If you guys follow me on Twitter (@JPhils90), you would know last night I went to Reading for the second time in four days. And unlike Saturday where Drew Anderson got knocked around and got ejected seven batters into the 1st inning and the game was called after five innings due to rain. This one went a little smoother as there were no ejections and no rain clouds. The purpose of last night’s mission was to watch LHP Cole Irvin, the team’s 2016 5th round pick, who was promoted to AA in late June.
Irvin had a fairly clean outing. Due to some defensive miscues throughout the night (three of the four team errors came while he was pitching), Cole had at least one baserunner in each of his first five innings. He got out it the first four times. But after the second out in the 5th, he would allow three straight hard hit singles. At some point the all righthanded lineup was going to hit him around a bit, but like many of Irvin’s starts he found a way to get out of it allowing as minimal of damage as possible as he would get seventh batter of the inning to stare at 94 mph fastball on the outside corner, his fastest velocity of the night. The 6th inning would be his best inning as he would go 1-2-3 for the 1st time, but had to really work throwing 19 pitches. He would record his 3rd (looking at 93 on the inside corner) and 4th (swinging at a changeup down on the outer 3rd) strikeouts in seven pitch battles. That would end Irvin’s outing, finishing with a line of 6 IP, 5 H, 1 R (0 ER), 4/0 K/BB on 99 pitches (64 strikes).
He scuffled to get ahead in the count early as only 12 of the 25 batters he faced he threw 1st pitch strikes to. However, when the hitter went ahead in the count 1-0, they only went 1/13, reaching twice on errors by infielders. He also got nine swinging strikes, six of which came on fastballs, two on change-ups and one curveball. Cole has a good arsenal and it starts with the command of his fastball as he can locate on both sides of the plate, showing good cut and armside run. He mixed the range from 88-93 mph between a four-seam and two-seam and while he left a few hanging over the plate, he didn’t allow an extra base hit. He gets good deception from his secondary stuff because he pitches everything with the same arm speed and 3/4 slot as his fastball. His change-up benefits the most showing good fade and tumble action in the mid-80s and he used it more late in the game than early. His slider has similar velocity and flashed a few times during the game with a hard 10-4 break. His curveball was his weapon during the night early showing good tilt and spin at 75-78 mph. Irvin tilts back and rotates in to keep himself closed upon delivery to hide the ball well and finishes with a good follow through.
When Cole was drafted he was a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery and was throwing 86-88 mph. And despite throwing his fastball with good command, that dropped him to the fifth round. Even with that, a lot of pundits thought he would be a quick riser through the system because of his feel to pitch. That has certainly been the case, but the pleasant surprise to getting his velocity up into the 90-93 range consistently has been a welcomed addition. If you had asked me a couple of years back or even when I talked about the lack of left-handed starters in April, my thought was Irvin was at best a #5 who might bounce back and forth between AAA and the majors. Irvin’s newfound velocity and the mix of his secondary stuff with deception has me thinking he might be able to stick around as a back-end starting southpaw without bouncing back and forth.
Other Minor Thoughts
- Zach Coppola, a 2015 13th round selection, is likely no more than a slap hitter with zero power. And when I say zero power, I really mean ZERO power. But Coppola has really good speed clocking in at 3.84 out of the box on an infield single off the pitcher in his 1st AB. Coppola has had a a really good season splitting 91 games between Clearwater and Reading. He’s hit worse in Reading compared to what he was doing to start the year (Down to .263 from .350). But he has also drawn more walks (17 in high A to 27 in AA. He’s been very good at getting knocks in his 2+ seasons in the minors, hitting .300/.381/.339 with a 13.6% K and 60/91 SB. He’s got a strong four-tool set and Joe Jordan believes he could contribute on a major league roster at the very least as a bench player who can run and play plus defense at all three outfield positions with surprisingly good arm strength. I could see that but he may need to add some more loft and add some strength before that.
- Alberto Tirado has had a mixed bag this season after a pretty good campaign last year in mainly spent in Lakewood. He was a starter to begin the year in Clearwater and while he posted a decent 3.75 ERA and .253 opp AVG, he also walked 37 and struck out only 57 batters in 62.1 innings. The command wasn’t coming along and other starters deserved a promotion (JoJo Romero) or needed development innings (Edgar Garcia). In his 1st seven appearances out of the pen in Reading he has scuffled, having a 5/12 K/BB ratio in 8.1 IP. His velocity has also dipped a bit from last year’s 96-98 mph to 92-96 in his last two appearances. This may have more to do with fatigue from being a starter for the last year. Even though Tirado still has trouble controlling his fastball, his slider is still amazing to watch. It’s got such good spin and two-plane break that it he could live off that usage more than 50% of the time, if he could command his fastball enough. If Luis Garcia can figure out his command issues, Tirado could as well.
- Lastly, I wanted to address fundamentals. In the 1st inning, Irvin should’ve had a 1-2-3 1st inning, but a miscommunication was made by C Chace Numata and 3B Mitch Walding (Irvin would retire the next batter). The ball would be dropped and Walding got the worst of the collision having to leave the game with what has been called an “ear fracture”. To just make it worse for Walding, the error was charged to him. The reality is Numata should have backed off. While he waved him off, Walding has a better chance at making that play. For parents and coaches who read this, always remind your kids to communicate.