SF Giants pitching prospects rundown (4/5 - 4/16)
SJ Giants Pitching Prospects
Trevor McDonald: 2 G, 1 W, 3.2 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA
Mason Black: 1 G (1 GS), 4 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, 0.00 ERA
Seth Lonsway: 2 G, 1 W, 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 4 BB, 9 K, 0.00 ERA
Will Bednar: 2 G (2 GS), 7.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R (2 ER), 5 HBP, 3 BB, 8 K, 2.35 ERA
I want to separate the 2021 pitching class draft talk and the whole other stuff so I'll talk about the one dude who impressed me in the first week outside of the 2021 class: Trevor McDonald. The 2019 eleventh-rounder was effective in his two outings in the early going, flashing a fastball with sinker characteristics in the mid-90s, a nasty slider, and a hard fading changeup. He's also made a couple of tweaks in his delivery: he shortened his arm action, he added a crossfire and is a bit taller in his stride, and he has his arm slot a bit higher. It's a sizeable makeover with the hopes of him finding the strike zone more consistently. In the two outings that he pitched, he honestly improved his strike-throwing though it's more control than command. His stuff is plenty good and his pitching motion kind of reminds me of Corey Kluber but in slow motion. McDonald could be relied upon quite consistently throughout the season.
It is now time to talk about the 2021 pitching class' early-season performances where we take a look at how they look out of the gate. Most of the class so far pitched well but I want to highlight two performances that stood out for me. The first is Mason Black. The third-rounder from Lehigh was largely underappreciated by fans as he was not largely a highly-ranked prospect as compared to second-rounder Matt Mikulski and fourth-rounder Eric Silva. His eye-popping 2022 debut was more of a reflection of rankings skewing out a prospect's public perception more than anything.
Black was stellar against the Modesto Nuts where he was sitting 93-96 MPH with his fastball with late, tailing movement and some sink down in the zone (I got a word that it is indeed a four-seamer), a nasty low to mid-80s sweeper, and a changeup with corkscrew movement. All of his three pitches are at least solid pitches, and his fastball and slider flashed plus. He was around the zone consistently barring a couple of fastballs that got away from him and he executed very well.
He reverted back to his arm action when he was a sophomore after shortening up his arm action in his junior season with little success. His extension of nearly seven feet gives his fastball extra oomph due to perceived velocity (making 96 MPH look like 98 MPH) and his five and a half release height and his low 3/4 arm slot should help his fastball play up in the zone when it is more of a tailing one and down in the zone when he's imparting sink on it. I already have Black inside my top 30 solely based on what I saw in Modesto because what I saw has the feel and vibe of a future big-league pitcher.
The second I want to talk about is the sixth-rounder Seth Lonsway. You might look at his stat line in his 2022 debut and say "oh, 2 walks, 4.5 BB/9 not a strike-thrower haha you suck" but if you actually watched the game, he was dominant. Those two walks by the way came from two grueling at-bats against Mariners' top prospect Harry Ford where Ford laid off several nasty breaking balls from Lonsway which is more Harry Ford gud than Seth Lonsway bad. All in all, he was rather surgical and he's executing his pitches to a tee.
He was a bit wild in his second outing of the season but he was far from the effectively wild pitcher that he is in Ohio State as he is now effective but not wild while maintaining his pitch quality. His fastball is solid to above-average (more of a sinker though so that's a disappointment pitch shape-wise if you are really nit-picking), his slider looks nice and his patented curveball looks as nasty as ever. I could say that the Grizzlies hitters were not really taking a bite of his two-strike pitches because of his erratic fastball control early on. I am definitely taking him over someone like Seth Corry right now and if he can keep this kind of form throughout this season, there will definitely be a lot of chatter about him (and I'm probably the main one talking about him).
To cap off today's pitchers rundown, I want to talk about Will Bednar. When I wrote my draft on Bednar, it included a lot of worrying topics mainly because of his highly unusual 2022 debut where his control is all over the place like a bull in a China shop (though the Mythbusters will tell you otherwise that bulls are rather careful beings). I was a bit worried about the control because he was literally throwing hospital balls to hitters like how Jimmy Garoppolo throws the football where he hit two or three Nuts hitters right on the cranium and I was surprised that nobody showed any symptoms of a concussion. What I was more concerned is the velocity because Joe Ritzo tweeted that he's only around 91-92 MPH with his heater. If we could chalk his debut to adrenaline, that should not affect his adrenaline because he should be throwing harder than 91-92 MPH.
Bednar emphatically removed those worries in his second outing where he was much better both in terms of velocity and control. He was actively peaking at around 94-95 MPH with his fastball and he was more around the zone with it. There are still plenty of instances where he will get under the ball and miss high and out of the zone but there were no hospital balls thrown so that's good. It's like the Mercedes F1 team-levels of sandbagging with Bednar (though it looks like the Silver Arrows actually forgot to remove the sandbags out of their car) and the only concern now is his inconsistent feel for his fastball in the zone. He's trotted out a new stride to the plate where he removed the crossfire in his delivery which sacrificed his deception for the sake of gaining velocity. According to several pitchers that I talked to in the past, a pitcher loses some energy when they have crossfire so removing it helps gain velocity and when looking at Bednar, that's the potentially only possible way of him gaining velocity because his frame is already well-built. He was still more 91-95 MPH with his heater and I was hoping that he will be in the 93-97 MPH range with his fastball to be considered a legitimate plus pitch.
With that said, his slider is still as good as ever, flashing plus and even plus-plus with a late, hard sweeping break. I have seen in the comments before that I made things too complicated because sliders are supposed to sweep. I am trying to make things digestible to everyone because not everyone is well-versed with the advanced stats and whatnot. But pitching technology is at such complicated levels nowadays that you can technically dictate what kind of movement you want to have with your pitch arsenal. Want to add more rise, cut, sink, or tail with your fastball? It can definitely be done. Want to have a breaking ball that sweeps or acts like a frisbee like Sergio Romo or have a more vertical-oriented breaking ball like Zack Greinke's slider or Clayton Kershaw's curveball? It can definitely be done. Want to have a changeup that has a knuckleball-like tumble or more of a two-seam movement? Guess what, it can definitely be done as well. That's why I have to describe pitches like "sweeping slider" or "gyro (vertical-oriented) slider" to separate those kinds of things and make things more digestible instead of stuffing numbers such as induced vertical break, etc. that makes things very complicated, very fast.
Back to Bednar, looks like the old Bednar is back. The changeup though looked viable though it got crushed by a Grizzlies hitter in a pretty good location (down and away). It just needs more repetition and consistency, something that could happen since the movement looks good. To take the next step of being that legit prospect worthy of top 100 overall prospect consideration, that velocity has to be better than that because Giants fans (including myself) will keep on hounding them for passing on Kahlil Watson who looks like an absolute stud and a "must-have" last season. I don't want to end it on a sad note, I'm sorry.