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Prospect Pitcher Review: May 9th – May 15th

The tough times probably matter more, so let's get ugly.

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 rank this offseason after a massive video review (link to offseason review series and rank list), but ranks aren’t our main focus now. Watching, reporting, keeping tabs on investments, and catching new names.

We’re shifting gears a little this week, focusing on “good pitchers pitching poorly” wondering if alarming things are going on with bigger names, or if there are good things happening underneath the bad lines. We probably learn more from bad outings than good.

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

 

Tuesday 5/10
[Reid Detmers no-no night]

Bryce Jarvis, Double-A Amarillo (Arz)

 

If there’s a pitcher I’ve been dead wrong speculating 2022 production would increase, more than Jarvis (#23)…there hasn’t been. Reviewing 4/16 during a week Jarvis won Texas League Pitcher of the Week brought good feelings mixed with the same concerns. The season as a whole has not looked pretty in the box scores. Here’s his season to date:

The appeal was development coming in way of pitch execution prior to injury in 2021. But it’s overall not shown in 2022. Poorly located fastballs were the culprit on 5/10. Things could have gone better, things could have gone worse, especially considering the two outs credited came on the base paths. But candy and nuts and we’re always at the mercy of the baseball gods. Here are the seven balls put into play:

Those poorly located fastballs are more frustrating considering Jarvis was ahead 0-2 on Sosa, Gomez, and Redmond. He was ahead 1-2 on Walker. And ahead 0-1 on Nunez and during one of the two walks surrendered (the other of the non-competitive four-pitch varietal). The slider to Nunez was bad, but really the only mistake in the zone he made with it. The changeup came out four or five times, with only one of them executed well. We’ve seen Jarvis needing time into an outing to find a changeup feel. We didn’t see his greenest tool, the curveball, at all. The stuff was fine, fastball sitting mid-90s, slider breaking, and changeup fading, so no concerns there.

The theme of this feeling close, if only a few screws tightened, continues on. Maybe there’s something in his reared-back delivery making repeatability elusive? Maybe this isn’t a guy we can count on for muscle memory. It’s still early in 2022, but things are not going as hoped, yet I’m not giving up. Making bets on the stuff getting wrangled in happen all over the dynasty speculation world. I guess Jarvis is mine. If it doesn’t come together, it reinforces pre-season rules—namely, why are we baking in value with guys who haven’t proven to execute at a requisite level? Unseeing when Jarvis has it, is proving hard to forget.

SUNDAY 5/15 UPDATE:

 

Brandon Walter, Double-A Portland (Bos)

 

Of course you make a comment about Portland possibly having the best rotation in Double-A and the next outing, the Eastern League Pitcher of the Month gets blown up. This one felt worse than Jarvis though, as the fastball velocity seemed a tick down and the changeup…well, see for yourself. Here are all the balls put into play:


(1st inning)


(2nd inning)

Kudos to Walter for sticking with the changeup and trying to battle through it, bonus points from me there. I’d rather a guy keep grinding than bail out in a minor league game. Walter has been lights out all season, so this shelling could be nothing. His command seemed fine other than leaving those changeup cookies out there and a leadoff four-pitch walk to start the game. The sweeping slider looked difficult as always. The misfortune caused by the errors first inning and good hitting by the Yard Goats seemed to put Walter in a bad mental spot. The 30+ pitches first inning didn’t help and it unraveled in the second. Sometimes you just don’t have it and that’s not something Walter has experienced for a long time. Walter was a top-100 snub simply because he wasn’t reviewed, but he’s making a case now. Let’s check that fastball velocity and changeup command down the road.

