Pontes Of View: May 5
It was another exciting week in the minor leagues, with a number of standout pitching performances to choose from on any given night.
In this week’s edition of P.O.V., we profile 10 different starters, nine of whom come from the Class A levels. We dig in on the pitchers’ performances, pitch mixes and their ability to execute.
Tuesday, April 26
Christian Chamberlain, LHP
High-A Quad Cities (Royals)
A 2020 fourth-rounder from Oregon State, Chamberlain missed a majority of 2021 with a variety of injuries and was limited to two appearances. With a clean bill of health entering 2022, Chamberlain has made four starts with High-A Quad-Cities.
An undersized lefty with arm speed, athleticism and an enticing three-pitch mix, Chamberlain is a pitcher whose arsenal grades highly on Stuff+ style models. This was apparent from the first inning, when Chamberlain came out sitting 94-95 mph with heavy ride on a fastball with a flat vertical approach angle. He showed a high-80s changeup that he landed for strikes, and he generated a two-strike whiff against the only curveball he threw in the opening frame for his first strikeout of the start. He struck out one more batter for a 1-2-3 first inning.
In Chamberlain’s second and final inning he lost the feel for the strike zone and walked the first batter of the inning before giving up a home run two batters later. He walked the following batter before striking out the final two to limit any further damage. His final line for the day was two innings, one hit, two earned runs, two walks, four strikeouts and a home run allowed.
This was a Jekyll and Hyde start for Chamberlain, who looked excellent and efficient in the first before struggling to command his fastball and changeup combination in the second frame. There’s understandably some rust after he spent the majority of the last two seasons on the sidelines. Overall, he possesses plus stuff and a track record of generating whiffs.
Jordan Wicks, LHP
High-A South Bend (Cubs)
The Cubs’ first-round pick last year out of Kansas State, Wicks was the first college lefthander taken in the 2021 class. He made four starts with High-A South Bend last year out of the draft and returned to the level out of camp this spring.
This was Wicks’ third start of the season. He faced off against Quad Cities on the road. Wicks took a bit to settle in, struggling to land his changeup to the arm-side part of the plate early, which left his fastball vulnerable in the zone. Before he recorded an out in the second inning, Wicks had already allowed a pair of doubles, a pair of singles and a walk. He managed to escape the second with only a single earned run allowed. His command of his secondaries seemed to lock in as soon as the first run hit the scoreboard.
After that, Wicks sat down eight consecutive batters, four via strikeouts. Once Wicks locked in and started to execute to his arm side with his changeup and curveball, he became nearly unhittable.
Wicks showed the ability to adjust and settle in even after a difficult opening to this start. His fastball sat 93-94 mph with plus vertical break. He played his low-to-mid-80s changeup off of it and mixed in a high-spin downer curveball in the low 80s. He showed a starter’s mix and ability to repeat. If he can tighten his command for long stretches, Wicks has true mid-rotation upside.
Michael McGreevy, RHP
High-A Peoria (Cardinals)
The 18th overall selection in last year’s draft, McGreevy has been a standout thus far in 2022, and he made two starts during week three.
The righthander from UC Santa Barbara mixes four pitches: a low-to-mid-90s four-seam fastball, a mid-80s slider, a high-70s curveball with two-plane break and a changeup at 85-87 mph with tumble and late running life. Outside of a single hard hit ball that went for a home run to open the second against Wisconsin, McGreevy was excellent. He was getting ahead in counts early, landing his fastball to all four quadrants on command and using his changeup to both sides of the plate versus lefthanded batters.
He mixed in his curveball in two-strike counts by burying it at the front of the plate. His slider stole strikes and played off of his fastball against righthanded batters. Both his fastball and slider are hittable when he misses his spots, but that was not a frequent occurrence. He landed 67 of his 95 pitches on the day for strikes, good enough for a 70.5% strike rate. He generated 16 swinging strikes and 19 called strikes, and seemed equally adept at blowing a pitch by a hitter as he did stealing a strike with a backdoor slider or a changeup on the outer half.
While his stuff on paper is fairly pedestrian with dead-zone movement in his fastball and nothing that measures as plus outside of his changeup based on the data, McGreevy gets by with a high level of pitchability and advanced sequencing. He stayed in rhythm throughout the outing and you can tell he’s a fan of the new pitch clock, because McGreevy is a notoriously fast worker dating back to his collegiate days. He also fields his position well and displays an excellent pickoff move that caught two batters sleeping during this start.
McGreevy faces questions about his stuff playing against more advanced competition—and the concerns are warranted. Still, the Cardinals have a track record of developing pitchability types into major league rotation stalwarts.
Russell Smith, LHP
High-A Wisconsin (Brewers)
Leading up to the 2021 college season, Smith had not pitched competitively for the better part of two seasons. He had Tommy John surgery in 2019 and made just four starts in 2020 before the pandemic cut short the NCAA season.
Smith made 15 starts for Texas Christian and struck out 101 batters across 82.1 innings. The Brewers drafted him in the second round in 2021 but held him out of competition last summer. He debuted in Wisconsin this spring and has made four starts over the first month of the season.
