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April 17, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Scouting Scratch: Pitchers impress early in Portland and Pawtucket

During Spring Training, Anthony Ranaudo and Allen Webster pitched on the same day at the Twins complex. I wrote about Ranaudo, while Senior Columnist Jon Meoli wrote up Webster. Following up on these two impact arms was one of my priorities for the early season, and thus far I’ve had the opportunity to scout both and they continued to impress, along with another less-heralded arm.

- Anthony Ranaudo (pictured) came out in the brisk Portland weather throwing strikes with his fastball and commanding the pitch well. The pitch sat 91-94 mph throughout the outing and he held his velocity over the five-inning stint. The pitch was extremely effective, resulting in 12 swing-and-misses and five of his six strikeouts. Ranaudo used his size well to get downhill plane on the offering, burying it down in the zone with arm-side run. Ranaudo mixed in his curveball and changeup sparingly, as he really didn’t need them to be more than show-me pitches since his fastball was so effective. Ranaudo only threw his curveball eight times, recording one strikeout on a 79-mph curveball with deep break while giving up a hit on another one up in the zone. Ranaudo threw his changeup less than his curveball, and he didn’t show much feel for the pitch. It was relatively flat and he slowed his arm, telegraphing the pitch.

- Allen Webster was equally impressive, if not more so, in his outing with Triple-A Pawtucket, showing off an impressive four-pitch arsenal. Webster best pitch in the outing was his changeup, which played as plus-to-better throughout the outing. He threw the pitch extensively, 19 times in 84 pitches, getting nine swing-and-misses and three strikeouts. Webster also mixed in two variations on a breaking ball, a slider 83-86 mph and a slow curveball 74-77 mph. His slider flashed plus during the outing, but he was inconsistent with his release point causing him to miss down in the zone. At its best, the pitch showed depth and tight rotation down and away from right-handed hitters.

Webster’s curveball was slow and loopy, but it had a lot of break and kept hitters off balance. It’s not a pitch that he can consistently throw, as if he misses his spot, advanced hitters will not have trouble hitting it. As a show-me pitch to steal a strike, however, I think the pitch can be very effective, especially when he follows it up with a mid-90s fastball. Webster didn’t need to use his fastball that much in this outing, throwing it only 48 times. He consistently pounded the zone with the pitch, and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed. The pitch sat 92-95 mph, and in his last inning, he topped out at 97 mph. Webster’s fastball has late life and jumps on hitters resulting in a lot of weak contact and groundball outs.

- While he took a unique route to get to this point, right-hander Chris Martin (pictured) was extremely impressive in Portland. If he continues to pitch like he did in the outing, he will end up pitching in the major leagues. Martin is tall and lanky, listed at 6-foot-7, 225 pounds. He is pitching out of the bullpen in three-inning stints and during the outing scouted he was dominant. Martin went three innings, giving up one hit and striking out three. He is smooth and gets good balance in his delivery. He got his fastball up to 95 mph in the outing, sitting 93-94 for the majority of the time. He commanded the pitch well, showing the ability to throw quality strikes on both sides of the plate. When he got on top of the ball, he buried it down in the zone with late arm-side run. Last year, Martin had an inconsistent slider, but this season he looks to have really improved the offering as it showed tight rotation and bite. He missed bats with the pitch and it provided a great complement to his fastball, coming in 84-85 mph and keeping hitters off-balance.


Early in the season you expect the hitters to be behind the pitchers and that has been the case in the games I’ve scouted so far. Here are two hitters who have impressed.

- First baseman Travis Shaw has shown a good approach and knowledge of the strike zone since he entered the system, but questions remained about how he would handle upper-level pitching. An assignment to start the season in Portland should provide a good test for Shaw’s hitting ability, and in the recent game scouted, he was the best hitter in the Portland lineup. Shaw doesn’t try to do too much at the plate, taking what the pitcher gives him. His first hit came on a 3-2 fastball middle-in, where he pulled his hands in, grounding the ball for a single. His second hit also came on a fastball, this time away. Shaw went with the pitch, lining it to left field for a double on a smooth swing with a slight uppercut.

- Last season, Heiker Meneses (pictured) received an aggressive promotion to Portland, but was overwhelmed at the plate and struggled to adapt to more advance pitching. Back in Portland this year to start the season, Meneses looks much more comfortable at the plate and ready to handle the level. Meneses has an aggressive approach, tending to attack fastballs early in the count. In his first two at-bats he saw three combined pitches, flying out to left field and grounding out to shortstop on a fastball that jammed him. In his final two at-bats, Meneses saw a few more pitches falling behind in the count both times, before singling. His first single came on a 1-2 slider, which he did a good job waiting back on. His second hit came on a fastball away that he went with between the first and second baseman. Both times, Meneses showed quick hand and a short compact swing.

Photo credit: Anthony Ranaudo, Chris Martin, and Heiker Meneses by Kelly O'Connor

Ian Cundall is a Northeast Scout for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.