SUNDAY UPDATE: Hartford got to Walter again; 5 IP, 6 H, 6 R (4 ER), 1 BB, 7 SO, 3 HR

 

Brandon Williamson, Double-A Chattanooga (Cin)

 

Is Williamson pitching poorly? Sure the season ERA of now 5.08 doesn’t look good, but only a few rough lines, one of which was his first game after a trade. Not wanting to put too much weight on a guy’s first month with a new team, as things take time to settle in. There were a couple of these kinds of moments:

You’ll have that, and it didn’t seem like a big issue. There were some nice moments:


(K vs. Michael Harris)

2021 saw Williamson simultaneously improving the arsenal and execution of it, which was the impetus of his #22 spot and proverbial arrow up. Chattanooga offers a horrible angle to access a lefty’s stuff, but the broadcast mentioned the fastball in at 91 mph, which is at the bottom end of where he was in 2021. We also don’t know what version of fastball they were speaking of. Williamson is said to have touched 97 mph. The fastball, because of its release point/extension, angle, and shape is a highly touted tool, but it lacked the same effect it had at the end of last season.  Overall, the arsenal wasn’t harnessed as we’ve seen in the past. A double in the third inning came around to score (the first Jalen Miller double below). Williamson was battling through the rest of this outing fine, minus a bad fifth inning where the hard contact came in a long bunch. Four of those instances finish the video below, but note there were two other hits that ended up outs on the base paths. The damage could have easily been worse. He did follow this rough patch up with a one-two-three sixth inning.

This isn’t the Williamson I planned to turn on in 2022. Perhaps new surroundings play a role? Perhaps it’s just a little early-season growing pain in need of build-up? Whatever it may be, it’s noted, and a bit concerning. No panic, the ability to eke out a quality start when you’re not at your best is a plus skill, but we should pay attention here.

SUNDAY UPDATE: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 8 SO, 1 HR

 

Wednesday 5/11

 

Brayan Bello, Double-A Portland (Bos)

 

Ahhh the wonderful world of pitching speculation. Throw some cold water on his seven-inning no-hitter last week, do the same on James Anderson’s podcast, and then he does this. It was a more casual watch but clearly the best I’ve seen Bello execute a plethora of his arsenal. This was a hot Hartford lineup too. Not deep diving, but eating a taste of crow Mr. Bello has served up for me. It’s still going to take more consistency in these regards before adding more dynasty value, but this start definitely threw cold water on my Bello takes. Touche.

 

Cade Cavalli, Triple-A Rochester (Was)

 

Entering the day, our #23’s ERA north of seven was concerning folks, including me, wondering if the power pitcher we saw actively trying to add sophistication in 2021, wasn’t getting there. First inning, as Cavalli tried to establish the fastball, WooSox hitters seemed to be hunting them, leading to harmless hard contact. Cavalli shifted gears there on out, relying on his secondaries to lead the way. Last year, I loved the pitcher Cavalli was trying to be but wondered if he’d ever take form. During this outing, he may have been better with the secondaries than we could have wished. The changeup and slider execution was good to great, showing the ability to double up both pitches in the same spot the few occasions he wanted to. Here’s him using the changeup in such a way during his 18th batter faced:


(Fastball/Changeup/Replay of Changeup/Changeup for the K vs. Yolmer Sánchez)

There were a higher number of great pitches than I’d seen from Cavalli in the past, and this was a day I’m guessing secondaries came in around 60% of the time. The fastball was getting up to its usual mid to high-90s as well. The broadcast slowed down a couple samples of Cavalli artwork for us:

It was eight up, eight down before Yolmer Sánchez fisted a fastball for a single. Here are the other three hits on the day, one of which was a borderline error:

(Rob Refsnyder 2B off a hanger/Ryan Fitzgerald RBI 1B off a fastball/Jarren Duran 1B)

The Refsnyder and Fitzgerald hits led off the fifth whereupon Cavalli induced a ground out and struck out two to end it. The lone walk (eight-pitch at-bat) followed the Duran single. The command got a smidge loose at this point, but he still managed to strikeout Jeter Downs:


A passed ball, a sac fly by Tristan Casas, and then a hit batsman ended Cavalli’s day.

