How Adding A Curveball Changes His Arsenal: Cale Lansville Scouts Himself
The best reactions are also the most fun.
When Cale Lansville’s slider is on, the 18-year-old righthander might see a lefthanded hitter swinging for strike three at the same time the ball is hitting him on his back foot. Against righties, his favorite reaction is to watch them bail out as the ball lands in the zone.
It’s his best pitch—also the one he graded out the highest while running through a scouting report on himself using a form previously utilized by Major League Baseball’s scouting bureau—and one that has become a consistent weapon for him throughout his time at ThunderRidge High in Highlands Ranch, Colo.
“I’ve always had a natural ability to throw my slider,” said Lansville, the No. 173-ranked draft prospect. “When it really became a big tool for me was my sophomore year, where I changed the grip of it a little bit and was working with my pitching coach Dom Johnson on it. Some of the cues that he gave me throwing that pitch really helped me and that advanced my game a lot. And then junior year and senior year with the little adjustments I’ve made have made that a plus pitch.”
Settling in with the slider and getting to where it is now also gave Lansville the added confidence to bring a fourth pitch into his mix, now throwing a curveball in the high 70s to complement his fastball-slider-changeup combination. As his toolbox expanded, however, he made sure to not lose sight of what has become his bread and butter.
“The way to keep that as an out pitch is being able to mix speeds and locations and change eye levels, but also just reading hitters’ swings,” Lansville said. “Adding in that curveball not only adds in different velocity but different depths. I feel super confident with all four of my pitches but adding in that curveball, reading the hitter’s swing, I can use that pitch where I feel like I need to get more depth to get a strikeout.
“Or I can use my slider, something faster with a lot of bite, to get hitters out. But understanding when I want to use those pitches and where I want to throw them is what’s going to separate me, but also just keep the hitters off balance and keep my slider an out pitch.”
Lansville has been lauded for his feel for pitching to go along with a solid repertoire, and for that he believes the credit lies squarely in dual camps.
“There are two things that led to that,” the Louisiana State commit said. “One, I have to give a lot of credit to my pitching coach. I like to learn and understand things, so when I work with my pitching coach and he’s able to explain things to me and I can really understand why I’m doing this movement, understand faults and fixes, and just truly understand my mechanics, that’s what helps.
“Then also I have three brothers and a sister and I’m the second youngest, so always competing and trying to stay with them and be able to play sports with them led me to being competitive and wanting to win at everything I do. It’s a big factor, because when you go out on the mound, some days you may not have your best stuff but you’ve still got to pitch and you’ve still got to compete. So putting those together and understanding what I want to do, understanding the feel that I have on the mound and having competitiveness is what helps me be able to go out there and consistently know what I want to do and execute that way.”
A significant factor in Lansville’s success so far has been in his ability to identify where issues are coming from when things are not going as planned on the mound, and using that identification to understand how to return to the path of success.
“For my faults and fixes, I have a good understanding of what I want to do,” Lansville said. “And what’s helped for consistency is that if I don’t like the shape of a pitch I throw, I know it’s a mechanical thing. Maybe if it’s my curveball, I got to the pitch too early, or got to my thumb too early. If I don’t like the movement on a pitch, it’s a mechanical issue, but if I like the action on a pitch—whether that be fastball, changeup, slider, curve—but it’s a ball or in the dirt, I change my sightline. I’ll sight up more or when I have those sightlines in for each pitch, change those sightlines.
“It’s really understanding whether it’s a mechanical issue or a sightline problem. Like I really like this pitch, I’ve just got to move my eyes to a different spot. Or I don’t like the movement on that pitch, it’s not the break I wanted, I know I got to that pitch too early. Or if it’s gotten a little sweepy, I need to make sure I’m firm on my front side. So for understanding the faults and fixes, those are the two big things.”
Lansville has leaned on a combination of feel and technology to help him through that process of understanding, but also knows that he can only utilize one of those things when the game is on the line.
“I’ve thrown on Rapsodos and TrackMans and Edgertronics and all those different types of things, but it’s also important to learn and be able to compete and pitch without those things,” Lansville said. “Understanding those numbers is super important in understanding what you want to try to accomplish when you’re out on the mound but at the same time, when you’re 60 feet, six inches away, the only thing that matters is how you’re going to get that batter out and how you’re going to help your team win.”