How Sam Bachman's Fastball, 'Gyro Slider' Make Him A Sought-After Draft Prospect
There’s a convincing argument that righthander Sam Bachman has the loudest pure stuff of any college pitcher in the 2021 MLB Draft.
And in a lot of ways, Bachman is modern pitching development personified.
Bachman’s mostly two-pitch arsenal is loud. He opened the 2021 season for Miami (Ohio) sitting 95-96 mph with his fastball, touching 100 mph at times, and paired it with a hard slider mostly in the 86-88 mph range that touched 90. Bachman overwhelmed Mid-American Conference hitters, striking out 93 batters in 59.2 innings while holding opponents to a .147 average and just seven extra-base hits.
Evaluators across the country scurried in to see Bachman. Unsurprisingly, he vaulted up draft boards, going from No. 54 to No. 15 in the most recent BA 500 update.
Bachman didn’t always throw this hard. He’s one of an increasing number of amateur pitchers who tapped into modern training resources to get a better understanding of their pitches—and more importantly, how to improve them.
The 6-foot-1 righty has the second-best RapScore (62) of any pitcher currently ranked in the BA 500. RapScore is Rapsodo’s method of taking the data and insights it collects, then translating it into the 20-80 baseball scouting scale. For pitchers, a Rapscore is ultimately boiled down to three sectors: A pitcher’s velocity, horizontal break and vertical break. The RapScore weighs each of the pitches, but the fastball and best secondary pitch carry the largest weight in the score.
This is where Bachman’s arsenal gets quite fun. Let’s take a look at the video below.
According to Rapsodo’s data, what’s unique about Bachman’s upper-90s fastball, which has drawn plus grades from evaluators, is how he throws it.
"He actually throws (his fastball) around two o'clock (on the spin axis), which is more on the side of it than then most people would throw it, especially at that velocity,” Rapsodo analytics manager Nick Rossini said on the latest Baseball America tech & baseball podcast.
“And he's like a three-quarters (release point). He throws that pitch in a very interesting spot. He gets a ton of horizontal break on it. You wouldn't normally see that. Most fastballs are mostly vertical break, but he actually has a lot of horizontal and vertical break. And he also throws it at super high efficiency.”
One key point to make—which the podcast delves into in great detail—is that while having higher spin rates is useful, understanding the spin efficiency of each pitch is key. Modern pitchers have to know how their pitches work in concert together. You can have very high spin rates and be successful. You can have very low spin rates and be successful. What pitchers need to avoid is being average.
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And Bachman’s slider—arguably the jewel of his arsenal—is anything but average. Some evaluators have even thrown a 70 grade on the pitch.
“Our data we have on him is 88-plus (mph) almost all the time, with a very low spin efficiency,” Rossini said.
“So like I talked about earlier, he actually has a very gyro ball-ish pitch. So it's a 20% or below spin efficiency, meaning that it's a pitch that's gonna have that late break and actually kind of fall off the table.
Jacob deGrom is a prime example of someone throwing the ‘gyro’ slider. He throws it very hard. Yet there is minimal horizontal or vertical movement, breaking nearly at the center of a break chart. ‘Gyro’ spin actually does very little to impact the movement of a pitch as it travels toward home plate. So when thrown with exceptionally low spin-efficiency, it creates a vicious tumbling, late-diving action.
Bachman is similar, and as this Pitching Ninja overlay shows, his slider creates a wicked tunneling effect when paired with the fastball.
So while Bachman’s slider doesn’t have the more traditional “two-plane” break you may come to expect from a slider, it’s actually quite effective. And because he pairs these two advanced offerings, he’s not expected to last long on the first night of the MLB draft.
Bachman is not without risk. He missed time this year with shoulder soreness. He hasn't showcased a third pitch often—he features a mid-80s changeup but threw it less than 10% of the time this spring. There’s also enough concern with the rigidity of his delivery and arm action that some teams have pegged Bachman as a future reliever.
But there’s enough conviction in the present metrics of his fastball and slider to suggest he’ll be in demand next month, and could be quite effective relatively quickly once he turns pro.