This felt like a great outing in terms of the development of secondaries. The breaking balls are legit weapons, the fastball is big, and the changeup can do its thing well. Cavalli showed he’s got it in him to utilize these tools in an optimal way. Now to get more consistent. Some big steps have been made in less than a year, so how much more tightening up is coming? If the season’s struggles were a byproduct of Cavalli’s progression in these areas, they aren’t anything to concern us, but rather something to be welcomed as they may scare owners off when Cavalli’s growing into a more dangerous, well-rounded pitcher. This outing got me jazzed up for Cavalli. Enough to land #10 on our outings list.

 

Ryne Nelson, Triple-A Reno (Arz)

 

 

First thing I noticed was this little shoulder drop/hitch going on in the delivery. Top is this outing. Bottom is June of last year.


No idea what that’s about nor if it matters, just something different. This “hitch” also seemed more or less pronounced at times. Here it is seemingly less pronounced after a Sam Haggerty single:

(During a walk to Steven Souza)

The fastball/slider attack felt like the loose, just out of college reliever version of Nelson from earlier in his career, and not giving hitters fits. There was some moderately hard contact, but not getting beat around. The curveballs weren’t spotted well, missing glove side, not seeming intended for the zone either, with one responsible for a Mason McCoy double. This at-bat was probably the best case of pitch execution:

(K vs. Marcus Wilson, with some inconsistency with the shoulder thing?)


Changeups came out in the last inning but weren’t fooling anyone. In what was a better outing results-wise than what’s gone on over the last month, it lacked punch. The lauded fastball didn’t feel nor perform like the big asset it has been. We’ve seen more diversity and effectiveness with the secondaries, pitch mix, and overall attack from Nelson before. This just had an odd feel to it all, from the shoulder thing, to wondering where the #23 pitcher went. Things seem to have taken a step back, and being physically inconsistent in your windup gives me the creeps.

 

Thursday 5/12

 

Cristian Hernandez, High-A Jersey Shore (Phi)

 

Here’s a look at the changeup, a breaking ball, and the fastball from last season. We weren’t lucky enough for such a view this outing.

(K vs. Ernny Ordonez 7/8/21)

The arsenal this today was a four-seam fastball touching 95 mph, a two-seam fastball around 91 mph, a breaking ball, and a changeup. Here’s one of the four strikeouts on the day:

(K vs. Tanner Murray. Strike three was a back-ed up breaking ball, not a changeup)

Hernandez didn’t seem to pitch all that poorly. He was mixing up the repertoire well. There were a few defensive lapses, but also a few guys thrown out on the base paths, including a pickoff. The problem was the long ball accounted for all six runs:

Trying to piece together what Hernandez’s struggles may be, whose ERA now sits at 6.98, it’s interesting this outing saw him throw the highest percentage of strikes. Home runs hadn’t been an issue prior, just hits and runs. Perhaps we are seeing a byproduct of an arm learning how to pitch in the zone more effectively? Maybe the stuff isn’t as good as we had hoped? We weren’t placing heavy dynasty bets down, rather thinking we might in 2022. Not there yet.

 

Friday 5/13

 

Cole Winn, Triple-A Round Rock (Tex)

 

 

 

Looking at this line was tougher than watching Winn pitch. This was a combination of mistakes at the wrong time, good hitting, bad luck, and a moving target. Winn’s stuff looked there, and the command wasn’t egregiously horrific. This was a good lineup full of major league-caliber bats who made Winn pay for his mistakes. Some early fastballs left over the middle were hit hard. Then anything left over the middle of the plate got hit hard. Winn did well to adjust, trying to keep on the edges more, but he started not getting calls like he was earlier, and the swing and miss like below, went with it. Here are his two strikeouts:

 



(K vs. a red hot Kevin Pillar)

 


(K vs. Zach McKinstry)

 

Winn wasn’t getting hit hard, per se, just more solid consistent contact. The fourth inning got away from him, and some bad defense played a role as well. There were a few pitches that could have done more damage, like this hanging slider:

I couldn’t help but feel how good this level of hitting was, rather than how poor the pitching was.  Winn’s struggles have to do with him learning it takes another level of precision up here, and how few mistakes are permitted. He did well to give his team a chance, and this wasn’t some giant struggle to try and find feel. The 22-year-old might just be getting welcomed to the almost bigs? He’s only eight Triple-A starts deep, including last season. Still feel fine about valuing him as a near-elite/elite pitching prospect, as the underlying skills of executing his good arsenal is what landed him there. Expecting the adjustments and better results to come.

