Spring Training Notebook: Alex Bostic Working To Harness Control

Notes from the back-field minor league games around Phoenix

PHOENIX—The Giants didn’t have a first-round pick in the 2016 draft, but they managed to land outfielder Bryan Reynolds and Heath Quinn in the second and third round before taking a slew of very interesting, if risky, college arms.

Garrett Williams, Stephen Woods and Matt Krook are all hard-throwing pitchers with the potential for two plus offerings, but also have a history of control troubles.

That list of hard-throwing and wild pitchers also includes Alex Bostic, the team’s 10th-rounder last year.

Bostic is a lefthander who showed two above-average pitches at Clemson when he wasn’t battling a long run of control troubles. At his best, he could dominate hitters with a 90-94 mph fastball and hard-biting slider. He showed his best when he struck out eight in four innings against Florida State in the ACC tournament. That outing made him some money (he signed for $156,000).

But a back field outing on Saturday showed how Bostic’s attempts to find consistent command and control will take work. Bostic walked 45 in 49.2 innings at Clemson. He actually got more work in his first half season in pro ball than he had in three years at Clemson, but the control issues were still there—he walked 46 in 52.1 innings.

He did throw more strikes in a spring training start against the Giants’ low Class A club, but he did so with dramatically reduced velocity. Bostic sat at 85-87 mph throughout his two innings of work.

“I’m honing down on mechanical stuff,” Bostic said. “I was focused on hand separation today so I wasn’t concerned about velo as much as throwing strikes and getting outs. I’m just trying to clean up my mechanics right now.”


Position Switch

JaVon Shelby was drafted in the 37th round by the Brewers in 2013 as a high school shortstop but passed on signing to attend Kentucky. He was the Wildcats’ everyday second baseman as a sophomore and the team’s everyday third baseman as a junior. The A’s drafted Shelby in the fifth round last year, and let him stay at third base in his pro debut. Shelby’s defensive play at third base at Kentucky was plagued with errors and the same could be said for his pro debut (he made 14 errors in 49 games with an .884 fielding percentage).

So Shelby, the son of former major leaguer John Shelby and brother of former minor leaguers John Shelby III and Jeremy Shelby, is on the move again. The A’s have deployed him in center field this year, where the hope is that Shelby will be able to tap back into the combination of power and contact he showed as a sophomore at Kentucky (where he hit .312/.442/.525). Shelby slumped to .212/.335/.470 as a junior and hit only .186/.279/.309 in his pro debut with short-season Vermont as he struggled with over-aggressiveness at the plate and with consistency in the field.


Position Switch, Part II

Shelby’s not the only infielder moving to the outfield. The Royals have shifted Marten Gasparini, the team’s No. 23 prospect, from shortstop to center field. Gasparini had set a record for a player born in Europe when Kansas City signed him for $1.3 million out of Italy in 2013.

Gasparini is a plus runner with an above-average arm, but he struggled to handle the speed of the game defensively last year at low Class A Lexington. He committed 48 errors and put up an .885 fielding percentage, which was actually an improvement on his 35 errors in 52 games and his .871 fielding percentage in 2015 with Idaho Falls.

The expectation is that Gasparini’s speed and arm strength will play well in center field. And with less defensive responsibilities, it’s also hoped that it will help Gasparini unlock the potential of his bat speed and power potential at the plate. Gasparini hit .196/.256/.293 last season for Lexington.

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