For a long time, it was easy to overlook lefthander Bobby Poyner.
At an even 6 feet tall with a fastball that typically sat 90-91 mph, and in the absence of a dominant breaking ball, Poyner didn’t necessarily present the image of a prototypical big leaguer. But over time, the 25-year-old Poyner’s dominance in the minors has been too consistent to keep the Florida product and 14th-round pick in 2015 off the map.
He recorded a 0.35 ERA with 32 strikeouts and no walks in 26 innings at low Class A Greenville at the start of 2016, for instance, suggesting a pitcher who was simply more advanced than hitters in the lower minors. Though he struggled after a promotion to high Class A Salem that year, Poyner showed in 2017 that such dominance wasn’t a fluke by posting a 1.49 ERA with 84 strikeouts in 60.1 innings for Salem and Double-A Portland.
Poyner, who was drafted as a college senior, allowed earned runs in just two of his 27 outings in Portland while striking out 12.2 per nine innings and limiting both walks and solid contact thanks to advanced command of a top-of-the-zone fastball and a diving changeup.
Poyner explained his ability to get swings and misses. He said he throws fastballs at the top of the zone, then changes batters’ eye levels with his changeup.
“I try to get guys caught in the middle,” he said, “and just locate the ball. You can get swings and misses with location. It’s not just velocity.”
The ability to create deception with both his fastball and changeup—while also mixing in a decent slider—has put Poyner on the map. He’ll be a non-roster invitee to big league camp this year, and evaluators elsewhere see a pitcher who is making a case that his ability to retire lefties and righties (who hit just .104 against him in Portland) exceeds assumptions about his stuff.
“Hitters tell you everything,” said an evaluator. “He’s not a flash in the pan. He’s been doing this for three years.”
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