Standing 6-foot-7, Smith strikes an imposing figure on the mound, which creates big downhill plane on his fastball. Despite his size and physicality, he has only modest fastball velocity, sitting 89-93 mph. What he lacks in power he makes up for with heavy ride and late burst as his four-seamer enters the zone. He generated several swings and misses in the upper quadrants over the first four innings against Peoria. He mixed in a sweepy slider with a little ride and above-average horizontal movement that seemed to dart across the zone as it approached the plate.
Smith’s changeup came and went, showing average shape at times. He stole strikes with his fastball and slider and missed bats with the fastball elevated. His command would suddenly disappear and then show back up again. He faces difficulty repeating his delivery because of his large body and moderate to below-average athleticism. He’s not the fastest mover and has only average arm speed leaving less projection than you might expect from a player just beginning his professional career.
Smith ran into trouble in the fourth inning when he lost command or any ability to repeat. While Smith has some appealing elements, his fastball and slider shape particularly, he’ll need to make improvements in the way of command or power to project as an MLB-caliber pitcher, be it reliever or starter.
Sem Robberse, RHP
High-A Vancouver (Blue Jays)
Signed out of the Netherlands during the 2019 international period, Robberse has produced above-average results across his three minor league stops. He returned to High-A Vancouver this spring after seeing a seven-game stretch with the Canadians last year.
Entering his start on April 26, Robberse had made two starts, allowing five earned runs over 10 innings. From the very start of this game, Robberse went right after the Hillsboro lineup, drawing weak groundball contact on the first three batters he faced, followed by a second inning where he induced three fly balls. In the third inning, Robberse retired the side in order once again on three ground balls. He needed just 28 pitches to retire nine of the first 10 batters he faced.
In the fourth inning, Robberse allowed one of two hits on the day, but he retired the other three batters via strikeouts. The righthander cruised through the fifth through seventh innings, allowing two batters to reach, one via a double down the line and another due to a fielding error by Robberse.
Overall, Robberse showed very well on the day, with a combination of location, a deep pitch mix and the ability to generate weak groundball contact. It was an impressive showing for the 20-year old Dutchman. He mixed five different pitches in a low-90s four-seam fastball, a mid-80s cement-mixer slider, a sweepy high-70s curveball, a mid-80s changeup and a high-80s cutter. His ability to work efficiently and use the depth of his repertoire to generate outs in a variety of ways stood out.
Royber Salinas, RHP
Low-A Augusta (Braves)
The minor league leader in strikeouts had another big week, arguably the biggest of his career, as he punched out 21 batters across nine innings.
The April 26 start against Delmarva was an unusual one for Salinas because he tiptoed between being unhittable and wild. He recorded all 12 of his outs via strikeouts and walked five. Pumping his fastball in the upper quadrants at 94-96 mph, Salinas would often get ahead early before watching batters take his breaking balls and chase fastballs well above the zone. All three of his pitches feature a lot of movement and late life, but his upper-70s curveball with two-plane break shows violent late sweep and drop. When he can land it in or around the zone, it's impossible for hitters to barrel—but too often it’s an easy take or an uncompetitive chase pitch.
Salinas’ slider is his best present breaking ball, with a tight cement-mixer shape and a knack for landing in the zone for called strikes. The pitch sat 82-85 mph and was frequently used when Salinas found himself in a hitter’s count. He went just four innings in this start but struck out 12, dominating the opposition with a scattershot barrage of hard and wild pitches.
Salinas’ unusual slingshot motion and high release point add an element of deception that, when coupled with his above-average to plus velocity on his fastball and slider and the heavy two-plane break on his curveball, create an incredibly uncomfortable at-bat. At times it seemed like some hitters didn’t plan to take the bat off their shoulder so that they could force Salinas to throw strikes. Those who did could hope for at best a foul ball, or at worst an ugly swinging strike, because hard, flush contact seemed nearly impossible on the day, partially due to Salinas’ near non-existent command at times.
If Salinas can consistently harness his loud stuff, he could develop into a mid-rotation arm with high strikeout totals, but a Cristian Javier starter-reliever hybrid seems like a reasonable outcome at present.
Wednesday, April 27
Chase Silseth, RHP
Double-A Rocket City (Angels)
After bouncing around during his collegiate career with stints at Tennessee, JC of Southern Nevada and Arizona, Silseth never impressed as an amateur despite electric stuff. He fell to the Angels in the 11th round last year and earned a promotion to Double-A Rocket City for a pair of late season appearances in 2021. He returned to Double-A out of camp this spring and has made four starts entering May, most recently a start on April 27 against Birmingham at home.
Silseth has a deep arsenal of pitches led by a mid-to-high-90s four-seam fastball with a flatter vertical approach angle that effectively misses over the top of swings. He pairs that with a plus splitter that he goes to consistently in two-strike counts, particularly versus lefthanders. His primary breaking ball is a sweepy slider in the mid 80s, and he mixes in a low-80s curveball with more vertical shape. He mixed all of his secondaries off of his high-octane four-seamer but primarily leaned on his splitter and slider.
