challenges in Reno, Henry is quietly lining himself up for a potential call before them. Henry still sits on that streamer/more than streamer fringe for me, but a potential low-key clever move in deeper formats. The D’Backs have a handful of other AAAA-type arms like Tyler Gilbert around, and Henry still isn’t on the 40-man, but at least keep an eye out here.

SUNDAY UPDATE: Henry carried his start into the eighth inning, with the only damage up to that point being a solo home run (Justin Upton). He ended up going 7.2 IP, 6 H, 3 ER, 5 K, and 0 BB.

 

Sem Robberse, High-A Vancouver (Tor)

 

 

Through four innings, only Zac Veen and Grant Lavigne managed to reach base via walks.  (Robberse struck out both subsequent hitters.) The 90-93ish fastball/changeup/slider trio—located well—was the main attack, keeping Spokane off-balanced. What could have easily been a quick 1-2-3 fifth got weird as Robby Martin Jr. reached on a third strike passed ball with one out. Robberse struck out the next hitter, and then his defense failed getting Martin out again when Leo Jimenez dropped this ball:

After a walk, Robberse gave up his lone hit and was done as deep counts throughout had him up to 87 pitches:

Here’s a look at his seven strikeout pitches on the day:

Robberse is a pitcher cutting up the zone with different offerings and sequencing things well, which is impressive stuff for a 20-year-old. What seems fair to question at this point is if the strikeout stuff is gonna be juicy enough for dynasty bets. Robberse has already added velocity as a pro and, as we see above, has stuff capable of getting decent hitters to whiff. Feels safe to say the Blue Jays have another guy to at least keep an eye on. Robberse is sporting a sub-1 WHIP with a 2.11 ERA through eight High-A starts.

 

Wednesday 6/1

 

Taj Bradley, Double-A Montgomery (TB)

 

 

Bradley’s 2021 breakout season saw him ascend to elite pitching prospect status for some. Reviewing his season, plenty of talent popped, but so did a lot of good defense helping to get out of jams. There also seemed to be a lot of these in big moments:

Bradley has shown the propensity to get big double-play balls too many times now to chalk it up as luck. It seems to be a skill. Mississippi isn’t a great angle to get a look at the stuff, but the mid-90s fastball/more subtle looking late-breaking slider is a dangerous combination he rode this outing. The execution could have been better as he’d miss his spots by good amounts on occasion, but the offerings were good enough loosely spotted to put together a dominant outing. Here are the four hits allowed:

The home run was good hitting by C.J. Alexander, which happened to be his fifth long ball in as many days. We are on the prowl for efficient pitchers and Bradley can certainly be that at this level. Bradley has thrown strikes 67% of the time over his nine starts, and five of the nine strikeouts on the day came on 15 pitches. Here are those:

Bradley clearly has juicy dynasty appeal as a 21-year-old in a lauded Rays’ system, putting up a sub-1 WHIP, 2.22 ERA, 51 K in 41 IP. Yet, there may be reason to pump the breaks a tad. The arsenal is still very two-pitch heavy as the changeup and curveball appear significantly behind. Not that this alone is a deal-breaker, but the requisite command of the two offerings might still need significant tightening before we go all-in on the big league success with it. Of course, he’s still very young and trending in the right direction. Bradley would be higher than #42 for me today, but probably not as high as some. More signs the complete package is coming together is needed before elite dynasty value comes.

 

Thursday 6/2

 

Yosver Zulueta, High-A Vancouver (Tor)

 

 

Zulueta signed for around $1M in 2019, then had Tommy John surgery and Covid ruin the next two seasons, so dismissing him for being 24 years old in High-A is a mistake. Zulueta can hit triple digits with a lively fastball and has a nasty hard slider that can do this:

The big fastball was responsible for all five strikeouts against Spokane this day:

There is a change and a curveball lightly worked in as well. Here is a great nine-pitch battle with Zac Veen where he emptied the whole bag of tricks:

