I’ve got notes on all three starters I saw: David Kopp, Brian Broderick and Arquimedes Nieto. Below you’ll find out which of the three I think has big league potential.
From the bullpen I saw quite a few pitchers including Blake King, Tyler Norrick, Jason Buursma, Thomas Eager and just a touch of Adam Riefer.
Notes on both groups follow.
I’m on the record as saying that a successful 2010 season for David Kopp is one where he takes the mound every 5 days. He could pitch like Gary Daley and I’d just settle for him to pick up the ball and throw every 5 days without pain. I’ve not seen Kopp previously and was a little surprised with what I found.
Kopp has a fastball that he’ll throw regularly in the 90-92 range down in the zone. The velocity range is for command as he also threw a nice high fastball that touched 96mph in the 6th. (It was 98 on the stadium gun, which was hot last year when I visited as well.) When he’s throwing in the low 90s he gets some sink on the ball but, outside of a couple, it wasn’t as sharp as I’d like.
He’s also got your standard slider that rested in the low 80s and is an average breaking pitch. Most interesting to me was the third pitch that he threw. It was a tick slower than the fastball and clocked in between 86-88mph. I think it was a cut fastball based on the movement but it could be another variation or grip of the fastball. It looked like his best pitch to me with deceptive movement and impressive command. There was a changeup that was used maybe 4 or 5 times — not enough for me to have an impression of the pitch.
I’m not big on pitcher mechanics unless something really sticks out to me. With Kopp, I saw some of the smoothest deliveries that I can recall, which just makes the injuries all the more perplexing (and I would imagine frustrating). Kopp was both efficient and effective (He needed just 67 pitches — 50 strikes — to get through 6 innings.) working quickly on the mound, locating the ball well and executing his pitches. He pitched like someone who is dependent on his defense but can reach back for a little more.
He’s one of the few pitchers I’ve seen in the upper levels that had the look and stuff of a starter. He’s a good starting pitching prospect with probably a 4-5 starter kind of ceiling. Conversations about near term starting pitching prospects should include Kopp along with Scott Gorgen (one of my favorites who I think has a similar ceiling) as well as Brandon Dickson and Lance Lynn (neither of whom I’m as high on).
Broderick is a tall, long right handed pitcher. His bread and butter pitch is a sinking fastball that sits 88-90 and will touch 92. He uses his height to his advantage generating good downward action on the fastball and it’s immediately apparent why he produces groundballs.
For secondary pitches he’ll throw a changeup in the high 70s and a slow, loopy curve in the low 70s. His command was average and his control was a above average as he usually located his pitches well in the lower part of the zone.
What I didn’t see was anything that resembled a strikeout pitch. His stuff just isn’t that impressive and stronger batters with better plate discipline are going to be problematic for him. With no out pitch and good command, you’re left relying on comps like Carlos Silva — guys with good sinkers and pinpoint command. There’s not much margin for error there and I wasn’t left with the impression that Broderick’s command was up to par for that.
Nieto pitched on Monday and it was obscenely hot. I say that as someone who is used to Midwest humidity and generally enjoys temperatures in the 90s. I don’t know whether this affected his performance.
I can only describe Nieto as a junkballer. His pitches had nothing on them. He had little command and he wasn’t fooling anyone. The fastball touched 91 but sat 86-88mph. Both the curve and the slider were slurvy and ineffective.
- Jason Buursma is a submarine right hander. He’s not quite Chad-Bradford-scrape-your-knuckles-on-the-mound but he pitches from a very low arm slot. Submariner’s are fun to watch but there aren’t many of them in the majors.
- Thomas Eager got hit around hard on Sunday. A fastball-slider pitcher with a fastball that will touch 93 and shaky command, Eager was not sharp. He was struggling to locate the ball leaving pitches up and getting behind batters in the count.
- I only saw Adam Reifer throw 4 pitches so I couldn’t form much of an opinion. I can tell you he throws from a traditional three quarters arm slot and touched 95 with one of his fastballs.
- Tyler Norrick looked like a wildly different pitcher from the one I’d seen a year before. In 2009 when I saw him in Springfield, he had a fastball that regularly clocked in the mid-90s and poor command. This year I saw a pitcher with poor command and poor velocity. It’s not clear whether he is pitching slower due to injury or to try and improve command but the result is to render Norrick completely ineffective. Unless he makes a major change, there’s no way he’ll be effective on the mound.
Norrick was the other pitcher whose motion caught my eye. He’s got a whippy action with his arm that seems like bad news to me. I flinched the moment I saw it.
- Blake King is a name we’ve heard about for some time. Terrible command but a live arm kept his name on the tongue of some scouts and kept King moving up the system. The stuff is legit with a 91-93mph fastball and an excellent slider that sits 82-83. His command is average but he’s got enough movement on his pitches to compensate. He could make it to the majors as a reliever but I’d peg him as a middle reliever type.
I’ve got two special notes from the weekend about King. First, he’s got a wicked pick off move. He’ll quick pivot and already be throwing before his body has completed the turn. It’s slick, accurate and surprising — especially coming from a right hander. I thought he was going to throw it away every time but he was SPOT ON with the throw.
The second item is that King badly tips his pitches. He short arms his fastball and has a much longer follow through on the slider. I think that the “tipping pitches” mantra is completely overblown in St. Louis and rarely as apparent as some believe — that or I just don’t have an eye for it. King had thrown 5 or 6 pitches, however, and I could immediately guess what the pitch was as it left his hand. Maybe this is part of the command issue as players can just lay off the slider and sit fastball.