August 30, 2012 at 7:31 AM
Line: 4.0 innings, 6 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts, 80 pitches
Webster’s inability to pound the zone with the pitch hurt him as he racked up 53 pitches in the first two innings. He did get into a better rhythm in the third and fourth innings, while also maintaining his velocity despite laboring early. Webster still touched up to 95 mph before his departure with the same ease he displayed out of the gate. His failure to finish his delivery made it difficult for him to spot up, which led to too few called strikes early in counts.
Secondary Offerings: While Webster fought his fastball the whole evening, both his slider and changeup showed to be more advanced pieces within his arsenal. The slider operated 83-87 mph, with tight rotation and sharp break. Outside of rolling two, it was very crisp from start to finish. Webster snapped off the offering easily and with fluid wrist motion. He has the feel for where his hand has to be to create tight spin and depth. Five of his seven strikeouts in the game came against the pitch. He showed both the ability to command the slider for a strike and also bury it out of the zone with late break ahead in the count. It is capable of missing bats, with the projection to be a swing-and-miss offering at the big league level. The pitch graded as plus in the outing. Opposing batters were consistently fooled and it played well off his fastball due to the solid-average command he displayed with the offering.
Webster also showed strong feel for the changeup. It operated 83-85 mph with a lot of action. He showed the ability to throw it arm-side with fade and also turn it over when throwing it glove-side to produce drop. Webster was a bit inconsistent throwing it arm-side early, but as the start progressed the offering got stronger. He generated arm-speed in sync with that of his fastball, especially in the third and fourth frames. Webster did show the pitch early on two occasions, while also leaving it up a few other times. He did not get hurt, but they were dangerous spots against more advanced hitters. Webster picked up two swinging strikeouts on the pitch, with the bottom dropping out quickly. Like his slider, it is also capable of missing bats and he shows the feel to throw it for strikes. The command was not as consistent though. His change flashed plus a number of times and graded as solid-average in the outing overall.
Take: In my first chance to scout Webster, I came away very impressed with his overall stuff. His secondary offerings were some of the better ones I have seen within the system all season. Advanced and rounding towards major-league caliber, he showed ease and confidence when throwing them. Despite struggling with his fastball, these offerings still were effective and capable of missing bats. Both can be plus pitches at his disposal on any given night. Webster also stayed aggressive, kept his composure when laboring, and did not give into opposing batters. He mixed his secondary stuff into sequences consistently, while throwing them at any point in the count. The fastball is a contact- inducing pitch, best utilized to pound the strike zone early in sequences so he can then go to the slider and change to finish batters off. Webster should also be able to lean on his fastball to churn through opposing lineups efficiently by getting groundballs after establishing it, if he is commanding it more precisely. He is not going to be able to elevate it past opposing hitters, but he showed the understanding of what his style as a pitcher is in this outing.
Webster’s lack of fastball command was a result of a failure to finish his delivery and inconsistent timing during the latter half of it when bringing his arm into slot. There is low effort expended and an ease to his delivery, but it lacked an even pace for most of the outing. Webster sped up frequently as he attempted to bring his arm into slot and it caused his wrist to drop or him to over-throw. When he stayed paced and was able to finish completely, he demonstrated an ability to throw to the lower tier of the strike zone. I saw the stuff and overall pitching package of a potential solid third starter at the major league level, but there is some work to do. For Webster to get there he will be tasked with refining his fastball command and duplicating the consistency of his delivery that he showed when throwing his secondary offerings. I feel that the room is there for him to grow. With strides made honing the command during the 2013 season, he can push for a slot in a big league rotation in 2014 and develop into a pitcher capable of putting together effective seasons as a starter at the major league level.
Chris Mellen is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisMellen