By Jim Brown
With the good of the start of the minor league season, comes the bad….the weather. Frustrating as it may be with the anticipation of scouring the next day’s box scores, only to to see those dreaded three letters..PPD. I now have an outlet to post something other than a pitchers stat line who’s benefited from a limited nights action. With the postponement in 6 of the 7 LoA games from last night, I immediately starting brainstorming about different topics to write about, since I would have some idle time.
Since I always get a head start with the stats from the early Sunday games, I took the time to see where all my Pre-Season Breakouts are starting the 2014 Season. All but three pitchers will be at the levels of Hi-A or lower….just where we want them! You see….Marc and I have this criteria of covering kids lower than AA, usually younger than 25 years old (but age/level is a big factor), drafted lower than the 5th round, and finally…..not ranked higher than 10th on the top prospect lists. I usually like to stay lower than 15th, but sometimes a kid near the Top 10 needs the UTR love. So with the LoA washouts, lets take a look at one of those pitchers who was “promoted” to AA after being chosen as my 2014 UTR Breakouts back in early February. I will cover the other pitchers at another time when the action around the league is slow.
I spent most of the last 6 years following the minor leagues in the National League. It was out of necessity because of the meat-grinder of a Fantasy League called the Pennsylvania Furnace League (NL only). Marc mentioned our league in the About Us page. I have a lot TPS data on National League pitchers and probably no pitcher climbed the UTR ladder faster than San Francisco’s Derek Law. Law received some recognition this Spring, as he was one of the last bullpen arms to be cut from camp. The 2011 draft pick (9th Rd) out of Miami Dade College will start this season with the Double-A Richmond Flying Squirrels.
With my TPS rating, Law scored a ridiculous .042 (“A” tier type relief pitcher) after the 2013 season where he saw work at Lo-A Augusta and Hi-A San Jose, with a two week stint with the AZL Giants thrown in. This was an improvement from the .069 TPS from the 2012 season and light years from his 2011 TPS of .099 which raises the flag of future top prospect. Little did I know that two weeks after I had pegged the 23 year-old righthander as an “under the radar” pick, Baseball America tabbed him as the Giants #12 prospect after an outstanding Arizona Fall League performance. Its was his debut in the Handbook. It not only was the -.057 improvement of the TPS from Law that caught my eye, it was his performance when he got to Hi-A in early July 2013. Law went a on tear by striking out 45 hitters over 25.2 innings and only surrendered one free pass against more advanced hitters. The 6′ 3″ 218 lbs reliever sat down nearly 40% of the batters with stuff that had them swinging for the third strike. He throws a low 90’s fastball, not scorching heat like one would think with those stats. Its the deception, as the hitters have a hard time picking up the ball from his hand. He makes a subtle half-turn showing his back to the hitter before uncoiling with his offering…ala 1970’s Luis Tiant, but not as pronounced as Tiant. This and his over-the-top mechanics does make me somewhat nervous about possible injury in the future. His delivery seems to have so much effort, that it appears he’s throwing in the mid to high 90’s…..But hey it works. What really sets him apart is that he also has three other pitches to complement the fastball. Those offerings are a sharp curveball, an improving change-up, and a slider which might be his best pitch. The Giants known for their homegrown starting pitchers, might be producing a pipeline of high quality relievers to stock the bullpen. A steady performance in Richmond will have Law in San Francisco this year at some point and he could be teaming with fellow UTR alumni Heath Hembree in the 7th and 8th innings on their way to battle for the closers role in 2017.