There’s no denying the arm talent and he shut down a good High-A lineup, only allowing two base runners: a walk to Veen in the first inning and this lone hit in his last inning:

Zulueta was fairly efficient, often working ahead in counts, and while the lively stuff could run out of the zone on him at times, with enough chase it didn’t hurt him. The two lesser pitches exude plenty of movement, teasing the possibility of a high-end full kitchen sink arsenal if he were to ever need it. By far the most exciting part of the outing was Zulueta’s intent to try and use the arsenal and pitch, rather than simply trying to bully and overpower. There’s still plenty of polish needed, but we are talking about a guy who is just getting started. It’s understandable why pitching guys like Trevor Hooth and Geoff Pontes are excited. There’s potential Zulueta garners a whole lot of dynasty value by season’s end if screws tighten and dominance carries over to higher levels, but patience is required if we want a full package to take form. Once again the Jays, particularly this Vancouver outfit, are giving us lots of dynasty intrigue.

 

Andrew Hoffmann, High-A Rome (Atl)

 

 

The Braves seem to have a better professional Hoffmann than the amateur they signed for 125K. Hoffmann is atop the South Atlantic League in all major pitching statistics, ranking second in ERA and IP, third in strikeouts, and fourth in WHIP. The main weapon, at least this day, was a harder slider/slutter he peppered the glove-side edge of the plate with to both righties and lefties. There’s a fastball (sinker?) coming in around 91-94 mph per the broadcast, a changeup, and a curveball as well. The 6’5″ righty likes to turn his back to the hitter and play some timing games. Here are his eight strikeout pitches on the day:

The attack, as you can gather from above, was fairly consistent; fastball/slider. Hoffmann may manipulate the slider into a few varietals, as he kept the pressure on the Bowling Green offense all day. There were a handful of baserunners allowed: a walk the first inning, a harmless single the next inning, while squared up for line drives on three occasions.  Here’s the only run allowed:

Clearly, the progression is pointed up with Hoffmann in a system well accomplished in bringing guys along. Given the production, a Double-A try doesn’t feel far away. There’s a foundation in the slider to build on, but I want to see how well the fastball plays as he moves along. Hoffmann’s current attack is a heavy lean on the one pitch, questioning if he can pitch up the zone effectively against advanced hitters or if he’s limited. The Braves are going to Brave and Hoffmann seems like yet another arm with possibilities. The dynasty love isn’t there yet, longing for a more well-rounded repertoire and pitch ability, but this may be an arm worth paying attention to as Braves’ arms can make developmental leaps.

 

Friday 6/3

 

Victor Castaneda, Double-A Biloxi (Mil)

 

 

I happened to inadvertently view quite a bit of Castaneda in 2021, catching him while tracking hitters. August is when I saw him most, and to be frank, it was a hard contact buffet. August 2021 held a 9+ ERA and September didn’t get better until later in the month. There was zero consideration for our top 100. Of course, MLB organizations are smarter than I am and have their reasons. Castaneda got better, even earning a brief taste of Triple-A, segueing into 2022 success as, to my surprise, Castaneda pops all-season running stat filters looking for efficient and productive minor league pitchers. After all, he was a teenager signed out of the Mexican League and such profiles draw interest from me as pitching acumen can supersede raw stuff, the opposite of what happens with most Stateside teens.

Castaneda’s fastball sat 91-93 mph per the broadcast, which falls in line with reports and last season. A splitter is (or has been) the strikeout pitch while he also throws a separate changeup and a slider. The fastball tends to be more of a setup pitch for the secondaries and the pitch I saw getting lit up in 2021 most. Here are the hits from this outing, and unsurprisingly the fastball was the culprit for four of the five:

Castaneda gave up a harmless walk during a first-inning calibration and a harmless double to Osborne in the second. Meanwhile, the attack was more fastball/slider, putting you out with a dying splitter. Things shifted in the third inning whereupon an error preceded a single/single/double sequence leading to two runs (one unearned), but more notable was the loss of splitter feel. Castaneda then exuded a much-desired trait, shifting gears to find something that worked: the slider. Castaneda struck out the next two with sliders to escape further damage. Here are the five strikeout pitches on the day:

