Two of the most exciting relief pitching prospects in the SF Giants organization made their MLB debuts over the past couple of weeks. Young righties Camilo Doval and Gregory Santos made their big-league debuts against the Miami Marlins just four days apart. Both packed some serious heat and were electric in their first appearances.
Both Doval and Santos have made more pitching appearances during the week, with Doval appearing in two games against the Phillies while Santos pitched at home against the Marlins. Both have shown elite strikeout stuff but also surrendered a long ball. Through their first couple of appearances, here are the things we can take away from what we have seen.
SF Giants Prospects: Reviewing Camilo Doval’s Debut
Ever since making his minor-league debut in 2016, Camilo Doval seemed destined to become a big-league reliever. While signed as a lanky shortstop with a strong arm, he quickly showed incredible potential on the mound. His big-velocity fastball and slider immediately resulted in gaudy strikeout numbers. His slinging, low-3/4 arm slot, inconsistent finger pressure, and nearly seven feet of extension did generate inconsistent velocity and control but added deception against right-handed hitters.
SF Giants player development coaches helped Doval develop a more consistent fastball grip and encouraged him to throw his fastball and slider at a more even rate. The result of those changes were on display at spring training, where he was spectacular.
Even though he never pitched above High-A ball in his professional career, the organization was comfortable promoting him to the big-league roster. In his small sample, fans have seen glimpses at how does his stuff plays against MLB hitters. More importantly, we have Statcast data about the unique characteristics of his repertoire.
The fastball has good velocity, as expected, with the hardest ball clocked at 98.3 mph. His spin rate is plus, with an average spin rate of 2590 RPM (Revolutions Per Minute) and only 3 pitches registering below 2500 RPM. While I have been calling his fastball “cutter” for some time, his Statcast data proved me wrong. All 21 of his fastballs have generated arm-side movement away from left-handed hitters.
On the other hand, Doval’s slider was nasty as well. It has less spin than his heater at around 2392 RPM, but it is a vertical-breaking slider, with 36.6 inches of vertical break and only 2.9 inches of lateral break. It certainly gave hitters fits when the slider is located well.
The second, and probably the most shocking, observation about Doval is that 4 out of the 21 sliders he threw had arm-side movement (all in one game), effectively moving like a screwball.
The pitch above had 4 inches of arm-side movement, the most running action that Doval threw so far.
Doval was never known for having fine control of his pitches, with his heat maps reflecting the tendency for him to throw his fastball right at the heart of the plate and leaving his slider up in the zone a bit too often. All in all, Doval’s stuff and deception looked legit, and he is capable of getting hitters out on a nightly basis in high-leverage situations. However, if he keeps leaving his slider in the upper half of the strike zone a bit too often, his arm slot will make it hard for him to succeed against left-handed hitters.
At the least, Camilo Doval has shown that he can be a strong middle-reliever, especially against right-handed hitters, by relying on his deception and stuff alone. However, if he can find consistent command, he has the potential to be a legitimate high-leverage option.