Sean Gilmartin, the Atlanta Braves 2011 first round pick embarrassed South Atlantic League opponents in a brief, but impressive stint where he posted a staggering K/BB ratio of 15/1 over five starts. Of course as an uber-polished lefty out of a Florida State, a major ACC program, he was expected to succeed against younger opponents. However, Gilmartin’s production proved dominant enough to earn a spot in the Arizona Fall League and pitched well enough for me to pencil him into the 2012 Mississippi staff (double-A) accelerating his timetable
After a first look at Gilmartin against Rockies enigmatic prospect Tyler Matzek, my initial reaction was, “that’s it”? Yes, he struck out four in two and two-thirds allowing no earned runs, but his fastball sat 87-89 MPH, touching 91, with soft off-speed pitches. The movement was present to induce soft contact at the upper levels, but very little swing-and-miss potential. It was an underwhelming debut which left me wanting for more.
A couple of weeks later, Gilmartin threw again versus Kannapolis, a White Sox farm team and scouted as a completely different pitcher. The lefty was touched for a home run early, but settled in striking out nine in five and two-thirds showing considerably better stuff and command.
In taking the best and worst from both starts, Gilmartin was able to pitch full innings at 89-91 MPH with command and late tail to the arm side. When his velocity dipped to 87-89 MPH, the pitch was not nearly as effective. In both starts, Gilmartin started slow and gained velocity after rocky first innings. Maybe it was just a coincidence, but worth noting nonetheless.
As a pitcher and catcher growing up, I was exposed to two lines of thinking from coaches. The first, “throw as hard as you can for as long as you can”, terrifies me and my partially torn ulnar ligament from years of misuse. The other more arm friendly advice, “just play catch with the mitt”, must have been said with Gilmartin in mind as his arm action is easy and effortless. This allows him to maximize his fastball movement, alleviates stress on his arm and command pitches within the strike zone.
Gilmartin’s curveball was of the soft, big breaking variety. At 70-71 MPH, the pitch featured significant 12/6 action. At its best, a touch of late bite deep in the zone was present, but it’s unlikely to induce many whiffs at the Major League level. In game action, he utilized both off-speed pitches much more than I would have expected and wonder just how honest he will be able to keep more advanced hitters with his fastball.
At 75-79 MPH, Gilmartin’s changeup was extremely impressive the second time around. Against Kannapolis, the pitch featured excellent arm side fade and drop. Additionally, his arm action was exceptional and identical to his fastball leaving it an offering which flashed plus. However, against Asheville, I noticed a slowing of his arm action and his feel for the pitch wasn’t nearly as strong. These things happen, but it was a tad surprising considering his reputation as a command/control specialist from the college ranks.
For me personally, the Gilmartin versus Mike Minor prospect chatter makes sense on the surface – First round picks, major college programs, left-handed, etc. Having seen both early in their Braves careers, first hand looks leave me thinking the comps are a bit lazy and undersell the ability of Mike Minor.
Sean Gilmartin is a solid pitching prospect, but Minor projected better at the time due to a stronger, more durable build and a slider he kept in his back pocket. Gilmartin’s lean build doesn’t really project for additional size, nor does he possess that swing-and-miss offering which points to more of a back end starter ceiling.