Silseth allowed a triple to the second hitter of the game but struck out the other three batters he faced to open the game. He struggled to open the second, allowing a run on a single-walk-sacrifice fly sequence, but a fly out to center followed by a strikeout of Cornelius Randolph ended the inning. He needed just 10 pitches to get through the third, striking out the first two batters of the inning, before inducing a first-pitch fly out. He got through the fourth on just nine pitches, inducing two flyouts and a lineout. He opened the fifth by striking out Raudy Read and JJ Muno to open the inning before inducing a groundout in a two-strike count. He came back out for the sixth and immediately allowed two singles. He then induced a ground ball to the shortstop that resulted in a double play and got a fly ball out in a 3-2 count after he battled back from down 3-0.
Overall, Silseth showed the ability to challenge hitters with big stuff and get his pitches in the zone enough to be effective. He will make his catcher earn his paycheck when he’s on the mound because his misses are often wild. When Silseth is locked in and landing his fastball in or around the zone, the rest of his arsenal locks in. If he continues to harness his big stuff, he could see the majors by the final weeks of the season.
Friday, April 29
Ricky Tiedemann, LHP
Low-A Dunedin (Blue Jays)
Selected by the Blue Jays in the second round out of Golden West (Calif.) JC, Tiedemann made his pro debut this spring in the Low-A Florida State League. His first month as a professional could not have gone better. Tiedemann allowed two runs in the fifth inning of his debut but has since gone on a run of 15 consecutive scoreless innings.
Tiedemann comes armed with a three-pitch mix, led by a mid-to-high-90s fastball that he can blow past Low-A hitters with relative ease. He pairs that with a sweepy slider that sits between 81-83 mph and a mid-80s changeup with heavy tumble and late running action.
After a line out to the opening batter, Tiedemann didn’t allow another ball in play until the fourth inning as he struck out eight consecutive batters. He missed bats with his fastball and stole strikes with his changeup and slider, challenging batters at a rapid pace and using the pitch clock to his advantage. He got ahead in counts early and often and seemed to get into two-strike counts as quickly as he wanted. He exited the game after the fifth with a perfect game intact with nine strikeouts, 15 swinging strikes and 41 strikes on 58 pitches.
Overall, it’s easy to see why Tiedemann is quickly becoming a favorite name as a potential breakout in 2022. After a stellar opening month, he’ll look to continue his strong performance heading into the summer. With a trio of above-average to plus pitches, an athletic motion and plenty of projection remaining, Tiedemann is a name to dream on.
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Sunday, May 1
Robert Gasser, LHP
High-A Fort Wayne (Padres)
Drafted in the second round last year ouf of Houston, Gasser has been up and down so far with standout performances over his last two starts after a difficult pair to open the season. Gasser faced a Dayton lineup for the second time last week after a hard-luck loss on Tuesday to open the six-game series.
Getting the start on Sunday afternoon, the lefty came out firing and retired the side on 10 pitches and struck out all three batters he faced. He then struck out the first batter of the second inning before getting a groundball out against Jose Torres for the second out of the inning. Gasser ran into a little trouble with two outs, allowing back-to-back hits that scored a run. He came out in the third and got two quick outs before allowing a two-out single to Elly De La Cruz. He struck out the following batter, Rece Hinds, after a seven-pitch battle.
The fourth inning is where Gasser really ran into trouble. He allowed a single, two doubles and a hit batter. He did strike out three on the inning, running his total to nine on the day. Overall, it was an up-and-down outing for Gasser. He showed the ability to dominate for periods with his primary three pitches: his fastball, slider and changeup. He mixed in a curveball in two-strike counts. He generated swinging strikes on his fastball and his slider and challenged hitters in the zone. When he lost command for his fastball and slider, he was hit hard in the zone. With four pitches to choose from, an improvement in sequencing and execution could potentially lead to more success the second time through the lineup.
Andrew Abbott, LHP
High-A Dayton (Reds)
The lefthander faced off against Gasser in a battle of second-round college lefthanders in Fort Wayne. The former Virginia star entered the game having allowed just two earned runs over his first three starts of the season with 25 strikeouts to six walks across 15 innings. Abbott was dominant on the day, going six scoreless innings and striking out 10 while allowing just two hits and a walk.
Abbott was perfect over the first three innings, using his three-pitch mix effectively. His fastball led the way, sitting 92-94 mph early before dropping down to 91-93 later. He showed the ability to land it elevated in the strike zone and to both sides of the plate, setting up his high-70s curveball and mid-80s changeup in two-strike counts. Few balls were hit on the day and only a few hard fly outs could account for any hard contact off of Abbott. His combination of control and the ability to consistently execute his curveball and changeup allowed him to cruise through the Fort Wayne lineup. With a dominant start to the season, Abbott should see a promotion to Double-A Chattanooga shortly.