First Person: Volstad Vs. McGee
Marlins prospect outduels Rays lefty
ZEBULON, N.C.—Last night's Montgomery-Carolina was a matchup of two Top 100 pitching prospects, but only one lasted past the second inning.
Carolina righthander Chris Volstad, the Marlins' No. 2 prospect and the No. 58 prospect in baseball, held the Biscuits to one run in six innings as the Mudcats cruised to a 7-1 victory in their home opener. Mongtomery lefty Jake McGee, the Rays' No. 3 prospect and the No. 15 prospect in baseball, struggled with his control all night, or at least for the two innings he pitched before leaving the game.
Volstad worked consistently at 91-92 mph with his fastball, which had impressive sink and consistently induced both groundballs and plenty of weak contact. He finished with 14 groundouts and three flyouts, and few if any of those grounders were hit sharply. He worked ahead in the count all night and relied on his ability to get groundballs to end at-bats quickly rather than go for the strikeout, but he did flash the ability to miss bats with the makings of two impressive off-speed pitches.
Volstad showed an impressive high-70s spike curveball that flashed plus at times, but only around one out of every three curves he threw was a strike—he usually buried the pitch in the dirt when he missed.
He also mixed in an 83-84 mph changeup, which he used to combat lefthanders. His changeup was a plus pitch at times when he threw it for strikes, including a pair of back-to-back changeups that caught Gaby Martinez off balance. Volstad struggled to locate his changeup at times—often missing high and away—and he still has a ways to go to tighten the pitch and to be able to command it regularly.
Volstad showed clean arm action and delivered the ball with relatively little effort, an impressive delivery from a 6-foot-7 pitcher. He finished the night with three walks and six hits allowed. He was excellent until the sixth inning, when he walked two batters as he lost a bit of his control—understandable this early in the season—and gave up a run.
McGee shut down Chatanooga in his first start of the season, when he struck out seven with no walks and allowed one run in seven innings. Last night, however, McGee struggled to throw strikes and consistently worked from behind in the count. The Biscuits' defense didn't help him either, but he displayed some of the raw ability that has scouts excited about his future, and he finished with four strikeouts in his two innings.
He pitched with his fastball in the low-90s, sitting at 92-93 mph and touching 96 a couple of times, though never for a strike at its highest velocity. His arm worked well in the back, but he struggled with his release point all night, which resulted in four walks in two labor-intensive innings. McGee threw 74 pitches in his brief outing, allowing two runs (one earned). McGee's defense didn't do him any favors, as the Biscuits were woeful in the field all night, but McGee worked from behind in the count too frequently to be economical with his pitches.
McGee walked John Raynor to lead off the game, and then got Chris Coghlan to fly out to left field. After Cameron Maybin reached on an infield single, Gaby Hernandez reached on John Jaso's catcher's interference to load the bases. After getting behind Kris Harvey 2-1, McGee came back and struck him out looking on fastball on the inner-half. McGee couldn't find the plate against Grant Psomas, walking in a run on four pitches. He ended the inning against the next batter, throwing five straight fastballs to Brad Davis to strike him out looking.
In the second inning, McGee got off to a good start, getting Manuel Mayorson to fly out to right field and striking out Lorenzo Scott on the best breaking ball he threw all night. The six-foot-three McGee, who looked bigger than his listed 190 pounds, had difficulty locating his inconsistent breaking ball, but he worked primarily off his fastball all night.
The rest of the inning was not as efficient for McGee, who walked Raynor, then allowed a line-drive single up the middle to Coghlan after McGee got behind in the count.
After McGee walked Maybin on five pitches to load the bases, he got behind Sanchez 3-0 before battling back to a full count. McGee reached back for a 95 mph fastball and got a weak grounder to first baseman Rhyne Hughes' right, but a run scored as Hughes couldn't get to first base in time to record the third out of the inning.
McGee responded against the next batter by attacking Harvey with three straight fastballs, with Harvey striking out swinging on the third pitch.
The Biscuits will try to bounce back today with righthander Wade Davis, the No. 17 prospect in baseball, on the mound.
• Jaso showed a disciplined approach at the plate, but he struggled defensively. Jaso went 1-for-3 with a pair of four-pitch walks, but he also got called for catcher's interference and allowed three stolen bases in three attempts. One of the stolen bases was a result of the pitcher being slow to the plate on a 75 mph offspeed pitch, but Jaso struggled transferring the ball smoothly from his glove to his throwing hand.
• The Montgomery defense struggled all night. On two separate occasions, Hughes, the No. 27 prospect in the Rays system, fielded a grounder just off the first base bag, but wasn't able to convert either of them into outs.
• Coghlan, a lefthanded hitter showed an inside-out swing, driving an inside pitch from McGee to left field in the first inning. He finished the night 3-for-4 and made an impressive defensive play at second base, diving to his left on a ground ball, then firing to second base for a force out that just beat the runner to the bag.
• Maybin is off to a hot start (9-for-19 with two home runs, a triple and seven walks), including a 2-for-4 night yesterday. Both of his hits came on groundballs, and he showed his speed beating out an infield single, while his second hit had a different sound coming off his bat compared to other players as he hit the ball right on the barrel and showcased impressive bat speed.