Pregame thoughts (skip if you want): The rainy weather has tapered off, the tarp is off the field, and my ass is firmly planted in a 4th row seat behind home plate. Hallelujah, we will be playing baseball this ugly, overcast afternoon. Let's do this.
Scouts galore on hand today as expected with Junior right hander Ryne Stanek on the mound for Arkansas. Some dude from Perfect Game has his radar gun in one hand and a stop watch in the other. The Gamecocks were shellacked 15-3 last night and the task doesn't get any easier with a talented arm like Stanek pitching. It's time for the natty anthem as both teams are ready to get the game under way.
Watch this at your own discretion. It's barely comprehensible. I need a camcorder with me next time I do this.
Stanek retired the side in order including two strikeouts and a pop up to 1B. Showed good command of an impressive 92-95 MPH fastball. Mixed in a couple of average-quality 85 MPH changeups.
Stanek's fastball continued to sit 92-95 with some late life. He retired the side again, showing surprising efficiency for a pitcher I expected to have control issues from time to time. Only 3-ball count was to first baseman LB Dantzler who struck out swinging on a 94 MPH high and away fastball. Started mixing in a few sliders, 84 - 86, none of which were thrown for strikes.
Fastball sitting 92 - 95 mph. Worked a few more sliders in, 84 - 86. Struggled to command the pitch but some of them showed nice sharp break. Worked in a few 85 MPH changeups, none of which appeared more than 'show-me' pitches. Should have retired the side again, but #9 hitter Shon Carson (who doubles as a football player) laid down a bunt and reached first when the second baseman missed what should have been an easy tag out of Carson.
(Carson would be thrown out at second to end the inning.)
Trying to lean on the slider more the second time through the order but had issues keeping them out of the dirt. Pitch was yet again 84-86. Fastball still coming in at 92 - 95. Because of the slider control struggles, allowed first walk to Joey Pankake. Went 3-2 to Dantzler again, striking him out once more on a high and inside fastball.
Velocity mostly 92-93, with some 94's now. Didn't record any strikeouts this inning as the Gamecock hitters started to adjust and make contact with the fastball. However, they couldn't put quality swing on the pitch thanks to its late life. An unearned run was allowed thanks to an error on the shortstop which allowed leadoff batter Greyson Greiner to reach second.
(As a fan, I loved seeing the Gamecocks small ball their way to a run with a sac bunt, followed by a sac fly, but Greiner shouldn't have been on base to begin with.)
Fastball now 92- 93, occasionally dropping to 91. Despite this, this was the one inning, the slider was really working. Still shaky with command but the pitch quality was there. Allowed his second 'hit' when Tanner English reached on the cheapest swinging bunt infield single you can imagine. The infield helped him out for once as a wicked 86 MPH slider induced a weak grounder to second base leading to an inning ending double play.
Looked semi-fatigued. Mechanics were a little sloppy at times. When I say that I mean I saw difference in overall delivery and arm slot from pitch to pitch probably due to some fatigue. I also began to notice how Stanek likes to throw his changeup more to lefties and he spotted the pitch well against them. Retired the side in order. With the pitch count rising and apparent fatigue settling in, I figured he was done for the day.
Arkansas took a 4-1 lead in the top of the inning so they left Stanek in. A seeing eye single by Conner Bright, followed by a throwing error by the SS allowed Bright to get to 3rd. A sac fly brought him home. Stanek was still hitting 92-93, with some 94's mixed in again.
Was surprised to see Stanek trot out for the 9th Inning but a funny thing happened: He buckled down, didn't show any further signs of fatigue, and retired the side in order to finish off the complete game, throwing 125 pitches on the day.
Final Line: 9 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 10 FO, 8 GO
- Fastball: As expected the fastball velocity was mostly 92 - 94 throughout the game, showing me he can hold his velocity. The first four innings he was getting it up to 95 consistently too. He also had a few pitches where he reached back for a little extra and got it up to 96 - 97, suggesting he could possibly sit 94- 96 in shorter stints as a reliever. The hitters couldn't touch it and it showed great late life at times.
- Slider: If he's going to succeed at the next level, the slider needs to flash plus more consistently with better command too. I'd say out of every five sliders he threw today, two showed plus break, and of those two, one was commanded well for a strike. Basically, the pitch flashed plus but was inconsistent and needs refinement.
- Changeup: He showed decent feel for the changeup, spotting it particularly well versus lefties. This might be nitpicky, but I'm not a huge fan of it coming in consistently 85-86, making it only 6 - 8 MPH less than his heater. He also leaves it up in the zone at times too. With time, can probably become a solid average major league pitch.
This was only one outing of course and I'm an amateur at best so take my opinion on things for what it's worth...I saw a pitcher that knows how to pitch effectively and at times dominate with his fastball as a starting pitcher. He leaned heavily on his quality fastball, which works against college hitters when his command is on - as I witnessed Saturday - but likely won't work once he reaches the upper minors where he'll need more consistent command of his secondaries too.
The good news is I was impressed with his poise and demeanor on the mound and I think he has the 'pitchability' you look for in a starter. The key for Stanek is simply refining his secondaries and showing more consistent command of them from start to start. I'd also like to see him put on another 15-20 pounds on to his wiry 6'4" 180 lb frame because as mentioned in the 7th inning, I noticed his mechanics becoming a little sloppy with apparent fatigue setting in.
From a draft standpoint, I'd have him #3 among college starters behind Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray but ahead of Sean Manaea.