Kyle Hart Masters The Art Of Changing Speeds
Lefthander Kyle Hart tops out in the low 90s, doesn’t have a single pitch that grades as plus and he turned 27 in late November. In other words, he is not exactly the profile of a typical 40-man roster addition.
Yet Hart has defied type by combining an awareness of the direction of the modern game and its analytics with old school feel for the art of pitching to assert himself as part of the organization's depth equation.
The Red Sox signed Hart for $5,000 after drafting him in the 19th round as a fifth-year senior out of Indiana in 2016. He received a medical redshirt after having Tommy John surgery early in his junior season.
Hart was handed nothing, getting placed in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League in 2016 and then opening 2017 in extended spring training before moving to low Class A Greenville at age 24.
Yet Hart was patient in waiting for his opportunities. He dominated to Class A levels in 2017 and then turned in solid work at Double-A Portland in 2018. He continued to get outs in Portland and then Triple-A Pawtucket in 2019, going 12-13, 3.52 with 8.1 strikeouts and, notably, just 0.6 home runs per nine.
Hart now profiles as a depth starter or perhaps an option as a bulk-innings contributor behind an opener. Having such a player with three minor league options was appealing to Boston.
Hart has been able to command his pitches dating to his time at Indiana, which is part of what intrigued then-area scout Blair Henry. But in addition to having a precise plan about where to attack with his fastball, he has worked to unbalance hitters by varying the speed and shapes of his breaking pitches.
Hart varies his curveball between 72-77 mph and also alternates between a cutter and slider. Though Hart has good command of a changeup, he uses the pitch judiciously in the era of on-plane swings.
"I just don’t think that piece of pitching is ever going to go anywhere,” Hart said of the ability to locate and change speeds. "That’s something I’ve gotten better at. I still need to get better at it.”
— The Red Sox signed righthander Chih-Jung Liu out of Taiwan for $750,000. The 20-year-old features a four-pitch mix led by a fastball that the Red Sox had as high as 98 mph.
— Shortstop Matthew Lugo, an 18-year-old taken in the second round of the 2019 draft, is playing for Manati of the winter Puerto Rican League.