Washington Nationals Top Prospects 10-1

The Washington Nationals entered the offseason with one of the better farm systems in baseball, particularly considering many with the superior systems were in the middle of rebuilding at the major league level.  Unfortunately (or fortunately), Mike Rizzo and Washington’s front office used their prospect depth this offseason to acquire starting center fielder Adam Eaton and projected starting catcher Derek Norris.  This leaves the organization without four prospects in their top-20 and likely 3 of the top-6 prospects overall, depleting the much of the top-end strength farm system.

However, Washington has done a solid job in recent years drafting in the top-10 rounds, and made an noteworthy investment in international prospects last summer.  This does not fill the void of losing a Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez or a 2016 1st round pick, but gives the farm system an impressive amount of depth throughout their top-30 prospects.  Particularly, Washington has a talented crop of prospects at catcher, shortstop and center field.

This week I will be ranking the top-30 prospects presently in Washington’s organization, beginning today with players’ ranked #10-#1.  My list prioritizes the prospect’s ceiling, their likelihood to fulfill their potential, their positional value and finally, how far they are from the major leagues.  Without further delay, here is my choices for the top-10 Washington Nationals’ prospects, counting down from #10.

#10  Tye Dillinger Austin Voth RHP

A sleeper selection in the 5th round back in 2013, Voth has steadily climbed the organizational ladder by out-pitching his stuff and posting excellent results.  Voth sits 88-92mph with his fastball, which he locates well throughout the strike zone.  In addition, he has a solid curveball with true 12-6 movement that induces whiffs, along with a reasonable changeup.  His pitches tend to “play up” due to Voth’s plus command and control of the strike zone.  In addition, rumors have had Voth working with noted pitching guru Kyle Boddy this winter, giving me some hope his fastball with find additional velocity this season.

Voth is a sturdy 6-2 215lbs who throws strikes and repeats his delivery, giving him the profile of a workhorse, back-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.  He should begin 2017 again at Triple-A and will be one of the first calls if injuries occur in Washington.

#9  Andrew Stevenson CF

Washington’s top pick, 58th overall, in 2015, the 22-year-old Stevenson was quite impressive in 2016, slashing .304/.359/.418 at High-A Potomac before forcing a mid-season promotion to Double-A.  He struggled a bit at Double-A hitting only .246/.302/.328, but impressed in the Arizona Fall League, leading the league in hits and 2nd in batting average.

Stevenson possesses a short left-handed swing, excellent hand-eye coordination and plus speed, allowing him to profile as an above-average to plus hitter.  He does not have much power, but peppers the gaps and uses his speed to collect extra base hits.  Defensively he has a solid-average, accurate throwing arm and good instincts, allowing him to profile as an asset in center field.  Stevenson has a high floor as a prospect due to his speed, instincts and barrel skills, but his ceiling is limited due to his lack of power.  He should begin 2017 back at Double-A and profiles as below-average starter in center field or a dynamic 4th outfielder.  Stevenson could see major league action late in 2017 and should remain in the big leagues beginning in 2018.

#8  Koda Glover RHP

Stolen in the 8th round in 2015, Glover soared through the Nationals’ system last year, starting 2016 in High-A and reaching the majors for 19.2 innings in Washington.  Glover is a powerfully built 6-5 225lbs. right-handed reliever who possesses a mid-90s fastball with downward movement, along with a powerful mid-80s slider.  Glover has two plus or better pitches, and stands a chance to be a high-leverage reliever as soon as this season.

#7  Yasel Antuna SS

Antuna ranked as the #14 international prospect last summer, yet somehow signed for a $3.9 million bonus last July, three times more than fellow Nationals’ signee Luis Garcia.  Antuna stands 6-0 170lbs with above-average speed and a solid arm, allowing him to profile as a future middle infielder down the road.  A switch-hitter, Antuna shows impressive present power from both sides of the plate, along with some barrel skills as well.  He does not presently show much of an approach, but scouts believe he could develop into a quality hitter down the road.  Antuna has plenty of risk in his profile, but there is a chance he develops into an above-average 2-way shortstop down the road.

