The Pensacola Blue Wahoos spent last week playing a five game series in Chattanooga where Randy helped out, took in the games, did a few interviews and provided some notes on things that he saw. Today he is sharing his thoughts on the some of the pitchers that he saw.
PITCHER’S REPORT: Game reviews three through five of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos at Chattanooga Lookouts (Thursday 6/26 through Saturday 6/27).
These three games are a scout’s (and a writer’s) dream. The Blue Wahoo’s sent out, in successive fashion, Michael Lorenzen, Robert Stephenson and Ben Lively. Which rank #4, #1 and #8, respectively on Doug Gray’s midseason top ten prospect list. Talent is oozing from the Pensacola starting staff. Let’s look at each of the starters in order of how the Lookouts had to face them.
Thursday I came thinking I was going to see a player learning the craft of a starter and came away watching a quick learner. Michael Lorenzen gets it. We are watching the metamorphosis from a thrower into a pitcher. He was doing things on the mound a trainee does not do. I saw a man mixing in his off-speed pitches and not relying predominantly on his fastball (which he does have a good one!). I saw a pitcher not falling into a rut of predictability. He used the entire strike zone, inside corner, outside corner, up and down. He was striking hitters out on his off-speed stuff. I saw good command and good control. He utilized a slide step with runners on. He is aware of runners on base and has a good pick-off throw. He also fielded his position well. Lorenzen is an athlete.
Lorenzen was 93-96 MPH and mixed in a change-up and slider. Lorenzen told me that he has such confidence in all three of his pitches that he can throw all three at any time, on any count, in any situation and feel extremely confident doing so. Lorenzen also mentioned that he is working on a curveball and is almost ready to unleash it in game situations. He says that it has been working really well in the bullpen sessions he has had. He did tell me that he has never worked on a splitter although his pitching style (more over the top than ¾ delivery) is ideal for getting off a good splitter. His innings cap of 120 limits him on how many innings he gets to pitch each game. He said he usually is out by the 5th inning. We have no problem with that. We’re glad the Reds have a game plan on developing him steadily and keeping him healthy. Lorenzen has a short, quick leg kick and comes more over the top than I thought he would. He loads up and really uses his legs to drive off the pitcher’s rubber. He mentioned during the interview that he is excited about the results he is seeing in something a little different he is trying out right now on using more torque and hip action in driving towards the plate. He said his arm and shoulder health are really good and he is feeling great right now.
Robert Stephenson was the Friday night starter for the Blue Wahoos. He was utilizing a fastball, change-up and curve. He was around 92-96 MPH and hit 97 at least once. He did get knocked around in this game a bit. It seemed he was in the zone a bit too much and paid for it. I spoke with the scout assigned to the Reds another team and he has watched Robert pitch a number of times. He said that the speed on his fastball was typical of what he has seen in the past. He mentioned that his fastball is rather straight and mainly sees him topping out at 96 MPH, never 98 MPH or higher but he had no doubts that he could hit 98 MPH. I will say this, the Lookouts best hitter Scott Schebler a left-handed hitting outfielder with very good power, hit the ball hard all week but Stephenson, not intimidated and never backed down when he was at the plate. He challenged him, shut him down and got him to pop out twice and struck him out in his last inning.
Ben Lively was the starter in the last game of the Blue Wahoos vs. Lookout series (Saturday). Frankly he, to me, and I know it was only one game, was the most impressive pitcher of the week (which is saying a mouthful). Lively worked from 92-95 MPH on his fastball. He had an arsenal of off-speed pitches. He pitched off his fastball predominantly and played off the fastball with his off-speed stuff. He was not throwing, he was pitching. He had hitters off-stride in his 5.2 innings. He would throw a fastball and it seemed the hitters were stunned by it. They just couldn’t pull the trigger. He struck out at least one hitter on a knee-buckler curve. He gave up back-to-back singles to start off the third inning but had the fortune of a play that his rarely seen. The first hitter of the inning was on base after a single the next hitter grounded one into the 1st base and 2nd base hole but it hit the runner, forcing him out. The ball would have been a sure 1st and 3rd situation but it ended up only being a runner on first (credited with a single) and one out. Lively then proceeded to get the next two hitters out with a swinging strikeout and a ground out on a strong throw from Seth Mejias-Brean. He really ran into trouble starting the 6th by walking three of the first four hitters, but a fly-out-tag-out at the plate double-play helped him out. Kyle
Waldrop made a strong throw to nail the runner and preserving the shut-out (at that time). And, although this is not a pitching note, Ben Lively laid down two perfect sacrifice bunts, something some of the big-league Reds cannot do consistently.
In closing I’d like to do a report on some of the relief pitching in this series and list a few notes about them:
The reliever I was most impressed with was Carlos Gonzalez. When I saw really lackluster relief most of the week, he stood out. He was 93-98 MPH on his fastball and just looked dominating. He struck out two of the three hitters he faced in Thursday’s game and threw an 87 MPH slider with good bite. He threw a good fastball, a good slider and a change-up. Gonzalez also pitched in Saturday’s game and although it was not as good as his first outing, he still showed good stuff hitting 97 MPH at least twice. One play stood out when he was pitching, although a rather scary one reminiscent of Aroldis Chapman. Gonzalez’s pitch came in at 97 MPH and came back even harder. It hit Carlos in the upper shoulder popped up in the air near the first base line and Travis Mattair saved a run by laying out and snagging the ball before it hit the ground. It was the third out with a runner at third. Gonzalez didn’t come back the next inning but he walked off the field on his own power and looked to be OK.
Lastly, another reliever of note was Fabian Williamson. A lefty, he was hitting 92-95 MPH and was dominant in his outings with two groundouts and a strikeout in both outings. He, however, seemed to really slow his arm action down when he was throwing his breaking ball but it worked very well anyway and fooled the hitters. He might fill a potential need down the line for a lefty reliever for the major league pen.