Having done draft coverage in the West the last two years, I’ve talked to plenty of scouts and junior-college coaches about Josh Spence, who had two amazing years at Central Arizona JC. Now he’s taking Division I by storm while pitching for Arizona State, but I was interested to see what our scout would say about seeing Spence take on Missouri. The Tigers won the game, 5-2 in eight innings; how did Spence fare?
DeMarini Tournament Day 4
Spotlight player – Josh Spence
“Man at Work”
All of the middle-aged people who love and reminisce about 80’s music will certainly remember the group “Men at Work.” They were the Australian band that had several catchy hit songs in the 80’s. One of the tunes was “Down Under,” the song that they play at Packard Stadium when Australian Josh Spence takes the mound for the Arizona State Sun Devils.
As the lean 6-foot-1 lefthander tosses his warm-up pitches, he hardly intimidates opposing hitters. In fact, tossing seems appropriate. He tossed a fastball to the catcher at 68 mph just before the throw down to second base prior to starting the game. His first game pitch registered at a menacing 81 mph.
But the Jamie Moyer of college baseball wants to lull hitters to sleep. He wants them to feel comfortable in the box. He wants them to be looking for a certain pitch, in a certain spot, at a certain speed. Because one thing that is for certain, is that the hitter rarely gets it. If the hitter is looking soft away, as he’s thrown the two prior pitches, zip . . . 86 on the hands.
That’s definitely not an overpowering fastball by any means. But that 86 mph heater looks like 96 after a series of changeups and breaking balls each thrown at a different speed and a slightly different arm angle. Perhaps even a different delivery.
Yes, that’s right. Josh Spence even changes his delivery—in mid-delivery. He drops down, he pauses twice, he throws from high three-quarters, from three-quarters arm angle, sidearm, and each pitch is slightly different in speed and rotation. He carves hitters up with slow curveballs and changes speeds on his changeup. Then he will hump up and throw a 79 mph slider that the hitter has no chance to do anything with.
Occasionally, a hitter will guess right, and he will get that below-average fastball in the zone he was looking for and put a good swing on it. The problem is, there is rarely anyone on base when he does. In 19 innings this year, he has allowed just three walks to go along with 27 strikeouts. Opponents are hitting a measly .186 against him.
But his early season success is not a fluke. He won 25 games in two years at Central Arizona JC, in a wood-bat conference that is considered one of the more competitive juco conferences in the country. The Diamondbacks did take a shot at Spence, drafting him in the 25th round last year. But the Australian still felt he had some things to prove at the college level.
This is not the kind of pitcher that area scout go bragging to their cross-checkers and scouting directors about. There were games last year in junior college where Spence didn’t throw a fastball above 84 mph. How can an area scout justify flying his superiors in to see a guy whose fastball barely makes the grading scale?
But all he does is win. In fact, the only thing that has slowed him down in the last two-plus seasons was a sixth-inning line drive off a Missouri hitter’s bat that Spence managed to deflect slightly before hitting him in the face and sending him to the ground on Sunday silencing the 2,500 fans in attendance at Packard Stadium. After a few minutes on the ground, Spence got to his feet and walked off under his own power. He left to a standing ovation and many thankful fans that the situation wasn’t as bad as it appeared moments earlier. It remains to be seen if he will make his scheduled start next weekend for the Sun Devils. [Editor's note: Spence's final line: 6 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO]
Knowing his toughness and competitive nature, he will be out there ready to go sooner than later. One thing is for certain though, the next time he toes the rubber for the Sun Devils, he will definitely resemble “Men at Work” as he goes to work carving up opposing hitters while they walk back to the dugout shaking their heads wondering what just happened.
Comments will be monitored prior to being added to the site. Comments that include profanity or personal attacks or other inappropriate comments or material will be rejected. Additionally, entries that are unsigned or contain "signatures" by someone other than the actual author will be removed.
We have chosen to open up commenting to everyone, so comment away! We want to hear from each and every one of you! Leave a comment.
About This Blog
Syndicate This Blog
Search This Blog