NEW YORK—While velocity is the easiest and first component of a fastball to identify and quantify, it is only one component of the overall fastball grade, which also corporates movement, extension and command. Although Chad Luensmann‘s fastball velocity is not currently plus, his heater plays up because two of his other fastball components (life and extension) are among the best in the high school class.
The righthander threw two scoreless innings for the Northeast Mets Scout Team against a talented Team Elite lineup that has won all three games and advanced into Sunday’s championship game. After plunking the leadoff hitter on his first pitch, Luensmann retired the next six in order, striking out two on four swinging trikes.
“I felt good today and I was able to get the ball down and they made good plays behind me, especially Garrett (Whitley) in center field,” Luensmann said.
Infielders should expect plenty of work with Luensmann on the mound given his heavy groundball tendencies. On a day when lots of wooden bats were broken, no pitcher has a greater chance to create large piles of firewood than Luensmann.
His fastball played at 86-88 mph, touching 89, but showed plus life that flashed plus-plus. Luensmann works from the first base side of the rubber (the side of the rubber that most groundball pitchers set up on) and has a high leg kick nearly up to his shoulders before throwing from an arm slot a tick below three-quarters. His fastball life is primarily heavy, late sink with boring action to his arm side, which is where he mostly spotted up his fastball.
“I am really able to pitch off my fastball and really work inside to righthanded hitters and more than 90 percent of my fastballs are heavy sinkers,” Luensmann said. “I have always had that sort of sink. It was tough to control earlier in my career but I have worked hard to rein it in and be able to throw it for strikes.”
Luensmann pitched off of his fastball, throwing it 73 percent of the time. Evaluators believe that his fastball usage could increase significantly because of the offering’s prowess and tough same-side look it gives righthanded hitters.
Luensmann’s heater also plays up because of his fastball extension out front and had one of the best fastball extensions measured at the Area Code Games.
“I have an up-tempo delivery and I realized that to throw fast you have to work fast,” Luensmann said. “So I have really worked hard on getting down the mound quickly, speeding things up. We really worked hard on lengthening my stride and tried to get out front. I think that is one of the reasons why my fastball is tough to pick up for hitters.”
The Nebraska commit mixed big-tumbling changeups with fade, his primarily secondary offering, and splitters.
“My changeup has always been my go to pitch, ever since I was about 12, and I had feel for it today,” Luensmann said. “I added a split within the last year. It was really developed and it is really nice to have another fourth or fifth offering.”
He threw four breaking balls on the day at 69-71 mph with one going for a strike.
“I feel my slider needs some work,” Luensmann said. “On the Area Code Games pitching staff we were able to make some tweaks and work on throwing it with for strikes more often. I have learned with my arm slot that I cannot throw a curveball. So the slider is the best fit for me.”
Luensmann threw strikes consistently throughout his outing after the opening hitter, producing strikes on 63 percent of his pitches.
The 6-foot-3, 208-pound Luensmann has a strong pitcher’s body with a large frame, broad shoulders, high waist and short torso leading to a strong lower half. His large frame offers projection and room to get stronger.
“I think I can get to 220 by the spring, which would be a good weight for my build,” Luensmann said. “I am working on improving my slider and would like to add a little more velocity to my fastball.”
The Bellwood-Antis High (Bellwood, Pa.) player will likely be the second player ever drafted from his high school and first since 1992. He is part of a core of interesting prep arms that are above-average for the Keystone State, headlined by righthander Mike Nikorak and lefthander Brendon Little.
• The only ball that left the infield against Luensmann was a well-hit ball to deep center field that athletic center field Garrett Whitley tracked down shortly before the warning track. Whitley displayed closing speed and adjusted to the ball in mid-flight that was coming back to the center of the field before the righthanded thrower fully extended to grab the ball over his shoulder. At bat, Whitley went 2-for-3 with a walk. His above-average speed created a hit in his first plate appearance when he hit a grounder into the hole at short, beating the throw to first while running a 4.24. In his final trip to the plate, Whitley pulled a ball on the outer half into left field for a single.
• Luensmann’s catcher, Anthony Toribio, is not a national showcase veteran but has shown impressive tools. The backstop offers at least a plus arm, with some evaluators believing that it could reach plus-plus. He made an athletic play while showing quickness in catching a bunt attempt that was popped up. Toribio has an athletic body at 6-foot, 180 pounds with a high-waisted and toned lower half. The righthanded hitter has a loose, line drive-oriented stroke and showed some power to center field in batting practice. The bilingual Toribio turned 18 two months ago and will likely be 19 around the time of the draft, depending upon the exact date.
• The high school catching crop in the 2015 class does not currently have the depth of the 2014 class, but the class will be bolstered by the reclassification of Garrett Wolforth (Concordia Lutheran High, Tomball, Texas) that became official this week. Wolforth was at the Area Code Games earlier this month as a rising junior before the reclassification was finalized. He has at least a plus arm behind the plate with a quick transfer and produced some of the best pop times during the evaluation day. He has baseball intelligence and the receiving skills necessary to potentially remain behind the plate. The 16-year-old becomes one of the youngest prep players in the class and won’t be 17 until October. The Dallas Baptist commit is a switch-hitter with power potential from both sides of the plate and drove the ball out of the ballpark during evaluations. He is the son of Ron Wolforth, who runs the Texas Baseball Ranch in Montgomery.