Prospect of the Day: Joe Savery, LHP, Philadelphia Phillies
The Phillies recently promoted lefty Joe Savery to fill a September bullpen spot, and he will be a strong bullpen candidate for 2012. His journey to the majors has been rather unusual, and is the topic for today's Prospect of the Day.
Savery was a star at Rice University, thriving as both a hitter and pitcher. His campaign in 2007 was particularly successful: he hit .356/.435/.505 in 275 at-bats, while going 11-1, 2.99 on the mound. Despite some shoulder problems, scouts preferred him as a pitcher, and he was drafted in the first round, 19th overall. He threw 150 innings in the Florida State League in 2008, but didn't perform as well as expected, going 9-10, 4.13 with a 122/60 K/BB and 171 hits allowed. His velocity was down from his college days, and scouts were concerned about how he would fare at higher levels.
Savery won 16 games between Double-A and Triple-A in 2009, but a 4.40 ERA and a 96/77 K/BB in 151 innings were unimpressive. He was even worse in 2010, going 1-12, 4.66 with a 67/51 K/BB in 127 innings and 154 hits allowed in Triple-A. His career on the ropes, Savery moved to the outfield and first base to begin 2011. He performed well, hitting .307/.368/.410 in 54 games for High-A Clearwater.
However, late in the spring, Savery hit 90-92 MPH during an emergency relief outing for Clearwater. By early July he had his college velocity back, and he returned to pitching full-time. He ended up posting a 1.50 ERA with a 41/6 K/BB in 36 innings between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A.
25 years old, Savery is listed at 6-3, 215 pounds. With the time off from pitching and some mechanical refinements, he has regained the 90-94 MPH fastball that was missing for three years. The pitch sinks well and he picks up plenty of ground balls. His slider, which drew mediocre reviews a couple of years ago, has improved to where it is his main secondary pitch, supplanting his changeup. Given his history, it makes plenty of sense to keep him in the bullpen. He held lefties to a .192 average in Triple-A, and his control has improved greatly this year.
At worst, Savery should be a good LOOGY, but he has enough stuff to be a solid middle reliever as long as his command remains sharp.