Many popular opinions of pitching prospects are formed from general scouting reports. While these reports are invaluable resources, they can’t always be trusted. Hundreds of minor league hurlers are credited with “mid-90′s velocity,” but very few MLB starters actually have that grade of heat, for example. It’s incredibly frustrating to hear about a pitcher with “a mid-90′s heater and plus curve,” only to have him come up to the big leagues and show a fastball that averages 90.5 mph and a slider.
When a pitcher come up to the majors, we can finally get a foolproof reading on what exactly his arsenal is comprised of, thanks to the great Pitch F/X system. In this series, I analyze just that–the “stuff” of recently-promoted MLB pitchers. Now that they’ve achieved their big league dreams and thus factor directly into the MLB picture, it’s high time that we know exactly what these guys are providing.
This time, I’m taking a look at Phillies reliever Joe Savery.
Joe Savery’s had a wild ride the past couple of years, walking away from pitching after stalling out as a Triple-A starter, becoming a batting average stud as a High-A first baseman, then stalling out as a Double-A hitter before moving to the bullpen in Triple-A midseason and getting a September callup to the Philadelphia relief corps.
Savery threw 2 2/3 scoreless innings with the Phillies in September, allowing just one hit and striking out two–certainly a nice conclusion to his storybook season. He was quite efficient, getting his eight outs on just 30 pitches.
Formerly a three-pitch guy as a starting prospect, Savery eschewed his changeup entirely in his brief major league action, sticking to just a 90-92 mph fastball and an 80-83 mph slider.
Neither pitch is exceptional–Savery’s fastball can get a little bit straight at times, his slider can slip into a slurve, and obviously, neither has exceptional velocity. Still, though, he’s got all the ingredients of an effective situational lefthander.
First, Savery throws from a deceptive delivery that hides the ball well, making his release point play up. Second, he throws with enough velocity to keep hitters honest. Third, his breaking ball has enough depth that it can get some swings and misses.
Always a guy who threw strikes in the minors, Savery was around the plate in his MLB time:
Since he’s got the requisite fastball and breaking ball, shouldn’t get himself into big problems with walks, and passed the Triple-A test, there’s no reason to expect Savery to flop as a lefty specialist in the majors. At 26, he’s basically a finished product, so his upside is as a good lefty specialist unless he suddenly comes up with a good changeup–his deception and stuff won’t play nearly as well against opposite-side hitters. Still, he can be of good use to the Phillies in the specialist role, and as jobs go, it sure beats getting crushed by Triple-A guys as a starter or flailing at offerings in Double-A.
For more on the Phillies, check out That Balls Outta Here!