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Game Report: Georgia Tech v. Missouri State, 2/21/10

With today’s game between Georgia Tech and Missouri State, I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular. Georgia Tech’s starter, Jed Bradley, is a 2011 arm, and I was simply just trying to get a feel for what he has to offer. On the other side, Missouri State’s starter, Pat Doyle, is a 2010 prospect, and one that I felt was a mid-round arm coming in. I had already seen much of what the lineups had to offer, so I was simply going to refine what I had and to work with the things I already noticed. I’m just going to devote paragraphs to each of the players I focused on today.

The usual number of scouts was there today, and it was obvious that they were there to see what Bradley had to offer. They had all moved across the aisle, to where they could see Bradley’s motion a little better. Bradley started off very well, and he never really slowed down from there. At 6’4’’, Bradley attacks hitters with an above-average fastball that comes at hitters on a good downhill plane. Bradley sat in the 90-91 range most of the day, and he touched 93, which is good velocity from a left-handed starter. When he subtracts a little velocity, he gets good arm side run, and he used that on more than one occasion to bring back a pitch on the outside corner to lefties. He features a pair of breaking balls, a curveball which flashes plus and has tight break, and a slider that is much less of a quality pitch. He threw a few breaking balls that were slurvy, and I think they were poorly-thrown curveballs, but their break wasn’t as sharp and had more sideways movement than his normal curveballs. His command of his fastball was sharp most of the day, and most of the damage against him came due to nibbling or the lack of command of his secondary pitches. The only real minus I saw on Bradley was that he lands on a fairly stiff front leg, and that might be a cause for concern. He’ll get a chance to pitch out of the weekend rotation for the whole year, though, if he pitches like he did today, so we’ll be able to see how he holds up over the course of an entire season. His final line included 12 strikeouts in 6 shutout innings, walking only 1 and allowing 4 hits. Most of his strikeouts were with fastballs, and he was very aggressive with his fastball today, a good sign for a young pitcher against metal bats. I think Bradley’s a definite first day prospect for the 2011 draft if what I saw today is the norm for him over the next two seasons.

Pat Doyle wasn’t nearly as effective as Bradley, though he got his fair share of swings and misses. Early on, he was effective changing speeds off of his high-80s to low-90s fastball, and he sat right at 90 for the majority of his outing. The minus to that was that it was a straighter pitch than any I saw all weekend, and once hitters picked up on the arm angle the second time around the lineup, they started giving it a ride. Doyle’s changeup showed a little promise, and it’s probably a future 45 to 50 pitch, below-average to average. That’s in opposition to a pair of breaking pitches in a slider and curve, which were both well below-average today. The curve shows less promise than the slider, and I think it should be scrapped altogether. However, the slider will only be an occasionally effective pitch at the next level, and he’ll live and die by his fastball location mixed with his changeup. However, his fastball command wasn’t great, and that was responsible for the three home runs he gave up today, His overall command was not good, and he really showed fringy organizational relief arm stuff on the whole. The thing I really noticed with Doyle was a little mix of bad makeup on the mound. He had numerous communication issues with his catcher, and he also got frustrated with the umpire on more than one occasion, and that’s with an umpire that had a generous pitcher’s zone. Those things concern me just a bit, especially from a senior. All in all, I came away with the impression that Doyle’s an arm that’s probably an early 20s-round pick, and he’ll always struggle without good fastball command.

Georgia Tech featured the only two relief arms I had much interest in for the day. Buck Farmer, the Braves’ 46th-round pick in 2009, pitched the 7th inning, and his college debut was successful despite shaky command, which I attributed to jitters. He flashed a curveball that had good shape, and it’s a possible above-average pitch. He got good late life on his fastball, as well as some deceptiveness, and it plays up from its low-90s velocity. He also threw a slider that looked decent, but I only saw it briefly, and I can’t judge much from it. The interesting part about Farmer was a good pickoff move that almost got a runner off first twice. He should be a starter by the time his days at Tech are over. After Andrew Robinson pitched the 8th with rather fringy stuff and command, Kevin Jacob entered to close out the series sweep. He looked tired compared to Friday, and he’ll need to work on that for the rest of the season if he wants teams to believe he can have the kind of arm a closer needs to have. His fastball was a low-90s pitch on the day, and his slider had little shape or break today, and he was hit pretty hard, as his command was also shaky. He had trouble putting hitters away, and he was lucky to escape without any runs coming across.

Looking briefly at a few hitters, I came away a little underwhelmed for the series as a whole. Georgia Tech put up good offensive numbers on Saturday and Sunday, but at the expense of pitchers with command problems or fringy stuff. Jeff Rowland has convinced me he has true plus speed, and his range in center is above-average, but his bat is definitely more of a bench or organizational bat. He showed a major vulnerability to the soft stuff in the lower part of the zone, over the middle to the inside part of the plate. Most of his swings and misses were against such pitches. The unfortunate thing that occurred today was a cowardly play by Missouri State first baseman Tyler Ryun, who after fielding a ball right on the first base line about 10 feet from first base, stood in the base path, and as Rowland approached him running down the line, Ryun promptly turned sideways and ducked, then practically picked Rowland up and dropped him over his back, while Rowland was running almost full speed. It almost looked like a movie where a football player is picked up by a safety and dropped behind him. Rowland and Ryun almost got mixed up in a fight at that point, and there was a lot of tension for the rest of the game. Needless to say, Ryun was not a fan favorite, and he was lucky he didn’t get a fastball in the mouth at the plate. It was probably the dumbest move I have ever seen in person.

Chase Burnette continued to impress me today, and while I still think he’s a fourth or fifth outfield at best, he showed some of the little things that make him stand out. After getting upset by an umpire’s call while hitting, instead of simply letting it get to him, Burnette showed a solid two-strike approach, and ended up muscling an outside pitch the opposite way for a home run to left field. On a team filled with pull hitters from the left side, that approach impressed me, especially the pop that way, though it was aided by the metal bat. I’d give Burnette’s power a 45 grade for now, but I like what he’s doing with his fringy tools. He could work himself into an early-teens pick, maybe higher with continued success this year.

Missouri State’s best 2010 bat is Aaron Conway, and I got plenty of chances to see him up against good pitching this weekend. He has a small frame, and while he can track a few balls down in center, he’s not average or above in pretty much any of his tools. He gets by more on experience than tools, and the results are mixed. After seeing him play for three games, he looks like a pick in the range of the rounds in the 20s, and he’s an organizational outfielder on most teams. The last time I checked, however, he’s signed to play on the Cape next summer, so a team might pick him with the intention of following him over the summer to see how he does with wood bats.

That’s about all I have for tonight. I’d like to see the Georgia Tech hitters a few more times before really passing judgment on them, so take the observations I’ve made this weekend with a grain of salt. It was still opening weekend for everybody on the field, so I expect adjustments along the way.