You can’t always get a good read on a pitcher from one outing, but you should be able to after three. Written for the over-achiever fantasy manager, the scouting report below details Madison Bumgarner’s performance so far this season.
Note: Pitch grades are on the 20-80 scale, which is commonly used in scouting, though sometimes as 2-8. I consider an 80 grade to be among the top 3-5 in baseball. A 50 grade is average. A 20 grade is the lowest playable in the big leagues (ex. A pitcher with a 20 grade changeup may forgo throwing the pitch, in large part, during regular season action).
Bumgarner’s 90-93 MPH fastball is a slightly above-average offering. He routinely throws it for strikes, locating it down in the zone and on the corners well. The pitch doesn’t have outstanding movement or late life, but Bumgarner does a good job getting called strikes and doesn’t have trouble locating his fastball around the zone. He does a good job pitching inside to righties and lefties.
(He calls his fastball his best pitch.)
Present Grade: 55
Though it most frequently moves like a super cutter, Bumgarner calls his primary breaking ball a slider. It is sometimes in the mid-80s with big, sweeping action, but he usually throws it in the high-80s with late break and decent depth. He’ll add and subtract velocity and movement from it depending on the situation. Mixed in with his fastball, and because of his arm slot and deception, it’s an above-average pitch. He throws it as often as any pitch in his arsenal aside from his fastball (about 70% of his pitches have been fastballs or sliders thus far in his MLB career).
Present Grade: 60
His curveball is a strikeout pitch when he locates it in the dirt or fools hitters with it. It has good bite and more depth than his slider. Not many pitchers are able to spin a curveball as well as Bumgarner does from a low-3/4 arm slot. What’s more, he didn’t start throwing it regularly until 2010 -- same goes for his slider -- so it could continue to get better. Right now, he doesn’t throw it too often. He doesn’t command it as well as his fastball and slider, and hitters can drive it when he leaves it up in the zone. With continued progress, his curveball could surface as an above-average offering.
Present Grade: 50
Tailing away from righties, Bumgarner’s changeup has good depth and movement. It has potential, but he’s had trouble finishing it so far this season. He’ll also slow his arm down when he throws it at times. The frequency he throws it (less than 10%) also says something about his confidence in it compared to his other offerings. So far this season, hitters haven’t been offering at it and he hasn’t gotten many called strikes with it. There’s a chance that it someday becomes an average or better offering.
Present Grade: 35
Calm and composed on the mound, Bumgarner throws across his body from a low-3/4 arm slot. It’s a bit of an abnormal delivery for a starter, but he’s a big, strong, outstanding athlete who repeats his mechanics well -- he’s pretty smooth overall. He doesn’t hold runners on well, but he does do a very good job fielding his position. He also can swing the bat a little, equipped with enough raw power to be long overdue for his first MLB home run.
Bumgarner slings the ball from a low arm slot that’s difficult for hitters to pick up. He doesn’t have an electric, plus offering in his arsenal but his athleticism and command allow his stuff to play up. He’ll need to show a better changeup than he has so far in 2012 in order to replicate his 2011 success. Though it’s unlikely that he’ll become a shut-down No. 1 starter on a championship team, Bumgarner could be a good No. 2 for a while. He’s a solid bet to be an above-average starter over the course of this season.
Bumgarner, the youngest starting pitcher in baseball last season (min. 150 IP), has made an impressive transition to the big leagues. Though none of them will likely reach the majors at as young of an age as Bumgarner, here are the three most intriguing young arms I saw this year during my week at Minor League Spring Training in Arizona:
Luke Jackson, RHP, TEX
Current Level: Low-A
Jackson warrants immediate long-term fantasy consideration. He’s off to a hot start and he has the stuff to back it up. That said, there could be some speed bumps along the way. I saw a low-to-mid-90s fastball that could touch the upper-90s when he pitched up in the zone. He also threw a low-80s curveball with good depth and late break. What’s more, Jackson showed feel for a late-diving low-80s changeup. Any 20-year-old who can get his fastball up to the high-90s and flash two other potentially solid offerings is an elite prospect.
Though Jackson didn’t display a great feel for pitching, with his stuff, he’ll be able to overpower hitters and learn to pitch along the way. The Rangers will likely exercise patience with him as he continues to figure out how to be more of a pitcher than thrower. If he puts everything together, he could someday surface as a top-of-the-rotation starter. Barring injury, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t at least make his way into a MLB bullpen.
Radhames Quezada, RHP, CIN
Current Level: Low-A
Closer to 6-foot than his listed 6-foot-2, Quezada has a live arm. I saw his fastball sitting at 91-92 MPH with some arm side run. He touched 93 MPH with the pitch and showed an advanced ability to command it. He buried a late-breaking curveball well in the dirt. It didn’t have a lot of depth, but was a sharp pitch. He also showed feel for a mid-80s changeup. Athletic with good balance, Quezada repeated his delivery well.
He may not be a big-upside guy, but Quezada showed a deep enough arsenal to someday start in the big leagues. He’ll likely spend all of 2012 between Low-A and High-A. He did enough to firmly entrench himself on my list of potential breakout minor league follows this year.
David Perez, RHP, TEX
Current Level: Not assigned to a full-season team
Exciting for both his age and upside, Perez was more raw than I expected. In the brief bit of action I saw him display, he showed a high-80s fastball that touched the low-90s. He lacked movement and feel for the pitch, and hitters were all over it. I also saw a big, sweeping curveball that he didn’t command well. But it flashed plus. A long-limbed athlete, Perez didn’t have the smoothest mechanics and he pitched with a poor tempo. He looked to be going through the motions more than aggressively attacking hitters.
Overall, he didn’t seem to be focused or mentally prepared to face full-season-caliber hitters. While he’s certainly an arm to follow, I saw a pitcher who may take some time to figure things out, not someone who is primed to blaze through the minors.