Castaneda cruised the rest of the way with a fastball/slider combo pounding away on the glove-side black. A lead-off walk came around to score on what seemed like a questionable pitch decision and his day was done. Castaneda’s putting up some numbers in his first Double-A try, avoiding the big blowups like 2021 and proving to be more consistently solid at limiting runs than he is at shutting down lineups, which can play. At the end of the day, it’s still tough to find much dynasty appeal with a fastball that might lack punch. Regardless, the big steps forward are noted and he’s a different look for hitters.

 

Saturday 6/4

 

Coleman Crow, Double-A Rocket City (LAA)

 

 

The Angels lured the Georgia prep from college taking him in the 28th round of the 2019 draft, giving him fifth-round money. His first pro season was a success, with better command a 2022 goal for the 22-year-old. Crow’s thrown strikes at an impressive 68% clip and a 49:11 K:BB over 46 Double-A innings. The big weapon is the slider. Here are five of the six strikeout pitches this outing (one wasn’t shown to us):

There seemed to be a second breaking ball(?), as his catcher would throw down two fingers for something looking like a try at a more subtle curveball. Sometimes it just spun. The fastball was 91-93 mph per broadcast, jiving with reports. A try at a changeup didn’t go well, while a two-seamer was mixed in. Other than the slider, Crow, while still throwing strikes, missed his catcher’s mark by a good margin often. The two-seamer was especially wild in the zone, called for on the glove side and always landing arm side. The “command” numbers might suggest a “command” guy has emerged, but this outing showed more of a strike-thrower than working parts of the plate with execution of intent.

Crow isn’t the biggest pitcher at 6′ but he held up well through the end of the outing. I’m unsure who his regular catcher is, but Crow wasn’t jiving with the calls being put down, often shaking off multiple times to get to a pitch, often the slider. He did well limiting contact though—here are the four hits allowed, while most every other ball put into play was a groundout or a pop out:

To be frank, I found the whole thing pretty boring. The attack was fairly basic; over-using the slider with the other offerings feeling lackluster. I love guys who pitch with some fire, but Crow’s big screams after strikeouts felt more annoying than anything, and Chattanooga might agree with me.  The most exciting part of the watch came at the end:

Even the fireworks ended up pretty uneventful. Crow is impressively producing as a 22-year-old in Double-A, but the dynasty needle isn’t moving yet. Continuously leaning on your one big weapon while your catcher is offering an opportunity to be more diverse is a big bummer in my book. There’s a foundation to grow on here, I’m just not placing bets on it now.

 

Emerson Hancock, Double-A Arkansas (Sea)

 

 

We are almost two years removed from the Mariners selecting and paying Hancock $5.7M in the 2020 draft, and we are starting to get a look at what the pro version will look like. Hancock was regimented by Seattle last year, required to throw a percentage of fastballs. The secondaries seemed more in play during Hancock’s fourth start of the season (longest in way of pitch count). The four-seam fastball looked lively as ever, hitting 96 per the broadcast. Hancock was also throwing a two-seam fastball, both of which he seemed to locate well. The slider, on the other hand, missed glove side most of the day, and the changeup…well, it had some problems. Here are the three hits allowed:

Curious if Hancock would abandon the changeup after those back-to-back offerings ended poorly, he shook off the first one, but came back to it later. Here are the four strikeout pitches:

Kudos to Hancock for continuing to work on the full arsenal after the lumps. Hanging a few pitches is going to happen, but taking away a weapon out of fear of minor league hiccups seems silly. Perhaps expectations were too high, but I hoped to see a crisper, more polished Hancock by June. Regardless, Hancock holds significant dynasty value in my book because of the arsenal and the ability he’s shown to execute. Just four starts into his season, Hancock looks to be on the right path, but if things don’t get tighter by season’s end, it will be hard keep him valued so highly.

