The Padres announced their non roster players invited to spring training. Right-handed pitcher Matt Stites was one of those pitchers, and was also one of the pitchers that pitched in the Arizona Fall League in 2012.
In a relief outing in Arizona, Stites showed off a 4-seam fastball that averaged nearly 96 MPH along with a hard changeup and hard slider (both averaging over 87 MPH). Stites has only pitched in relief in the minors, but despite his velocity, he was drafted in the 17th round by the Padres out of the University of Missouri in 2011. Since signing, he has been dominant, with a 2.08 FIP and 1.78 SIERA in 82.2 innings in the minors. He may have been drafted so low thanks to his small stature (listed at 5-11 170) as a right-handed reliever.
Despite these numbers, his ground-ball rate is horrible and he had a really messy release point in the AFL. Over the last two seasons, his GB % is just 32.4. It seems to be a small miracle that he has a .55 HR/9IP, as he has a 10.1 IFFB%, leading to a 6.8 HR/OFB %. One would expect this to regress (as in get higher) as he gets in more advanced levels of the minors and faces more power hitters. In 2012, his home park actually played hitter friendly, though in 2011, the main park he played in played pitcher friendly. Of course SIERA (and his 1.91 kwERA in the minors) zero out the home run/ground-ball rates, and his FIP was actually a little worse at home over the last 2 years.
His delivery is somewhat like we saw with Whelan, though it is not quite as violent or dramatic as his, Stites has a gigantic leg kick and a motion that isn't fluid at all, more jerky than anything. I can see why his release point data was so messy, but we have seen before, this doesn't matter with elite relievers, while it does with starters.
His changeup doesn't have dramatic movement, but it does look like his fastball before it drops off a little. He actually seemed to work his fastball both high and low, which is a little surprising for his ground-ball percentage. He was very fastball heavy, willing to just overpower hitters. The slider was obviously the superior breaking pitch, as it looked like a strikeout pitch to go with the fastball, dropping off of a table almost like a splitter.
Even as dominant as he has been, he hasn't pitched in a level past A-ball, so it is difficult to see him making the big league team out of Spring Training. He has been dominant against both lefties and righties and has a plus fastball, so I don't think Stites will be waiting for the big leagues for long, especially if he continues to succeed in AA and AAA.