 

Jordan Balazovic, Triple-A St. Paul (Min)

 

 

Fitting our week’s theme, Balazovic couldn’t get to the third inning. A leadoff home run started the day, and an outfield assist at the plate ended it. In between was a struggle for feel and command, leaving too many hittable pitches. The lack of feel spread defensively too, with the four unearned runs coming from his own defensive problems. The arsenal looked good though, and the new 2021 splitter was in play. A look at the balls put in play below, might relieve some worries, as this wasn’t a complete shelling:

The 2021 growth of the arsenal, paired with Balazovic’s growth in the execution of it (yes there was a spike in walks last year, but I attribute it to learning new tricks on the job) led to the value placed. If better results don’t come after settling in, we’ll reconvene, but until then, we’ll look for a bounce-back next outing.

 

Roansy Contreras, Triple-A Indianapolis (Pit)

 

 

This is a video review project, but time didn’t allow me to watch this outing. I still sniffed around it. What the Pirates and Contreras are thinking, who knows, but there might be clues here. Reviewing Contreras’ 2021 outings prior to the injury, I questioned if the curveball was his best secondary. Upon return from injury, my viewings illustrated a dip in its usage. After just one triple-A start, the Pirates gave him one MLB start 9/29 whereupon the curveball seemed to be back:

 

 

Contreras made three MLB extended relief appearances to start off his 2022:

 

 

Then this outing, the only MiLB appearance with backdoor Savant data of his four 2022 minor league starts, the slider was the most used secondary:

 

 

I don’t know if this means anything. Perhaps the curveball feel wasn’t there for him this day? On the top is this outing’s plot, on the bottom, his first 2022 MLB appearance whereupon he threw the curveball more than any other pitch:

 

Pure speculation on my part, but as he wasn’t getting whiffs from the curveball, perhaps there is a shift going on in these regards? Even more so, my guess is building up pitch counts and getting to a starter’s workload is part of the motivation. Pitch counts chronologically this season, MLB and MiLB included: 44, 46, 39, 57, 62, 76, and 83 this day. I’ve heard folks express concerns over Contreras being able to handle the requisite load. We’ll see, but there seem to be preparatory motivations in Indianapolis.

 

Saturday 5/14

 

Jack Leiter, Double-A Frisco (Tex)

 

 

We know the fastball is the big weapon, and it ticked up to 98 mph per the broadcast, but it wasn’t spotted real well. The Drillers didn’t have a hard time putting it into play either. The breaking ball failed to come through, as Leiter lacked command of it. There were a few changeups looking nasty and effective, but overall it was a struggle to utilize the arsenal. Here are the hits allowed on the day and a HBP:

Not an atrocious display of hard contact, but the Drillers seemed intent on driving the touted fastball. This is Leiter’s second PPL&R appearance, and I’m still waiting for the pull-me-in moment. Maybe next time?

 

Will Bednar, Single-A San Jose (SF)

 

 

This outing can be called Three Walks, a Bloop, and a Blast. Bednar was all over the place with all his offerings. Might as well enjoy the blast:

(HR Albert Fabian on a first-pitch fastball)

Last time we checked on Bednar it took him time to get rolling. Perhaps today would have felt the same, but we’ll never know. Velocity and stuff were there, just not the pitching part. Not getting out of the first inning because you literally can’t throw strikes is concerning. Hopefully it was just one of those days.

 

Edward Cabrera, Triple-A Jacksonville (Mia)

 

 

Now, these were incongruent results compared to the quality of pitching. According to the broadcast, of the six hits allowed, only one registered an above-average exit velocity. Here are the hits:

A leadoff double to Jonathan Davis, and the below balk (?) allowing Davis to score, Cabrera got through four innings with little challenge or traffic.