 

Sunday 6/5

 

Cole Henry, Triple-A Rochester (Was)

 

 

There were only roughly ten broadcast innings available for our offseason review, and the pitching was impressive. The headwhack, on the other hand, was a tough thing (for me) to get past:

That’s a serious headwhack, painful to watch. Perhaps it’s nothing to worry about, but doing something like that 100 times can’t be good for your body, let alone conducive to sustaining prolonged consistency/accuracy. Considering Henry already has injury history, it’s even more curious. But what do I know? The fact is Henry’s been so dominant, even a headwhack snob has to re-examine their bias. Henry destroyed his 23.2 inning Double-A challenge to a tune of a 5 H, 0.76 ERA, 0.59 WHIP, .067 BAA, 28:9 K:BB over seven starts he only surpassed 56 pitches once (71). The 2022 Cole Henry has answered some of our wishes, while the whack still shows up:

The two-seam fastball came out more than the four-seam this outing, hitting 96 mph. The breaking ball (some call a curveball, some call a slider) impressed just as it did last year, while the changeup came out inducing swing and miss, commanded well, which is music to our 2021 ears. Here’s an impressive strikeout against a good hitter:

The two other strikeout pitches on the day:

The Bison only threatened to score once when Henry’s defense made a plus play to get the final out. The hits allowed were a bloop single and two well-struck line drive singles. The lone walk was even one of the prettier four-pitch walks you’ll ever see. Henry can execute his whole aresenal at a high level, mixing and spotting with intent…for fifty pitches. Henry looks every bit the part of an elite starting pitching prospect, with the cloud of health, horsepower, and headwhacks looming over dynasty prognostication. The plus arsenal paired with plus execution is precisely what we are after. The optimist wants to put Henry in the upper echelon of pitching prospects, while the pessimist wants nothing to do with him, fearing the health of the whole thing won’t sustain. If more pitches and more innings are logged the second half of this season, the dynasty stock skyrockets.

 

DL Hall, Triple-A Norfolk (Bal)

 

 

Reviewing Hall’s 2021 didn’t come with trust that we were looking at a major league starting pitcher. Injury may have played a role, but regardless the dynasty value others give Hall wasn’t happening here because pitch execution was poor. Hall’s first five Triple-A starts were a mixed bag: 4.86 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 60.8 S%, 6.11 BB/9, 26 K over 16.2 IP. The 67% strike percentage caught my eye this day, and in viewing, Hall looked more the part of a starter than I’d seen in the past. Sure the big fastball was hitting 99 mph, but Jacksonville was handling it fine. What they couldn’t handle was Hall spotting his secondaries.  Here’s the nine strikeout pitches on the day:

Fastball/curveball was the main attack, with a two-seamer (not well spotted) woven in. The changeup did things on occasion but was a big part of the two walks allowed. A second breaking ball poked its head out too. Other than Lewin Diaz putting charges in a few fastballs, and a line drive or two finding defenders, Jacksonville struggled to put the ball in play.  Here are three balls that did:

The fastball and curveball were executed at a level I can get down with. The other offerings…not so much. Hall has arsenal for days and took a big step in the right direction this outing, finding efficiency and effectiveness without creating free base runners. Hall was out there trying to pitch this outing, not out there simply trying to over-power. We will see how consistent he can get with it and if there are days multiple secondaries are at the level the curveball was Sunday. Hall’s stuff is good enough that he may get by as a strike-thrower, rather than an execution machine. Some are baking in value like Hall will do these things, and although I’m not there yet, Hall’s borderline top-10 outing has me warmer to the possibility.

 

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.)

Link to google doc housing lines of all minor league starts and extended relief appearances this past week. 

 

Graphic by Michael Packard (@artbyMikeP on Twitter & IG)

Nate Handy

Nate is an advocate of drafting more pitchers. Originally from the planet Eternia, he aspires to become the Master of the Prospect Universe....or just watch baseball, share observations, and have an enjoyable dialogue about this great game, particularly the young players trying to make the major leagues.

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