Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Jacob Stone Scouting Report

I saw Jacob Stone pitch for Weatherford College on February 8th (I wrote about the rest of Weatherford team here), and wanted to write a whole post on him. The right-handed pitcher was drafted in the 39th round by the Cincinnati Reds in 2012 after throwing 61 innings as a freshman, striking out 1 less hitter than he threw innings in 11 starts, with a 2.4 K/BB (no batters faced data). The 19 year old will turn 20 in April, and actually turned down a football scholarship to pitch at Weatherford

Despite this, Stone is not a big guy for a pitcher (listed at 6-1 200 by Baseball Reference and 6-0 205 by Weatherford's official game program), so the first reaction is that he will be a reliever as a pro. He could theoretically add a little weight, so a little more velocity could be coming in the future. I found his warm up routine a little strange as he consistently wouldn't get on the mound for his first 2 or three tosses every inning. Here is a little video of him:

Stone had some command issues early on, causing scouts to really shake their heads. However, he showed some good command in the 2nd and 3rd, only to be squeezed by the umpire. He walked the first 3 hitters in the game but really settled down after that. He wasn't putting hitters away early because he was throwing way too many fastballs, and not many of them were for strikes. A few of his fastballs showed a little bit of sink. I tried to log his pitches by pitch type, velocity, and location. After the first couple of innings, I quit listing velocity as it made it easier for me to write notes on other players and still log every pitch (I threw out and just ignored a few pitches because of mistakes). With that said, he was still throwing about 88-90 in the middle innings. I inputted them into a spreadsheet that you can look through below (they aren't in order and are just sorted by pitch below):

The curveball breaks both horizontally and vertically, and is good when spiked. He also threw a couple of really nice strikes with them. He located some really well and I thought it was his best pitch.

He threw a change a few times to lefties, and it did not look like a good pitch (or one he could get down). A couple of other times he threw what looked sort of like the change but could have been bad curves. I just left them out so I didn't misclassify them.

For whatever it is worth, he gave up just 1 hit in 5 innings. There was 1, maybe 2 hard hit balls in the outing. But as noted above, scouts seemed generally disappointed in the outing.

According to the pitches I collected, Stone threw 3 changeups (4.2 %), 23 curves (32.3 %), and 45 fastballs (63.4 %). So the fastball percentage is rather normal, but the curve percentage is really high. You often see a pitcher, especially a relief pitcher, throw sliders over 30% of the time, but that many curves seem rare. Wandy Rodriguez was the only qualified starter to throw more than 30% curves, and it was lower than Stone's. Just 4 MLB pitchers that pitched at least 50 innings in 2012 threw more than 32.3 % curves, while 33 pitchers threw at least that many sliders. It is enough to reconsider pitch classification, but it is clearly not hard enough to be a slider.

Out of the fastballs I kept the velocity for, Stone averaged 89.68 MPH. Obviously you can project another MPH or two, and if he moves to the bullpen, he could add another MPH or two, but his fastball most compares to Brandon Lyon and A.J. Griffin's in the Majors. His curveball averaged 74.46 MPH, closest to Nathan Eovaldi's curveball. An 80 MPH changeup is also below average, close to both A.J. Griffin and Joe Vargas.

Here is his very simple heat map (agnostic towards balls and strikes):

4 6 5
11 4 5
5 20 11
As you can see, thanks to both his curveball, and his ability to sink or at least his fastball low, Stone threw the ball low in the outing I saw him. This most likely limits his strikeout abilities/helps his ground-ball abilites, and also shows that he seems to realize his stuff isn't plus, and as most pitchers with below average fastballs tend to work low, Stone works low as well.

Stone obviously isn't a great draft prospect, but he is draftable as a 2 pitch average fastball reliever. While A.J. Griffin's name came up a couple of times, I don't think Stone has the tools to be a starter like Griffin does, seems to locate the ball low more than Griffin, and doesn't have the fastball movement like Griffin does. I am not sure what round Stone deserves to go in, but I would think he is a 2nd half of the draft guy, past the 20th round, depending on signability. This is really cliche, but a lot depends on his command. My guess is that as a reliever, he will be able to command like I saw him command in the 2nd and 3rd innings especially, keeping the ball low and throwing a lot of curveballs and fastball/sinkers. If he is able to do that, he may not miss many bats, but he could get a lot of guys out in the minors with that stuff.

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