2021 LHP Adam Shoemaker Experiences Newfound Velocity
At the start of May, Adam Shoemaker was still at home in Cambridge, Ont.
The 18-year-old lefthander was sitting 87-89 mph coming out of a Canadian winter in which he and much of his country was locked down, with people confined to their homes. Shoemaker and many of his teammates had missed almost an entire year of development due to pandemic protocols and time away from the field.
Over the last several weeks, pretty much everything has changed for the young southpaw. Just more than a month ago, Shoemaker ventured to Long Island, N.Y., where he was reunited with Great Lake Canadians righthander Calvin Ziegler, getting his work in with his teammate. From there, the lefty attended a Padres workout in Florida, returned to New York state, and then joined the Ohio Warhawks before heading to the draft combine in Cary, N.C. on Wednesday.
During that time, the 6-foot-6, 205-pound lefthander has been sitting 90-93 mph with his fastball and up to 95, accompanied by a cement-mixer slider and a changeup he’s beginning to showcase more regularly, and he’s garnered more attention than he ever thought possible.
“I won’t lie, I didn’t think with Covid any of this would be happening,” Shoemaker said. “I assumed I would get looks and stuff, but I didn’t think it would get taken this seriously around this time. It’s just shocking to me. … It happened so fast. It’s not like this has been going on for years, it’s just the last month-and-a-bit. It all exploded, and we’re getting a lot of phone calls and texts and emails and everything like that over the last couple of weeks.”
Over the last couple of years, and to an even further extent in the past several weeks, Shoemaker has become a pitcher. He only truly began focusing on baseball when he was 16, and the southpaw has recently revamped his mechanics and pitch grips, and has experienced immense jumps in both velocity and interest because of it.
“When I got to Long Island, I was 87 to 90, and then I came out and was 93 to 95,” he said. “Usually it’s 90 to 93, but I like to say the 95 now because I may as well. It sounds better.”
It does sound better, because it is better. And it’s something that not even Shoemaker himself expected, at least not quite yet.
“The first time I threw 95, I didn’t even know what happened,” he said. “I was in shock actually. I figured I’d get it eventually, but I didn’t think it would be that quick. It was a pretty good feeling.”
For Shoemaker, the uptick in velocity was a result of some lower half mechanical changes to go along with a winter of weight training and strength gaining.
“When I was in Canada, I was doing a lot of weight lifting and stuff, but when I got here I was trying to refine the way that I use my legs,” he said. “It was loading the back leg properly, creating separation with my shoulders and my hips, and landing on my front leg better. I’d land on the side of it, and I would lose force. So I've been cleaning all that up.
“I also put on 20 pounds since last September. I was 185 then and I’m 205 now. I don’t think it was as hard as I thought it would be. It was a lot of eating and working out, and a lot of protein powder and mass gainer. And it was a lot of food; a lot of money spent on food. But I started feeling stronger, when I pitched I just had more strength. Overall I felt more powerful, strong, and balanced, so another 20 pounds may make me feel even stronger out there.”
Shoemaker went from seeing maybe three or four scouts in the stands at his games to 20, then 30, then more. The St. John’s commit believes evaluators are excited about his projectability more than anything, and they’ve gotten him even more enthusiastic about his own future.
“I’ve shown that I can get the velo up there,” the lefty said. “And in a couple of years when I add strength and grow, they know that I will be able to surpass that, and know my pitches are going to improve with just strength gains. I haven’t pitched that much. I started taking it seriously when I was 16, so I’ve only been at it for a couple of years.
“I’m excited to see myself grow as a player, too. I’ve been putting on weight pretty fast, and even next year I’m going to be way bigger, and it’s going to help with consistency.”
Shoemaker hadn’t given a whole lot of realistic thought to the draft, but things changed rapidly. He knows he has a great option to head to St. John’s in the fall, and that he can do no wrong in whatever decision lies ahead.
“The day I threw 93 for the first time, which was a week after I came down here,” Shoemaker said of when he first realized pro ball might be an option. “I threw the day after I got here (to the States), then began training in Long Island, and a week later I sat 90 to 93 in a bullpen and I was like, ‘Wow.’ Then when I hit 95 a couple weeks later that made me feel like this could happen. It’s been crazy. It’s been a lot of fun though.”
Shoemaker’s fast rise landed him as the No. 496-ranked draft prospect in the latest edition of the BA 500. He broke down his repertoire and what he believes will help him at the next level, wherever that may be.
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“For the velo, just growing and understanding my body, putting on weight, and cleaning everything up made the difference,” Shoemaker said. “Before it was a little messy. It wasn’t like I was doing fine critiques, I’ve just been making gains and striding, and making massive jumps throughout the last couple years. My fastball grip’s been the same for a long time, for the last couple years, I use a four-seam grip and it didn’t change the velocity or anything. The ball jumps out of my hand because of my mechanics. I’m not really a high-effort thrower, so when I see video of myself it looks really slow but the ball pops out of my hand and it has horizontal tail to the left and it gets in on lefty batters and tails away from righty batters.”
“I’ve had a couple grip changes with my slider; a couple of big things actually,” he said. “My fingers were on the seams, but I twisted the ball and held it in a different way and it became sharper with later break. Before it was loopy and recently it’s been hard, breaks away from lefties and breaks into righties.”
“It’s come a long way too,” Shoemaker said. “It was inconsistent the last couple years so I didn’t really throw it often … I changed from a four-seam circle changeup to a two-seam circle changeup, and I lowered my hand on the seams. It started becoming more consistent with the changes I’ve made and I started getting more comfortable with it. Before, I would change my arm speed when I would throw it and my arm would stay behind me and it wouldn’t do too much. When I started getting my arm out in front of me like my fastball, it started having the movement I wanted. It would be slower, straight to the catcher, then it would tail off to the left to fade at the last second.
“When I was in New York, the hitters weren’t as good and I could get away with my fastball, so I would just use that. But when I was in Ohio with the Warhawks, playing against a lot better hitters, I needed to start mixing things up. So the last two appearances I had there, I used the changeup a lot more. It’s been pretty good, but I need more work and experience with it, to get more comfortable.”
Control and command
“My control has just come along with years of throwing and experience,” Shoemaker said. “When I started, I was very inconsistent with control but over the last two years, it’s been getting pretty good.”