#6  Luis Garcia SS

Ranked as the #3 international prospect this past summer, the Nationals signed Garcia for a $1.3 million bonus last July.  Blessed with a simple left-handed swing, Garcia shows an aptitude for making contact and hitting line drives all over the field.  Garcia stands a wiry 5-11 170lbs., making scouts believe he will develop power as he matures physically.  He has good athleticism, above-average speed and a strong arm, which should allow him to stay at shortstop in the future.  Garcia has four above-average tools and the potential for fringe-average power from a shortstop – he should start 2017 in the Dominican Summer League and explode up prospect rankings this year.

#5  Wilmer Difo SS/2B

Difo was signed as an amateur free agent from the Dominican Republic in 2011 and blossomed as a 22-year-old at Low-A in 2014, winning the South Atlantic MVP award.  He continued his meteoric rise in 2015, reaching the majors for a 15 game cameo when injuries struck the Nationals’ roster.  Last season was more a struggle for Difo, who scuffled for the 1st half of the year, then turned it around midseason and earned a spot on Washington’s postseason roster.

The 24-year-old Difo is a physical specimen who is listed at 5-11 200lbs. and more resembles a strong safety in football rather than a middle infielder.  A switch-hitter, Difo has a compact swing from both sides of the plate and solid bat speed.  Unfortunately these tools give him the confidence he can hit nearly everything pitched, hindering his ability to generate walks and get on base.  He has an above-average hit tool, which would improve with a more selective approach.  He does not profile to hit many home runs, but his speed and knack for peppering the gaps should allow him to rack up extra base hits.

Defensively Difo is a quality athlete with plus speed and a solid-average arm, making him project as an average defender at shortstop and above-average at second and third base.  His defensive profile and potential for four average or better tools gives him a high floor as a starting second baseman or vital utility player, but his lack of power keeps his ceiling in check.  He could start the season at Triple-A to gain additional experience while playing every day, but I would expect Difo to see time in Washington if an injury occurs to an infielder.

#4   Carter Kieboom  SS/3B

The younger brother of fellow Nationals’ prospect Spencer Kieboom, Carter Kieboom was Washington’s top overall selection, 28th overall, in last June’s draft after a noteworthy high school career.  Drafted as a shortstop, Kieboom presently stands at 6-2 190lbs., which has most scouts expecting him to shift to the hot corner down the road.  He has good athleticism, solid-average speed and a strong arm, allowing him to profile as an above-average future defender at third base.

The strength of Kieboom’s game is his present skills at the plate, as he shows a mature approach and impressive bat-to-ball skills.  There are questions about how much power he will develop down the road and how that affects his prospect profile, especially if he is forced to shift to third base.  If he can stay at shortstop or if he can develop additional power, Kieboom could be a starting-caliber player on the left side of the infield.  However, if one of these two things does not occur, he projects as a valuable 5th infielder.  The Nationals are banking on his ability to hit, which is not a bad gamble to make.

For more on Kieboom -> http://natsgm.com/2016/06/15/quoting-the-experts-washington-nationals-1st-round-pick-carter-kieboom/

#3   Erick Fedde  RHP

Washington’s top pitching prospect, Fedde was selected 18th overall in 2014 after having Tommy John surgery mere weeks before the draft.  He spent the majority of 2015 recovering from surgery before breaking out last season, striking out 123 with a 3.12 ERA in 121 innings pitched across High-A and Double-A.  Fedde features an impressive 3-pitch arsenal, highlighted by a 92-94mph fastball with excellent life and a devastating mid-80s slider with true swing-and-miss potential.  In addition Fedde shows an inconsistent, low-80s changeup with some tumbling action at its best.  Fedde is listed at 6-4 180lbs. with the potential to add mass as he matures.

There is risk involved with Fedde due to his past Tommy John, but assuming health, Fedde profiles as a strong mid-rotation starter with a floor as an impact reliever.  He should begin 2017 again at Double-A Harrisburg, and could see action in the major leagues late in the season, or more likely, 2018.

