I’m currently in Jupiter, Florida, as a guest both of (a) my 91-year-old grandfather and (a) the Miami Marlins of Florida. Today was Day 2 of 3 of my time here. I’ll be spending time on the backfields, watching some minor-league games and providing mediocre analysis on same.
Today, I watched mostly the Low-A game between the Marlins and Mets — or, alternately, the Greensboro Grasshoppers and Savannah Sand Gnats of the Sally League.
Regarding Jose Fernandez
Right-hander and Cuban defector Jose Fernandez, 19, pitched for the Marlins. He’s rated as either the second- or third-best prospect in the system by most of the notable outlets (including our Marc Hulet), and this outing — which was attended by scouts from four or five other organizations — exhibted why. He threw three or four pitches, as best I could tell: a fastball that sat at 92-95 mph, a breaking ball at 79-80 mph, and a changeup. Reports suggest that Fernandez actually throws two breaking balls — a slider and curve — and a two-seamer. I saw maybe one of the latter, but, as for the breaking stuff, the shape and velocity were pretty consistent throughout. Whether (a) I’m wrong or (b) he really was just throwing one of the reported breaking pitches — this is something I can’t say (although betting that I’m wrong is probably pretty safe).
While the velocity was notable, the breaking pitch (which I’ll just call a “curve,” for sake of ease) was most impressive — in part, of course, because of how it played in relation to Fernandez’ fastball. Some of Fernandez’ curves were startlingly good — like the one to Mets outfielder Julio Concepcion at the 0:35 mark in the very poor video below. That pitch, like about 60-70% of the curves Fernandez threw, features late, two-plane break. Three times (that I could count) he threw the curve backdoor to left-handers, getting Mets outfield prospect Brandon Nimmo looking on such a pitch in the latter’s third plate appearance.
So far as I could tell, Fernandez threw exactly zero changeups the first time through the order, and then proceeded to utilize it about 40% of the time during the second time through. The pitch wasn’t dominant in and of itself, but proved useful as a foil to his two better pitches.
Two notable incidents with Fernandez:
• After walking Nimmo to lead off the game, Fernandez immediately picked him off. Like, so immediately that I didn’t see it, because I looked down for a second to make a note on something else.
• In his second inning of work, he struck out Mets Jorge Rivero on a backfoot slider, but the ball got away from catcher
Jeff Glenn Jose Ceballos*. ZeErika McQueen, on third base, broke for home. Fernandez also made for home. Fernandez not only took the throw from Glenn and blocked the plate entirely, he also yelled “He’s out!” enthusiastically before the umpire even had a chance to make the call. The episode suggests, at the very least, that Fernandez is excited about getting outs — which is really, like, one of the best things a pitcher can get.
*My bad: Glenn was the Mets catcher.
Regarding Logan Verrett
Right-hander Logan Verrett, entering his age-22 season, pitched for the Mets. Drafted out of Baylor in the third round of last year’s draft, Verrett hasn’t yet thrown an official professional inning. In their most recent Prosect Handbook, Baseball America rates him as a the 26th-best prospect in the Mets system; Toby Hyde of Mets Minor League Blog has Verrett 35th overall.
From what I could tell, Verrett threw a fastball at 88-92 mph, a slider at 82-84 mph, and a change. The slider, which is roundly praised by the internet, actually seemed to come off as three different pitches, only one of which was particularly effective: a sort of lazy, rolling breaking pitch with two-plane break, a pitch with more glove-side than vertical break, and then a third version that was almost all vertical break — a rather deceptive pitch, featuring almost splitter-like movement. It was this last version that was easily most effective, getting a number of whiffs from batters who were swinging on top of it.
Very Poor Video of Jose Fernandez
As mentioned above, I shot some very poor video of Marlins right-handed pitching prospect Jose Fernandez striking out Mets farmhand Julio Concepcion on an excellent curveball.