Waking up yesterday morning, my plan was to take side angle shots of the hitters all day to get their open side mechanics. And then I remembered the time when I wrote after the fist day of the draft to double check if any video of Spencer Howard reached the internet before I published (sure enough there was). So like the smart person I am, I checked the team website, and sure enough Howard was named the starter. All indications going in were that him and 3rd round pick Connor Seabold would piggyback each other to get 2-3 innings each, since they hadn’t pitched competitively in at least a month. So I sat behind the plate, this time in view of radar guns, while I sat across from the Phillies Director of Player Development, Joe Jordan (Sun-Gazette’s Mitch Rupert had an excellent Q&A with him last night).
So on to the Phillies 2nd round pick. His 1st inning was an unconventional 1-2-3, after allowing a leadoff single on a hanging curve, Rodolfo Duran would throw out the runner going for the steal. It then went pop-up to 3B and the a swing and miss strikeout on a fastball up and in to Oscar Gonzalez. He threw 1st pitch strikes each time, but he ended up throwing 20 pitches (13 strikes) as he tried to nibble the corners.
The 2nd inning began with a leadoff walk to Nolan Jones on five pitches, but he would get Simeon Lucas missing at 95 and then Will Benson missing at 93 as shown below.
Things fell apart thereafter as he would allow an RBI single back up the middle and then walked the next batter on five pitches. He would get out of the inning by freezing his fourth strikeout victim on a change-up that flashed good fade (ignore Tweet saying slider)
Howard’s night ended right then and there after two innings where he threw 45 pitches (26 strikes) allowing two hits, one run, two walks and struck out four. While there were probably four borderline calls that might have changed outcome or length of some at-bats, his control wasn’t there but that’s probably to be expected since he hadn’t pitched since May 26. Throughout the night I saw the flashes that made him a high draft choice. Most of the radar guns in front of me had him 91-95 mph, touching 96 once. His mid-80s change-up had good fade action on it the times he used it. He flashed his slider more among his secondary pitches, which showed some good two-plane break in the low 80s but spotty command. And he threw an average looking mid 70s curve a couple of times. Mechanically I thought he was pretty sound, even if the release point from his high 3/4 arm action was a bit rusty. He showed good extension, landed his front foot consistently in same spot. There were times where I think he fell a little too far to the 1B side but these are things that can be worked out now that he’s back on a schedule. I said a month ago that I saw a guy who had the control and stuff of a #3 starter and yesterday, as brief as it was confirmed that.
The guy the Phillies picked after Howard had a better night. After Jhon Nunez’ scoreless 3rd, Seabold entered in the 4th and began his pro career with three fastballs at 91 mph for a strikeout.
After he walked Benson after getting a 1st pitch strike, missing barely on a couple of fastballs, he’d finish an 11 pitch inning getting Rodriguez to ground into a 6-4-3 DP on sink and cut fastball. His second inning of work was a carbon copy as he threw 11 pitches again but this time he threw a conventional 1-2-3 inning. He would get LH looking at a fastball at 92 mph on the outer third of the plate, followed by an swinging strikeout on a change-up at 83 mph down the pipe to a RH. He ended his outing getting a LH to groundout to Nick Maton at SS.
Seabold showed his calling card of pounding the strike zone and commanding his fastball throughout the night. What got to me a bit was that his fastball range in his two innings was 90-92 mph, touching 93 at one point. This is a bit different than the 88-91 he was ranging at throughout the spring at Cal State Fullerton. I would probably chalk it up more towards adrenaline and coming out of the pen for a couple of innings than it being the norm. His fastball showed good armside run and solid cutting action to it. The only other pitch I saw during his outing was his change-up which showed good deception looking like his fastball coming out of his hand with extra fade, sitting 82-84 mph. Mechanically, he didn’t really get out of whack at any point, repeating his delivery well. Being mainly a two pitch pitcher with exceptional command makes him more of a future #5, but I’m actually intrigued by him being a reliever after watching him throw 90-93 in a short spurt. Not to say that he is going to add more velocity, but I like the fastball/change-up combo in that situation.
Just like Friday, there were two offensive stars, one an obvious name and the other not so obvious. Let’s get to the big guy first, as Jhaylin Ortiz is starting to climb on my list game by game, even before I arrived this weekend. Ortiz came out swinging 1st pitch with 2 out in the 1st inning, keeping his hands back and drove a breaking ball to the right center field wall to give Williamsport the early 2-0 lead on a 2-run double. And then in the 3rd inning he would make it 4-1 driving a 1-2 fastball away off the CF wall for another RBI double. His last two ABs he would receive a steady diet of breaking balls that he couldn’t really touch both eventually leading to strikeouts. He would go down looking on a tightly called fastball in the 5th and swinging at a high change-up in the 7th. I’m coming to the realization that if Ortiz can learn to lay off breaking balls just a bit more, the Phillies may have something really special here.
The other star of the night was 7th round pick Nick Maton, who after a slow start now has six hits in his last three games, three coming last night. All three of his hits he squared up and pulled to RF for singles. Maton showed an aggressive approach at the plate, as his 1st three ABs lasted a total of six pitches, before working a seven pitch 4th AB that led to his 3rd hit. The previous night he worked 13 pitches in 4 ABs as well. While he hasn’t walked during his mini surge, he had five in his 1st five games. He shows a quick, short compact path to the ball that can sometimes show some length when he tries to reach for one. I think there is some upside here if he can fill out a little more, but his future will be as utility player off the bench. I’d have to see him hit the gaps with more authority to think of him as anything more.
Everything that happened on Friday night was just out of this world and it was probably going to be impossible for Saturday to top that. But getting a first glimpse of the Phillies 2nd and 3rd picks and watching Ortiz continued emergence is pretty good 2nd day. I’ve got one more game to go, and this time there will be side angles of Crosscutters’ hitters before a three hour drive back to Philly. Let’s go get it!