To read my in-person scouting report on Fedde -> http://natsgm.com/2016/04/18/scouting-erick-fedde/

#2   Juan Soto  OF

Signed in July 2015, Soto signed a $1.5 million bonus with the Nationals, the largest bonus in franchise history at the time with a Latin prospect.  At that time, Soto was ranked at the #13 international prospect by Baseball America and #22 by MLB.com.  Last year I aggressively ranked Soto #21 on this list, based on his reputation as a pure left-handed hitter.  Apparently I under-hyped him, as Soto destroyed Gulf Coast League pitching as a 17-year-old, hitting .361/.410/.550 with 5 home runs and 19 extra base hits over 169 at-bats.

Soto has a strong feel for the strike zone and a quality approach at the plate, seeking to punish pitches inside the strike zone.  He has plus or better bat speed and developing raw power, giving him a chance to profile as a “60+” hit / “55/60” raw power hitter at the plate.  Defensively he has a strong arm plus reasonable speed and athleticism, allowing him to profile well in right fielder.  That said, it will be his bat that carries him to the majors.  Soto will begin this year at Low-A and should explode up prospect rankings this year.  For me, he is nearly untouchable in trade discussions.

To read more about Juan Soto, please click here – http://natsgm.com/2015/07/03/scouting-washington-nationals-newest-prospect-of-juan-soto/

#1   Victor Robles  OF

Another outstanding acquisition from the Dominican Republic by the Nationals, Robles received a $225,000 bonus upon signing in July 2013 and has exploded as a prospect ever since.  A lithe 6-0 185lbs athlete, the 19-year-old Robles has legitimate “5-tool” and superstar potential.  Defensively Robles utilizes his plus to plus-plus speed and above-average arm to profile as a potential gold glove centerfielder.

Offensively, the right-handed hitting Robles has outstanding bat speed and a natural ability to punish the baseball.  While it’s cliché, the ball truly sounds different coming off his bat, similar to the sound a shotgun makes when fired.  Robles has quick wrists and strong barrel skills, allowing him to profile as an above-average to plus hitter with average or slightly better power.

While he still needs refinement to his game and to tighten his approach at the plate, Robles has the potential to be an impact centerfielder both offensively and defensively.  He reminds me of a young Eric Davis, minus some raw power.  Robles should begin the year at Double-A and could reach the majors sometime in 2018.  He is easily one of the top 10 prospects in baseball.

To read my in-person scouting report on Robles -> http://natsgm.com/2016/04/11/scouting-victor-robles/

THE Unofficial Official 2017 Baltimore Orioles Top Prospect List

The Baltimore Orioles presently do not have a strong farm system.  This is true for several reasons, specifically mediocre drafting for many years, a lack of international signings and the fact that Dylan Bundy, Kevin Gausman, Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop occupy major roles for the big league club.  This leaves the organization without the depth or high-ceiling prospects found in stronger farm systems.

Nonetheless, as pitchers and catchers report any day, this figures to be an ideal time to analyze the Orioles’ farm system and rank their top prospects. This list prioritizes, in order, the prospect’s ceiling, their likelihood to fulfill their potential, how far they are from the major leagues and finally, their positional value. With this in mind, here is THE Unofficial Official 2017 Baltimore Orioles Top Prospect List.

Honorable Mention -> Brian Gonzalez LHP, David Hess RHP, Trey Mancini 1B, Anthony Santander OF, D.J. Stewart OF, Christian Walker 1B/OF, Gabriel Ynoa RHP

#11   Matthias Dietz  RHP

Perhaps the top junior college prospect in the 2016 draft, Dietz was plucked by Baltimore in the 2nd round due to his impressive pitcher’s frame at 6-5 220lbs. and his ability to touch the mid-90s with his fastball.  The 21-year-old Dietz has three pitches in his arsenal, a mid-90s fastball with some sinking movement, along with a slider and a changeup.  His offspeed pitches are unrefined, but have shown promise.  Dietz will need significant time in the minors, but he could develop into a future #4 starter or impact late-inning reliever.  There is significant bust potential, but the raw package of tools is quite intriguing.

