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June 17, 2009 at 2:55 PM

The Ladder- 6.17.09

Hunter Strickland

The Line: Pitching for Class-A Greenville, Strickland has been on a roll as of late, and overall he has put up a solid campaign in his first year of full-season baseball. Covering his last 25 2/3 innings, he’s given up 2 earned runs while striking out 18 batters and only issuing 2 free passes. Strickland has also been going deeper into games as the season has progressed, pitching into the sixth inning in 5 of his last 6 starts, and the one exception was in a piggy-back role to close out the final 4 innings of that game. On June 4, Strickland fired 5 2/3 innings against Asheville giving up 1 earned run and picking up 5 strikeouts. He followed that up with back-to-back strong outings against Bowling Green, giving up 1 earned run over 11 innings pitched. Strickland has given up about a hit per inning on the season, but has only walked 6 batters in 58 1/3 innings, placing him in the top 10 in the South Atlantic League in WHIP.

The View: Strickland put in a lot of work last season in Lowell to improve his control and command with his fastball, and this season the improvement has continued. Working in the low 90’s with his fastball, he’s been pounding the zone to throw strikes and his velocity has been creeping up a bit. Although he has given up a lot of contact, Strickland limits the damage against him by making batters earn their way on base and by keeping the ball in the park. Mixing in his slider and change-up, Strickland has done a good job of throwing strikes this season and keeping hitters off balance. He could stand to get some more swings and misses with his repertoire by sharpening his slider and improving the deception of his change-up, but the work he has done on his command has been a good step forward. Interestingly, Strickland has struggled to put away left-handed batters via the strikeout, having recorded only 5 on the season. This points toward the need to improve his secondary pitches, as they lack the necessary inward bite to get lefties to chase them out of the zone. With a smooth and balanced delivery, Strickland has the foundation to pick up some velocity on his fastball and consistently repeat his mechanics as he gains the feel of his secondary pitches. Strickland may lack a little bit of the flash of some of his peers, but his developmental strides have continued after a solid first season of professional baseball in 2008.

Kyle Weiland

The Line: Weiland got off to a tough start with the Salem Red Sox and got knocked around in the month of April, giving up 16 earned runs in 12 innings on 22 hits. Known for his command, he struggled to find his feel and walked 9 batters in that stretch. Since April, however, it has been a different story for Weiland, as he has given up 18 earned runs in 48 innings while surrendering only 40 hits. His last 17 innings have been especially strong, limiting batters to 9 hits and only 1 earned run against. Weiland dealt 6 strong innings on June 8 against Wilmington and followed that up in his next start with another 6 solid innings against Myrtle Beach on June 14, giving up 1 earned run and limiting batters to 5 hits. Despite his struggles in the early going this season, he’s limited right-handed batters to a .195 batting average against and has compiled a 58% groundball rate against them on the season.

The View: Weiland’s command was erratic in April and he lived up in the zone far too often, giving up a lot of hits on balls up and out over the plate. He worked behind in the count too frequently and when he came into the zone with his fastball, batters were sitting all over it. Despite his fastball operating 92-94 MPH, it is a far better offering when he starts it lower in the zone as it darts across the knees with a nice downward slant created as Weiland gets his hand on top it. As the season has moved on, he’s generated more groundballs by continuing to sink his fastball and staying out of the top of the strike zone. Weiland has the ability to throw his fastball by batters, but his secondary pitches are not consistent enough to enable him to rely on them when he is behind in the count and needs to throw a strike. He can be nasty and uncomfortable on righties, as he comes from a ¾ angle and his 2-seam fastball can run on their hands, but lefties have had a lot of success against him this season. This highlights the need to sharpen the consistency of his curveball, as lefties get a good look at the ball coming out of his delivery and he needs something to keep them off-balance. The development of his change-up will answer the question as to where he projects down the line, but Weiland has shown the stamina to keep his stuff deeper into his outings and made a smooth transition from the bullpen into the starting rotation to start his professional career.

Trending Up

Casey Kelly continues his strong first professional season on the mound. Since being promoted to the Salem Red Sox, he’s struck out 19 and walked only 1 batter in 22 2/3 innings. Kelly fired 6 innings against Kinston on June 15, limiting the lineup to 4 hits and picking up 5 strikeouts while not issuing a walk. Scouts who have followed Kelly this season have continued to be impressed with how he handles himself on the mound. One scout who recently observed him came away very impressed with his feel for his repertoire and his upside on the mound. Kelly has mainly been operating 88-91 with his fastball, showing some sink and tail to it, but the pitch can sometimes be a little straight. His curveball has shown excellent bite while he can mix up the way it breaks. Kelly has a nice feel for his change-up too, with this pitch showing some fade that moves inward on right-handed batters…Lars Anderson has found June more to his liking after a tough May and is looking more locked in at the plate. He’s 16 for his last 35 with only 6 strikeouts in that stretch after struggling with making contact in May. Anderson has been staying back on breaking balls much better recently and looks to be taking off as the season ramps into the summer months…Fabian Williamson has 39 strikeouts in his last 31 2/3 innings and only given up 7 earned runs in that streak. Walks have been a bit of a concern for Williamson, but he has limited contact with only 16 hits against in that stretch, and he has generally kept the ball down. His sharp-breaking curveball is an advanced offering for him and creates a lot of swings and misses to go along with a high 80’s fastball that is deceptively quick on hitters…Bubba Bell was recently promoted to Pawtucket, following Aaron Bates, who was also recently promoted from Portland.

Trending Down

After not finding much work at Salem and getting hit around a bit, Jose Alvarez has been sent down to Lowell where he will open on the Spinners’ roster when the short-season NYPL gets underway on June 19. Alvarez has only pitched 24 2/3 innings on the season and hasn’t appeared in a game since June 2…Yeiper Castillo also finds himself back with the Spinners after struggling with Greenville where he gave up 24 earned runs 30 2/3 innings on the season. Castillo has been struggling with his control and been forced to throw his fastball in the middle of the plate as he has worked behind in a lot of counts…Ryne Lawson has had a tough run of things recently with Portland and has given up 6 or more earned runs in 3 of his last 4 starts, making it into the sixth inning only once. Lawson’s stuff has looked like it plays better in a bullpen role in the higher levels…Argenis Diaz is 7 for his last 34 and hasn’t been able to put it together consistently at the plate for any extended stretch. Diaz has good enough batspeed and reactions to hit good fastballs, but he has struggled with making contact on off-speed pitches and with laying off ones out of the strikezone…Bryan Price has had a tough adjustment to advanced A-Ball and given up 17 earned runs in his first 15 1/3 innings with Salem. Price has walked 8 batters in that stretch after walking only 12 in 44 innings with Greenville. He’s been grabbing too much of the plate with his fastball and has not been locating it since his promotion.