March 31, 2015 at 8:00 AM
FORT MYERS, Fla. -- On the final day of the SoxProspects.com staff’s trip to spring training and with the big league club facing its opening day opponent, the Phillies, Clay Buchholz made an appearance on the back fields. Chaz Fiorino wrote up the Red Sox opening day starter’s five-inning appearance against the minor league rookie ball contingent.
Results aside, I was focused on seeing a few different things from Buchholz that lend themselves to future success against big league hitters: (1) Staying in sync, on-line towards the plate and balanced with his delivery; and (2) the ability to throw strikes to both sides of the plate, change speeds, and command and control his secondary offerings with sharpness. Buchholz did not disappoint, and mixed in his entire arsenal: a four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cutter, curveball, and changeup.
Buchholz was pretty much in-sync and on-line towards the plate with his delivery all outing, which was encouraging, as it is something that he has struggled with in the past. Buchholz came set with his hands at his chest and slowly dropped his hands down to his belt with a pause before then going into his delivery. He was compact, balanced, on-line, relaxed, and in control all outing.
Most impressive from Buchholz was his ability to manipulate the fastball. He threw its four-seam version at 92-94 mph, his two-seamer at 88-90 with arm-side run and sink, and a cutter at 87-88 mph with short, tight, darting action, all to both sides of the plate and to both right- and left-handed hitters. When Buchholz is clicking on all cylinders, he is essentially working with three plus-grade fastballs. His ability to change speeds and movement with the fastball had hitters clueless to what was coming. He also threw a number of impressive front-door and back-door cutters, which the rookie-ball hitters he was facing most likely had never seen in their life. As a result, they watched the pitches go by, dumbfounded.
The curveball was 76-78 mph with tight, 12-to-6 break through the zone, grading above-average. He was able to effectively throw the curveball both early in the count and behind in the count for strikes. The changeup was 77-80 mph with vertical, downward drop.
It was an impressive and encouraging day of work from Buchholz who was locked in and had everything working for him. He continued to show what everybody already knows—that he has the best pure stuff in the entire organization and on par with a major league front-line starter no matter who is at the plate. Consistency and durability have been the biggest question marks with Buchholz to date. However, he put the tools on display that give the organization confidence in slotting him in at the front of the rotation, and rightfully so. When Buchholz is on, he is remarkable to watch.
Photo credit: Clay Buchholz by Kelly O'Connor.
Chaz Fiorino is Assistant Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @cbfiorino.