August 5, 2015 at 8:00 AM
GREENVILLE, S.C. -- While the Greenville Drive lineup is one of the deepest in the system prospect-wise, following the suspension of Michael Kopech, the pitching staff is on the thin side. Despite the lack of top-end talent, there are a few pitchers with the potential to be bullpen arms at the big league level. During the four games we saw down in Greenville, we got a chance to see most of the pitching staff, and below is the second of a two-part series breaking down the Drive pitchers.
- Left-handed pitcher Jalen Beeks impressed during Spring Training and continued to show an intriguing arsenal that could play out of a big league bullpen. Beeks doesn’t have a lot of projection as he isn’t very big, listed at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, and has a filled-out frame. His stuff was impressive, and along with Ben Taylor, he was the other standout pitcher from the trip. Beeks throws from a high three-quarters arm slot, starting on the first base side of the rubber with his hands by his waist. He works very quickly, getting the ball and immediately getting ready to throw his next pitch.
Beeks has some effort and funk in his delivery, as he keeps his hands low then brings them behind with a slight trunk twist and rock back before coming forward. He has long arm action behind and slight stab. The delivery is best suited for a bullpen role, as it will be tough to repeat consistently, especially as he tires. His stuff, however, could play in a bullpen role, especially coming from a lefty. Beeks has a live arm and his fastball sat 91-93 mph for the outing, getting up to 94-95 mph on occasion. The pitch lacks plane due to his height and is on the straight side, but it has average life and he gets some deception from his delivery. Beeks compliments his fastball with a changeup and slider, both of which are below-average at present, but flashed at least average to solid-average. He threw his changeup 83-86 mph with deceptive arm speed, with the pitch showing late drop when he finished it. His slider worked 82-86 mph with it showing shorter, more vertical break on the higher end, and longer, two-pane break at the lower end of the velocity band. The pitch flashed solid depth and late bite, but it was inconsistent as he also yanked a few that he held onto too long.
Beeks will likely continue to be developed as a starter, but long-term his future is likely in the bullpen. As a left-handed pitcher, the bar is lower, but Beeks’ stuff could play very well in that role – it isn’t a stretch to project him to have plus velocity and at least one average-to-better secondary.
- Mario Alcantara showed the most velocity of any of the Greenville pitchers, but he is still extremely raw and more of a thrower than a pitcher. Alcantara has a lot of effort in his delivery, featuring a lot of moving parts. He doesn’t effectively incorporate his lower half into his delivery, and he has a long arm loop behind, a head whip, and falls off hard to the first base side. He also comes across his body, causing him to tend to yank the ball to the glove side. He struggles to repeat his delivery and stick with a consistent arm slot, but generally he is around high three-quarters. He does have a good arm, with his fastball getting up to 96 mph, but sitting 92-94 mph. The pitch is straight as an arrow, and he has well below-average command of the offering. His primary secondary pitch is a slider at 81-84 mph. The pitch is on the vertical side, showing 11-to-5 break, but flashed solid-average at its best. On these few occasions, it showed depth through the zone and he was able to bury it down and away from right-handers, eliciting some bad swing-and-misses. Alcantara is in his fifth year in the organization, but he is still a project. There is potential in there, even if the odds of him even reaching the high minors are low at this point.
- Left-handed pitcher Jake Drehoff, a 2013 12th-round draft pick out of Southern Mississippi, has progressed slowly through the system thus far, but he has also seen his stuff slowly improve as he has moved up the ladder. Drehoff has a solid, projectable pitchers frame, listed at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. He is still on the tall and lanky side, with some projection remaining, but at 23 already, I’m not sure how much. After working as a starter last year in Lowell, Drehoff has assumed more of a piggyback role, working mostly three- to four-inning stints in relief.
In the recent look, Drehoff’s stuff showed a slight uptick compared to when he was in Lowell. Drehoff pitched solely out of the stretch, from the first base side of the rubber, using a three-quarters arm slot. He has a high leg kick and keeps the ball behind his back for a long time. His delivery is very controlled, and he settled into a good rhythm in this outing. His fastball sat 89-91 mph, but dropped down to the high-80s as he got deeper into the outing. This was not surprising, as Drehoff worked six innings, pitching deeper than normal into the game. The pitch is fringy and does not have a lot of life, but it plays up somewhat because it is tough to pick up. He has good control of the pitch (10 walks in 46.2 innings this year), but he needs to work on his command. Due to his lack of velocity, he has little margin for error and his command needs to be on point. His best secondary pitch was his changeup thrown at 81-84 mph. He has feel for the pitch and confidence to throw it in any count. The pitch showed late drop and was thrown with similar arm speed to his fastball. He also mixed in a slurvy breaking ball at 77-80 mph. The pitch had 2-to-8 break and had depth when he snapped it off. It was effective against left-handed hitters as he was able to bury it down and away from them. While Drehoff does not have any standout pitch, he has solid pitchability and feel for three pitches. Coming from the left side, that is an arsenal that could play out of the bullpen, especially if he continues to show the control he has this year and refines his command.
- A 2012 second-round pick, right-handed pitcher Jamie Callahan is still only 20 years old, but many of the same issues remain that have plagued him since he entered the organization. Callahan has a good arm and feel for his curveball, but his delivery has issues and he really struggles with his command and control. Callahan throws directly over the top with a long arm action behind. Hitters get a really long look at the pitch due to his arm slot, and it is very straight. As a result, it is very easy to square up and quite hittable. Callahan’s curveball comes in at 78-81 mph and has nice shape. He has shown the ability to snap it off with tight rotation, but he does not consistently finish the pitch. Callahan is young and still has a chance to figure things out, but the odds of him doing that as currently constituted are low.
Photo credit: Jake Drehoff by Kelly O'Connor
Ian Cundall is Director of Scouting for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @IanCundall.