Converted shortstop Allen Webster served as the icing on the cake of my 2011 season as a September playoff appearance afforded me the opportunity to scout the young right-hander versus the Tennessee Smokies. And while Webster failed to make it out of the fourth inning, he showed enough for me to consider him a more complete pitching prospect than former teammate Nathan Eovaldi.
Armed with a usable four pitch mix, Webster displayed three big league pitches and a fourth with potential. And while command was an issue throughout the start, Webster may have simply been tired after a long minor league season. After a seven hit shutout in his final July outing, Webster sputtered the rest of the way ending with this particular appearance.
Webster’s late season struggles may be due to a slight frame and perceived lack of durability. Listed at 6-foot-2, 165 pounds, Webster appeared to be swimming in his uniform and reminded me of current Angels reliever Scott Downs at the same age who was rehabbing from minor shoulder surgery during my brief time as a member of the University of Kentucky Wildcats. And while Webster generates impressive velocity in spite of his frame, his showing little development through the shoulders and lower half leaves me wondering how difficult it will be for him to add another 25-30 pounds of size.
From a mechanics standpoint, I didn’t really notice anything which would raise red flags even though his arm action was a bit short in the back of his delivery. This is actually pretty typical of position players who have been converted to the mound and saw similar from Padres prospect Casey Kelly when I scouted him as a Red Sox prospect in 2009. Webster’s ability to clean up his arm action a touch would make it much easier to project him a starter over the long haul.
In game action, Webster worked of a 91-93 MPH fastball which featured late run on the hands. While charting, Webster also touched 94, 95 and 96 MPH once indicating additional velocity is attainable. Even more promising is that Webster was able to maintain fastball movement at the upper registers.
In addition to his four-seam fastball, Webster also utilized an 89-91 MPH two-seamer with a bit more exaggerated run and drop. Initially, Webster’s velocity was a bit down out of the stretch, but it was only in passing as he showed an ability to maintain velocity with runners on base.
Webster’s best breaking ball in this outing was an 82-86 MPH slider with sharp, late action. His command was imperfect, but it’s a pitch which will miss plenty of barrels, if not bats already. With further refinement, it’s potentially a swing-and-miss offering for Webster.
A more frequently used curveball was a second breaking ball featured by Webster. At 77-80 MPH, touching 81, command of the offering was above average as Webster consistently kept the ball low in the strike zone. In this particular outing, the curve was his more effective offering and kept Tennessee Smokies hitters off-balanced. However, with a lack of late bite, it falls short of an out pitch for me at present. Another concern is his wrapping his wrist at times tipping the respective offering.
To complete his repertoire, Webster threw an 82-84 MPH changeup, touching 86. The pitch featured strong velocity separation from the fastball, but he did seem to telegraph it quite a bit by staying taller in his follow through. This left the impression Webster was more aiming the pitch than simply throwing it indicating a lack of feel.
Late to pitching, Webster is an excellent example of a pitching prospect who would be less impressive if his back story did not indicate limited pitching experience. With a strong feel for pitching at such a young age and only 350 or so innings under his belt, it’s possible to project more rapid development going forward. With his slender frame and tendency to short arm a bit, his floor is currently that of a strong armed reliever if Webster stalled out at his present ability level. However, it’s easy to envision a scenario where the Dodgers tweak his arm action and Webster continues to mature into his frame allowing his velocity to stabilize at 93-95 MPH range. With the possibility of three above average pitches in his prime, Webster’s top end projection is that of a 2-3 starter on a contender. Of course some things have to go right for this to happen, but Webster is already well ahead of his expected learning curve.
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