#10   Austin Hays  OF

One of my favorite prospects in the 2016 draft, Hays shockingly slid to the 3rd round due to concerns with his competition level in college, as he starred for Jacksonville University.  Hays has the potential to have five average or better tools, as his above-average bat speed allows him to hit for both average and power.  Defensively he has good speed and a solid throwing arm, allowing him to profile as an above-average right fielder or passable in center.  Hays does not possess a monster ceiling, but his high floor allows him to project as a fringe-average starter in right field or excellent 4th outfielder.

#9   Tanner Scott  LHP

Drafted in the 6th round back in 2014, Scott possesses one of the truly elite left-handed arms in the minor leagues, with a fastball that routinely sits 96mph+ and touches triple digits.  In addition the 22-year-old has a hard-biting upper-80s slider with swing-and-miss potential.  Unfortunately Scott owns “20” grade command and control, walking nearly 7 batters per 9 innings in his professional career.

Scott has recently altered his delivery, apparently pitching exclusively from the stretch now in an effort to improve his command.  Scott profiles exclusively as a 2-pitch reliever at the major league level.  Scott is extremely risky, but Baltimore has done well in the past several years developing relief pitchers.

#8   Ryan Mountcastle  3B/LF

One of my favorite high school prospects from 2015, Baltimore selected Mountcastle 36th overall as a lanky 6-3 185lbs shortstop with impressive right-handed bat speed.  Mountcastle shows natural barrel skills and a mature approach at the plate, allowing him to hold his own last year at 19-years-old in Low-A.  He projects to hit for average and a reasonable on-base percentage, while scouts believe he will develop more power as he matures physically.

The major question in his profile is his eventual defensive position, as his fringe-average arm and mediocre athleticism leave him little chance of staying at shortstop.  Most scouts (and myself) believe he could play a passable third base, but his eventual position will be left field.  Unfortunately this puts significant risk in his prospect profile, as his bat will have to carry him to the majors.

#7   Keegan Akin  LHP

Baltimore’s 2nd round pick last June, Akin skyrocketed up draft boards after an impressive performance against Kent State and 1st round pick Eric Lauer.  Akin is a bit undersized at 6-0 225lbs, but possesses a lightning-fast left-handed arm and an impressive 3-pitch arsenal.  He features a 92-96mph fastball that he can command for strikes, along with a hard slider and an inconsistent but promising changeup.

Akin struggled with injuries in college, which when coupled with his below-average height, has many scouts pegging him as a reliever.  However, Baltimore will begin his development as a starter with his ceiling being a #3/#4 starter and the most likely outcome being an impact reliever.

#6   Hunter Harvey  RHP

Son of former major league closer Bryan Harvey, Hunter was Baltimore’s 1st round pick in 2013.  Once he entered professional baseball, he showed a smooth delivery and a solid 3-pitch repertoire, including a mid-90s fastball, punishing curveball and a developing changeup.  Along with his wiry 6-3 175lbs frame, Harvey profiled as a future mid-rotation starter with the ceiling of a #2.  Unfortunately, Harvey has battled injuries his entire career, throwing only 12 innings the past two years and 125.2 as a professional.

Harvey is nearly impossible to rank, as he also underwent Tommy John surgery last July and is unlikely to appear in game action again until 2018.  If the 22-year-old can return to the mound, he might be the most talented prospect in Baltimore’s system, but his overwhelming injury risk places him here at #6.

#5   Chris Lee  LHP

Acquired from Houston for two international bonus slots, Lee quickly went from a relatively unknown lefty into a promising potential mid-rotation starter.  2016 was a difficult year for the southpaw, as he started quickly at Double-A but injured himself and did not pitch after May.

When healthy, the 24-year-old Lee utilizes an impressive 3-pitch repertoire, featuring a 92-94mph fastball with excellent sink, a quality slider he can locate for strikes and a reasonable changeup.  Due to his age, injury history and success against lefties, many scouts profile him as a reliever.  However, if Baltimore is willing to be patient with him this season, I still believe he can develop into a solid back-of-the-rotation starter.  This is a big league arm and does not get enough attention from the prospect community.

