CARY, N.C.—Two years ago, after fanning eight batters in five innings at USA Baseball’s Breakthrough Series, righthander Thomas Hatch set lofty expectations for himself.
"I like to model myself after Dylan Bundy," Hatch said at the time. "He's from around my town. I like his delivery and he's always been good, drafted fourth overall by the Orioles, so I kind of like to model myself after him."
Hatch’s stuff wasn’t nearly Bundy-like then and isn’t now, but he did show good potential with an 87-90 mph fastball that had good armside run. He also mixed in a mid-70s curveball with good bite and a solid changeup. A rising junior and 6-foot-1, 195 pounds at the time, Hatch showed intriguing upside.
However, Hatch didn’t show much progression the following summer at a few stops on the showcase circuit. He still showed high-80s velocity on his fastball, but would dip into the mid-80s as he went deeper into outings. His secondary stuff was still developing and his command wavered at times.
Hatch returned to North Carolina with Jenks (Okla.) High for the USA Baseball National High School Invitational last week and was tasked with starting the Trojans’ first game on March 28—against the No. 1 team in the country, The Woodlands (Texas) High.
Despite taking the loss and walking five batters, Hatch looked like he had taken a step forward since last summer. He was 90-93 in the first, but settled in at 89-91 and didn’t see a significant drop in velocity as he went deeper into the game. Now 6-foot-2, 200 pounds, Hatch says his conditioning has helped him maintain his stuff.
“This summer I was a little down,” Hatch said. “My arm was a little tired from school ball, but I had a good rest and worked out a lot this offseason. Conditioned a lot. I just made sure I could get back to where I was, spot my stuff, spot my changeup and my curveball. I think I got there. I think I’m back to where I used to be.”
Hatch is now working with a slider, rather than a 12-to-6 curveball, that ranges from 75-80 mph and flashes sharp bite. His command is still a work in progress, but the fastball has excellent life to it, sinking and running to his arm side. One batter for The Woodlands failed to check his swing on a pitch that nearly hit him. Hatch pitched a complete game, allowing two unearned runs on three hits and five walks while striking out five.
He also showed a good changeup in the high 70s with good fade and his delivery looked easy.
“I like my changeup a little more,” Hatch said after his start. “I’ve been working on my slider. Whatever is working that day, that’s what I go with and today it was my changeup.”