The high 90s fastball, the changeup, and the breaking balls were all there in their usual nasty form. Cabrera’s pitch inefficiencies and “control numbers” continue to fascinate. Cabrera’s execution continues to teeter on an edge. Does he struggle to put the ball where he wants to, or is he trying to live on the edges too much with the collateral damage of nibbling? These are the Cabrera pitches you love to see, in the zone getting whiffs:


(K vs. Alex Jackson)

As Cabrera went deeper into the pitch count than he’s gone in 2022, the command faltered some. Mix in some bad luck, and runs came, but stretching out time isn’t going to negate the rest of the day’s work for me. Cabrera hasn’t lost his shine at all. Young arms not fully understanding how good they are, or can be, isn’t a new theme in baseball. The arsenal might be one that could play well in the zone, if given the chance. It could be a lot of fun watching a more aggressive Cabrera putting, and keeping, pressure on the hitter.

 

Sunday 5/15

 

Logan Allen, Double-A Akron (Cle)

 

 

Needed a reminder this was a “poor performance” after the first inning’s masterful two-pitch attack. Mind you, Allen’s best pitch, the changeup, stays in his back pocket here:

 

First time through the lineup, Allen barely broke a sweat. After a softly hit leadoff single by Andrew Navigato and a bloop double by Parker Meadows, he made his first mistake:


(three-run HR Kerry Carpenter)

Allen went to the well one too many times, and left the slider in a bad spot to, arguably, Erie’s best hitter. Adding insult to injury, Allen’s defense failed to help him out on a pop-foul on that fifth pitch.

Halfway through the fourth inning, Allen was at 51 pitches with 41 of them being strikes. Allen carved up the Seawolves with a mostly two-pitch attack. There’s a slow breaking ball, or manipulation of the current slider going on as well. There’s a bloop single and a nice opposite field single by Andrew Navigato, but Allen’s second strikeout of Parker Meadows ended the threat.

Leading off the fifth inning, Allen hit Dillon Dingler in the back foot with a changeup, cementing the notion the changeup feel wasn’t there this day. George Valera couldn’t come up with a sliding jam-shot fly and then the second big mistake came:


(Three-run HR Dane Myers)

This wasn’t a poorly located fastball, but it was not where Bo Naylor wanted it. Regardless, it’s 6-0 like that, still feeling like a decent outing, especially for a guy struggling with his best pitch, potentially forced to play a different attack. Allen’s day ends strikeout/HR/strikeout, as he does his best Dylan Cease. Here’s the third home run courtesy of another one-too-many breaking balls:

(Solo HR Quincy Nieporte)

Allen has been putting together a fantastic season and it should continue as such. The development of a new breaking ball thrown into the mix is fun to see. Perhaps its existence and the lack of changeup feel weren’t coincidental? We’ll have some new things to look out for with Allen next time. Allen’s a treat to watch, even during a seven run blow-up.

 

A Triple-A Takeaway

 

This week contained a heavier load of Triple-A outings than usual. It was also full of poor outings, so that plays into it, but it’s hard to not think Triple-A hitting is substantially better than Double-A hitting as a whole. Reviews this season illustrate Triple-A hitters punishing mistakes and hitting good pitches significantly more often than Double-A hitters. Such things are a likely ingredient for rough outings, or conversely, the lack of, producing results. Nevertheless, pitchers jumping from Double-A to Triple-A might be taking a larger leap in competition than meets the eye. Food for thought.

 

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.

  • Mario Mendoza says:

    This is such a great series. Thank you!

  • Wenger says:

    Hi Nate, nice stuff!
    Any update upcoming to your top 100 given what you have seen so far this season?

    Thanks!

    • Nate says:

      Well. I hadn’t planned on it. Thought being, what would be a better use of time? Doing a new rank, or watching more? The players I wrote up this offseason, I’m not sure there would be much movement. But there have been a good amount of guys reviewed were not part of the offseason project that I’d put in there. Hmmm

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