For more on Lee, please see this in-person scouting report -> http://natsgm.com/2016/04/26/scouting-baltimore-orioles-prospect-chris-lee/

#4   Ofelky Peralta  RHP

Signed for $325,000 from the Dominican Republic in September 2013, the 19-year-old Peralta impressively held his own at Low-A Delmarva last season, posting 101 strikeouts against 60 walks over 103.1 innings pitched.  Peralta is a lean, wiry 6-5 195lbs with excellent arm strength and a developing 3-pitch repertoire.  He features a 91-95mph fastball, touching 96mph, with some natural life and movement.  In addition, Peralta has a solid slider and a quality changeup in which he replicates his arm speed particularly well.

As with most young pitchers, he struggles to repeat his mechanics, which elevates his walk rate and hinders his command.  Nevertheless, this is a talented, underappreciated prospect who should spend his age-20 season with High-A Frederick.  In an era where prospects receive plenty of attention, somehow Peralta does not secure much admiration from online scouts.  He profiles as a quality back-end starter, with the ceiling of a #3.

#3   Jomar Reyes  1B

Reyes ranked #1 on this list last year after punishing Low-A pitching as an 18-year-old to the tune of a .278/.334/.440 batting line.  Unfortunately the jump to High-A Frederick and the Carolina League in 2016 proved difficult at age-19, as he hit only .228/.271/.336 with 10 home runs.

From a scouting perspective, Reyes is already a physical monster, appearing significantly larger than his listed 6-3 220lbs. – he physically resembles an NFL linebacker rather than a maturing teenager playing baseball.  Reyes has impressive natural bat speed, a relatively quiet swing along with good balance throughout his right-handed swing.  Like most young hitters, his swing can get long and he believes he can hit any pitch, making him susceptible to swings-and-misses.  He naturally generates loft and back spin off the barrel and has a solid approach at the plate, giving me confidence he will hit for average and power in the future.

The biggest question in his prospect profile is his eventual defensive position, as his mammoth size and underwhelming speed should force him from the hot corner.  He does possess a strong arm and reasonable agility for such a large man, which should allow him to become a good defender at first base.  Unfortunately a shift to the cold corner will put additional pressure on his offensive numbers.  He should repeat High-A this season, and I fully expect a rebound offensively from this precocious teenager.

#2   Cody Sedlock  RHP

Baltimore’s 1st round selection, 27th overall, in 2016, Sedlock spent his first two years in college pitching out of the bullpen, before blossoming as a starter as a junior for the University of Illinois.  Sedlock certainly looks the part physically, standing an imposing 6-4 205lbs. with thick legs.  Furthermore, he owns an intriguing 4-pitch arsenal, featuring a 94-97mph fastball, along with a curveball, slider and changeup.  His offspeed pitches lag behind his monster fastball, as he did not need them pitching in relief.  That said each has shown the potential to be average or slightly better in the future.

The major knocks on Sedlock are his lack of experience as a starter and his lack of an above-average secondary offering.  His detractors believe he is destined for the bullpen, while his supporters envision a future workhorse #3 starter with low mileage on his arm.  Either way, he is a future major league arm and Baltimore did well to secure him at the end of Round 1.

#1   Chance Sisco  Catcher

A shortstop in high school, Baltimore drafted Sisco in the 2nd round in 2013 and immediately transitioned him behind the plate, where his decent arm and quality agility but below-average speed would profile especially well.  Sisco has been slow to develop defensively behind the plate, to the point where 12 months ago I was routinely mocked for thinking he was a future major league catcher.  Nonetheless, he has made significant strides in the past year and now most scouts concede he will be a below-average defensive catcher in the majors.

Improvements aside, Sisco will always be known as an offensive-first catcher, as his calling card is his incredible ability to put the barrel on the baseball.  Sisco possesses a compact left-handed swing with raw power to the pull side, although he prefers to consistently pepper line drives all over the outfield.  He has excellent hand-eye coordination and scouts believe he will develop more home run power as he matures physically.  He could be a “60+ hit / 40-45 power” hitter at the catcher spot, which would make him a potential top-5 batter at the position.

