Adding Velocity: 2021 Draft Prospect Calvin Ziegler Scouts Himself
Velocity—it fascinates, intimidates, and impresses.
So how does one add a significant amount of it to their repertoire?
Of course, the answer varies. Some pitchers have seen a jump in velo after a growth spurt, some after significant strength training and gains, and others, like 18-year-old Calvin Ziegler, have been known to see spikes on the radar gun after a cleanup of throwing mechanics. The Canadian righthander benefited from all of the aforementioned factors, but primarily in gleaning a more thorough understanding of the latter.
“It’s been a slow progression over the last four of five years of two miles an hour here, three miles an hour the next year,” said Ziegler, who currently ranks No. 194 in the 2021 draft class. “That got me a good base, and then when I joined the Great Lake Canadians, I saw the jump to 97. The year before I was topping out at 93, but joining guys with professional experience helped because of their understanding … and they cleaned up the kinks in my mechanics.”
Working with Great Lake pitching coordinator Jon Fitzsimmons, Ziegler gained an enhanced understanding of his own cues on the mound. The first—staying in control.
“When I really do try to throw hard, it doesn’t usually come out any harder than when I don’t try,” he said. “The smoother I move, the more efficient I become. And obviously with efficiency, velocity will follow, because the ball will be able to come in a lot smoother.”
The two other cues the Auburn commit has been focused on he called “weird ones,” though they became anything but, as he explained further.
“It’s kind of what pitchers do—we find weird things that work,” the native of Heidelberg, Ontario said. “Mine is my back knee and elbows. They’re two separate cues but they’re kind of the same thing. They’re in sequence with each other, with the back knee being the first one and the elbows being the second one. The back knee actually I picked up on from Max Scherzer. I was working with [sports chiropractor] Dr. Andrew Robb, I’ve been with him a long time. He was always a big influence on the lower half, because when I was younger I didn’t really use [my legs], I kind of just threw the ball with my upper body.
“But we looked at some guys and then Max Scherzer came up and I noticed his back knee, how it stays back pretty much as long as possible, and when it collapses it moves at super speed, it explodes. He gets a lot of separation with that and then his trunk action as well, he gets a lot of rotational speed, which is what I’m after. But with the upper body moving, the elbows are what come in to help the body turn. It’s about the elbows moving in sync, not just the front elbow pulling ahead too much or else the back elbow will be late. And if it’s not early enough, the back elbow will be too early, and everything is out of sync. So it’s about everything moving in sync is what helps become cleaner and tighten up the mechanics.”
In addition to the combination of adding size and strength, and cleaning up his delivery—through much repetition—Ziegler also credits an increase in mobility in allowing him to move his body more easily and quickly, also adding to that spike in velocity.
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While Ziegler has been up to 97, and believes he’ll get there again as he gets further into spring with TNXL Academy in Altamonte Springs, Fla., right now the righty is sitting in the low-to-mid 90s with a fastball that rides with arm-side run when it’s up in the zone and sinks with a little more arm-side run when he throws it down. Ziegler offered these insights as he ran through a scouting report on himself using a form previously used by Major League Baseball’s scouting bureau.
With no familiarity of the 20-to-80 scouting scale, he attempted to quickly learn so that he could offer further wisdom on his tools, while breaking them down along the way. The first order of business was sorting out that while many observers have labelled his spike curveball as a slider, he does not, in fact, throw a slider.
“It’s not quite 12-6 but it’s not horizontal like a slider would be either,” Ziegler explained. “It’s more in between the two; probably more of an 11-5. … It’s definitely had some work, but it’s not loose. It would be closer to the tight side. … There was a point in time where it almost became a slurve, but it’s not now. [And] it has bite in the strike zone.”
Ziegler also throws a changeup with tail and sink, identifying it as “a sharper changeup, which is weird,” and noting that not only does he maintain his arm speed when he throws it, “if I try to throw it slow, it is probably the worst pitch you’ve ever seen.”