College National Team First Impressions: RPs

USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team convened for the first day of practice during the Tournament of Stars and began game action the next day. With the exception of two pitchers who were at the College World Series, every pitcher on the roster threw in the first five games of their Red, White and Blue tour in North Carolina. Here is a snapshot from the relief pitchers’ outings from the first five games.

Every starting pitcher was reviewed Tuesday. The 33-man trial roster was winnowed to 24 players on Monday for the beginning of international play.

Players that received an asterisk did not make the roster.

Tyler Jay, lhp, Jr., Illinois

Over his first three outings, Jay worked 3 1/3 innings, striking out five of the 11 hitters he faced without issuing a walk while generating eight swinging strikes on 43 pitches. Jay provided excitement to the first game of the CNT season, sitting 93-95 and touching 96. Most evaluators were surprised when a pitcher they had very little history with showed that kind of arm strength from the left side. In his second outing, Jay worked at 89-93, touching 94 before sitting 90-92, touching 93 in his third time pitching in four days. He has a loose, quick arm that ball jumps out of his hand from three-quarters arm slot (to tick above). Jay’s delivery has natural deception and some funk with a long stride, generating downhill plane, sink and varied fastball life to both sides of the plate. He pitched off his fastball, throwing the offering on 84 percent of his pitches. Jay showed feel for a 77-81 mph breaking ball with depth that flashed plus. He varied the shape of the offering depending upon hitter handedness. Jay also mixed in a changeup that showed at least average potential. Although he has never started a game in his career, Jay offers a three-pitch mix. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound Jay has an athletic build with a high waist and broad shoulders. Jay, who threw 70 percent strikes between his three outings, cut his walk rate significantly this season and has walked 3.3 per-nine in his career while striking out 9.7.

Jimmy Herget, rhp, Jr., South Florida*

Although Herget was used in a relief role, he has been a starter for all but one career start at South Florida. His long-term future is likely in the ‘pen. Herget worked a clean, efficient seven-pitch first inning before giving up three hits and two runs in the second. He struck out two with zero walks on three swinging strikes. Herget is a slinging, side-winder who varies his low arm slots. His fastballs are largely thrown from a low three-quarters arm slot while his sweepy breaking ball is thrown from a slot that is nearly sidearm. He has a loose, quick arm and sat 91-92, touching 93 in his first inning before pitching at 88-91 in his second inning of work. Herget varies his fastball life, offering sink from his low slot. Herget throws across his body with some effort from the first base side of the rubber and spins off towards first base. He frequently went to his sweepy 77-81 mph breaking ball. The 6-foot-3, 165-pound Herget has a lean, lanky build with room to get stronger. He has thrown strikes throughout his career (2.4 walks per-nine) while striking out 6.7.

Dillon Tate, rhp, Jr., UC Santa Barbara

In two scoreless innings, Tate did not allow a hit or walk while striking out one, getting eight swinging strikes on 27 pitches. Tate was filthy in his first appearance, sitting 95-97, touching 98 with electric arm speed. He did not throw a fastball below 95 in his first outing. Tate’s fastball plays up because he hides the ball well and got above-average life when down in the zone from a delivery that offers deception from a tick above three-quarters arm slot. Tate has a high-effort, herky-jerky delivery with a high leg kick, natural funk and a head whack. His fastball sat 93-95 in his second appearance. Tate showed a wipeout slider that was at least plus at 84-86 mph. The offering has been as filthy or consistent in subsequent outings, sitting closer to the 81-84 mph range. The California native also flashed a plus changeup with considerable tumble to lefthanded hitters. His delivery produces more control than command. The 6-foot-2, 185-pound Tate is a physical specimen with a strapping, chiseled and athletic build that has sloped shoulders. He has not started a game in his career and has struck out 9.1 per-nine against 3.1 walks.

Skylar Hunter, rhp, Jr., The Citadel*

Hunter pitched two scoreless innings and struck out four of the seven hitters he faced, walking two. He got six swinging strikes on 32 pitches. Hunter has a quick arm and works from a high three-quarters arm slot, capable of leveraging the ball downhill, though he worked up at times. His fastball sat 90-92, touching 93. Hunter has a high-energy delivery with effort and a head whack. He varies his breaking balls, showing a 78-81 mph breaking ball with slider-like tilt from a lower arm slot (three-quarters) with more two-plane break and an overhand curveball with depth and downer action. Hunter did not use a changeup in game action. The Citadel product has a history of high walk rates (4.9 per-nine in his career) while striking out 10.2. His elbow gets inverted in the back. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Hunter has a trim, athletic build.

Brandon Koch, rhp, Jr., Dallas Baptist*

Koch pitched three times in five days and allowed five earned runs in 3 1/3 innings. He struck out six on 11 swinging strikes while walking four on 76 pitches. Koch has been a high-walk, high-strikeout pitcher throughout his career with 4.7 walks per-nine and 13.7 strikeouts. In his first outing, Koch came out sitting 90-93, touching 94 with glove side run, working almost exclusively away from hitters. His fastball sat 90-92 in his second outing and 89-91 in his third, and was mostly flat when working up. Koch has a max-effort delivery with a head whack and below-average stride length. Koch’s breaking ball flashed above-average potential early before losing some of his arm speed. In contrast to many of his teammates who employed heater-heavy approaches, Koch relied heavily on his breaking ball, throwing it 46 percent of the time. In his third outing, Koch threw 19 pitches: four fastballs and 15 breaking balls. Evaluators were unsure if he threw a slider and cutter because the offering ranged from 81 to 87 but teammates said it is the same pitch that he likes to throw at different velocities. Koch mixed in a high-70s curveball in his third outing and did not throw a changeup. The 6-foot-1, 195-pound Koch has a strong, full build with a big lower half that offers no projection.

Ryan Burr, rhp, Jr., Arizona State

Burr ranked as the No. 13 prospect on last year’s team, serving as the ace reliever at the end of games. He was used exclusively out of the ‘pen as a freshman and began the 2014 campaign in the rotation for three games before returning to the bullpen, his likely destination in pro ball. Working three times in five games, Burr did not allow a run and struck out five of the 10 hitters he faced, issuing one walk while generating eight whiffs. He largely pitched off his fastball, throwing the offering 82 percent of the time. His heater sat 92-94, touching 95 in his first outing, 91-93, touching 95 in his second and 89-91 in his third outing. Burr has a high-effort delivery with a stab in the back and a quick arm that can leverage the ball downhill from a high three-quarters arm slot, though he tends to work up. An American League assistant scouting director said, “That's a lot of effort, especially to get to 91.” He typically works his fastball to his glove side and causes uncomfortable swings from hitters. Burr did not show a changeup and relied upon a slider with slurvish tilt from 78-83 mph. The 6-foot-4, 224-pound has an extra-large frame that he has filled in, gaining significant strength over the last year. Burr threw strikes on 66 percent of his pitches, though his command was below-average. He has walked 6.2 per-nine in his career while striking out 11.7. The highest career walk rate for a college pitcher drafted in the top four rounds from 2009-2013 was 6.05. Burr is young for the class and will turn roughly 21 one week before the draft.