Sisco should begin 2017 at Triple-A Norfolk working on refining his defensive skills and learning to hit for more power.  One of the top catching prospects currently in the minors, Sisco should arrive in Baltimore around midseason and stabilize the catching spot the rest of the decade.

Scouting A Craft Beer – Evaluating 3 Bagger From Red Brick Brewing

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On a recent excursion to Total Wine in search of new craft beers, I walked by an intriguing label with cartoonish features and an obvious homage to baseball, namely 3 Bagger from Red Brick Brewing Company.  Previously I have enjoyed Laughing Skulls and other beers from Red Brick, so I quickly pounced on a 4-pack of 3 Bagger.

Seeing as how this is a baseball site and we support craft beer, I thought it might be fun to evaluate this beverage similarly to how we scout prospects.  Using the traditional 20-80 scouting scale adapted to established categories for judging beer, Mrs. NatsGM and I had two separate tastings to thoroughly evaluate this beer.  Below are our grades and a few thoughts on this Belgium Tripel.

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1)            Marketing and Presentation

NatsGM – 70      –  Mrs. NatsGM – 75

Immediately one notices the cartoon character on the label, a man somehow wearing an oak barrel for a baseball uniform as he seemingly is rounding the bases.  The artistic detail with the character is excellent, down to the cleats and stirrups he wears on his feet and the RB for Red Brick on his baseball helmet.  Hands down, my favorite part is the massive gold chain with a large “3” medallion.

In addition, their tag line hypes this beer better than any professional wrestling promo, stating – “this is named for the 3 Bagger – the true team player, the go-getter, the unabashed risk-taker, the one who knows when to stretch something good into something even better.  Call it experience, call it skill or call it pure animal instinct, the three-bagger knows when his time has come and rises to the occasion.” While I will not put the elite “80” grade on it, it is difficult to imagine a company doing better marketing or presenting their product.

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2)            Appearance and Aroma

NatsGM – 60      –  Mrs. NatsGM  – 60

3 Bagger looks beautiful poured into a pint glass, with a light golden amber color and excellent clarity, along with a medium, thick white head.  Additionally the beer has a crisp, pleasant aroma, with some subtle hints of wild flowers and citrus fruits.

3)            Flavor / Taste

NatsGM – 50      –  Mrs. NatsGM – 35

The divergence in opinion is strong here, as Mrs. NatsGM struggled to finish her beer, yet I happily imbibed like Barney Gumble on Duff Beer3 Bagger has a very distinct flavor even for a Belgium Tripel, as one can immediately taste the effect the rum barrel oak chips have on the final product.  It possesses a hint of malts, vanilla and oak flavors, along with a spicy almost gingerbread aftertaste.   It overwhelmed Mrs. NatsGM’s taste buds, but I found it a nice change-of-pace.

4)            Overall

NatsGM – 55      –  Mrs. NatsGM – 40

Overall I was quite impressed with this brew, as I traditionally favor hoppy IPAs over Belgium offerings, particularly Tripels.  It certainly possesses a distinct taste, as it has the impressive flavor normally associated with a Tripel plus sharp hints of the oak and rum chips from its aging.

If you enjoy this style of beer and your palate is up for the challenge, there are few negatives associated with 3 Bagger.  It has a strong 9.5% ABV and is on the higher end of the pricing scale for craft beers, selling for $9.99 per 4-pack.  That said the combination of quality taste, flavor, labeling and overall presentation makes this a worthwhile purchase.  Considering the holidays are approaching, keep 3 Bagger in mind if you are seeking a unique gift for a baseball fan (of legal age) or want to bring an obvious conversation-starter to any party.

http://www.redbrickbrewing.com/beer/3bagger/

Armchair Evaluation – Scouting Lucas Giolito

Lucas Giolito

Lucas Giolito

On another scorching hot summer afternoon in Washington, Sunday the Nationals sent their top prospect, RHP Lucas Giolito, to the mound to start against the Colorado Rockies.  The 22-year-old Giolito scuffled in three previous starts last month, pitching only 11 innings with a 4.91 ERA and would again be challenged against one of the top offenses in the National League.

