One thing that I really don’t like about spring training is the lack of TV options. I am not a fan of listening to baseball. The game is meant to be watched and for as good as some guys can describe the game, watching the game will always be the far more preferred choice. This spring there are 10 games that will be available on TV (either MLB Network or on Fox Sports Ohio). That isn’t enough! However I do listen to the games during the spring because it is better than following on Gameday (for one, gameday in the spring isn’t always on a short delay).
Sunday was a day that I was listening to the game and I was not at the time following on Gameday and it wasn’t until later that evening that I found out that the game was played with the Pitch F/X system running since the Reds are on the road (several Arizona stadiums have the system installed). Fortunately for me, there were quite a few minor leaguers who pitched in the game, which gives me a lot of new information on some of them.
The fastball is the carry pitch for almost all pitchers. Very few pitchers in the game throw a pitch more than they throw their fastball, and while velocity isn’t everything, it does allow you to get away with a bit more (you can have less control and less movement because the hitters must react to it quicker than a slower pitch) and it also allows your other pitches a tiny bit of extra leeway because of the reaction time needed for the fastball. With that in mind, it is always the first thing I look at with pitchers and then move from there to the other parts of their game.
Here is how the projected minor league guys performed with their fastball on Sunday:
Movement (in inches)
A few things stand out here, but the two biggest things that stand out to me are both from 30-year-old Jose Diaz. Diaz, who has never been in the Major Leagues came out and threw 98 MPH on Sunday and averaged 94.3 MPH with his fastball. That is flat out impressive. Diaz has thrown hard in the past, and he was dominant in Triple-A Louisville last season where he posted a 1.66 ERA, I never saw him popping 98 MPH. He would hit the mid 90’s, and that alone is impressive, but when guys hit 98, it turns heads.
What else stands out here? The horizontal movement that Diaz was getting on his fastball. He averaged nearly 13 inches of movement, with one pitch garnering 17.48 inches of movement. That is absurd. Oh, and it also sinks. Despite his age and lack of any MLB experience, Diaz may be a darkhorse difference making arm for the 2014 Cincinnati Reds if this data is any indication of how he could throw in 2014.
Brett Marshall hitting 95.2 MPH is also rather impressive. The new addition to the system pitched in the big leagues with the Yankees in 2013, albeit only briefly, but we have some historical Pitch F/X data to look back at with him. On Sunday he averaged 92.8 MPH with his fastball and topped out at 95.2. Last season with the Yankees his fastball only averaged 89.1 MPH. More than 3.5 MPH gained is a HUGE jump to make. While it is only one outing, it is a very good sign.
Here is a chart showing the movement compared to the other guys.
Looking at this chart we can once again see how much the fastball of Jose Diaz stands out among the group. It sinks and runs quite a bit more than any of the other guys. The other pitch that stands out here is from left hander Lee Hyde. His fastball seems to have a lot of cutting action to it, so it should probably be listed as a cut fastball rather than just a fastball.