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 Blue Jays reliever Chad Beck.
26-year-old Triple-A swingmen with more walks than strikeouts and ERAs and FIPs over 6.00 don’t tend to get called up to the majors, but Chad Beck got a September look in Toronto anyway and acquitted himself quite well, striking out three batters and allowing just one hit in 2 1/3 innings.
The fascination with Beck, who had performed quite poorly in three years with the Jays organization since coming over from Arizona, makes a lot more sense when you realize he worked consistently at 94-96 mph out of the bullpen. Moreover, he had no problems throwing strikes, with just two of his 18 fastballs getting called balls. That’s possibly the smallest sample I’ve cited in this entire series, but it comes as a surprise for a guy who couldn’t find the plate in the Pacific Coast League this year (5.62 BB/9).
A huge guy (6’4″ and 245 lbs.) who throws basically overhand, Beck doesn’t get much movement on the fastball, and he’s never really excelled at homer prevention in the minor leagues, so the long ball is certainly a concern against the big bats of the AL East.
Even though he turns 27 this offseason, Beck’s secondary pitches remain unrefined. His upper-80′s splitter shows promise, but he almost never threw it in the majors, and his slider is generic at best.
Beck showed a tendency to work up in the zone in his brief time:
This isn’t the least bit surprising, as most big guys with big fastballs are going to try to raise the eye level of opposing batters. Given the straightness of Beck’s heater, though, it’s certainly a risk to be throwing all these letter-high heaters with little secondary stuff to back it up.
Overall, it’s tough to endorse Beck as a future MLB contributor. Plenty of failed starters have moved to the bullpen and been reborn, but 2 1/3 MLB innings sure aren’t enough to put Beck in that category. It is nice to see that he can crank his fastball into the mid-90′s with regularity, but he’ll need to develop something to go with it and prove he can locate consistently. It’s within the realm of possibility, but I wouldn’t bet on it.
For more on the Jays, check out Jays Journal.