Sunday Giolito pitched 5 innings for Washington, allowing 4 earned runs on 6 hits and 2 walks against 2 strikeouts.  Giolito threw 100 pitches (64 strikes / 36 balls) in this outing, generating 5 ground outs against 4 fly outs, plus two home runs.  According to BrooksBaseball.net Giolito averaged 94.18mph on his fastball, 81.41mph on his curveball and 84.81mph on his changeup.  By my notes, he threw a total of 71 fastballs, 16 curveballs and 13 changeups.

From a scouting perspective, Giolito’s fastball showed plus velocity and he has the ability to both sink the ball and have it run arm-side.  Unfortunately he struggled both commanding and controlling the strike zone, throwing 1st pitch strikes to only 9 of the 22 hitters he faced.  In addition, he missed his target regularly and left the ball in the middle of the plate, while also struggling to get his fastball low in the strike zone.  Besides the two home runs, many other fastballs were punished for long outs.  In recent years Giolito has scuffled locating his fastball and this outing did nothing to quell these concerns.

Also, although it comes with the reputation as one of the top pitches in the minor leagues, Giolito struggled with his curveball and had inconsistent results.  The first 2 innings Giolito threw 7 curves, of which only 1 was a quality offering; conversely, he found the feel in the 3rd inning, making 8 fairly consistently good pitches the last 3 innings.  My only complaint would be he should throw it more often, especially with 2 strikes, and have the confidence it will get big league hitters out.

Perhaps the biggest positive from this appearance was Giolito’s changeup, which flashed excellent arm-side run and split-finger type movement.  Of the 13 he threw, 3 induced pure whiffs and a couple others generated weak contact from batters.  It was an easy “55” or better pitch.  Giolito only threw 3 changeups to righties on Sunday, something I would encourage him to do more so going forward.

In terms of mechanics, Giolito seems to be making a noticeable effort to quiet his arms and upper body during his delivery, something I noticed in his debut last month.  Additionally, he seems to have simplified the early part of his windup, using what looks like a shorter first step off the rubber.  I cannot find adequate video from last month to confirm this, so take it with a grain of salt.  However, there is little question he is attempting to quiet his delivery, likely in a direct effort to improve his fastball command.

Giolito's Debut, Credit Jon Feng

Giolito’s Debut, Credit Jon Feng

Overall this start highlighted the biggest present weakness in Giolito’s arsenal, namely his fastball command and control.  He struggled keeping his fastball in the lower-third of the strike zone, continually locating the pitch above the hitters’ belt.  Additionally, he had difficulties throwing his fastball on the inner third, leaving several pitches in the heart of the plate.  As a result, this forced Giolito to primarily throw the ball away on the outer-third later in the outing.  As mentioned above, he struggled getting ahead in the count, and by falling behind, this allowed the opposing batters’ to get comfortable in the box and lean out across the plate.  He must improve his ability to work the corners and avoid the middle of the plate if he wants to be successful in the major leagues.

One other area of concern is Giolito’s inability to miss bats, as his 2 strikeouts and 8 total whiffs indicate.  He has excellent stuff and should be producing a much larger number of whiffs – perhaps much of this is attributable to his lack of 1st pitch strikes and fastball command, but someone with 3 plus or better pitches should be generating nearly double the swings-and-misses.

Finally I finish analyzing this start primarily with the reminders that the transition from the minors to the majors is extremely difficult, and the importance of fastball command.  Giolito can get minor league hitters out even pitching in the middle of the plate due to his impressive arsenal, yet major leaguers will punish mistakes like these.  One must remember that although the repertoire is major league quality, Giolito has thrown only thrown 377 professional innings and still needs to improve his weaknesses.

If he continues to refine his delivery and command the strike zone while gaining confidence in his pitches, Giolito profiles as a potential #2 starter in the near future.  Giolito reaching his enormous potential almost exclusively rides on if he can improve his fastball command.  Assuming he stays healthy, I expect improvement with Giolito in 2017 and a breakout for him in 2018.  Be patient as Giolito is Chance the Rapper 5 years ago.