The Arizona Fall League is a tool for teams to get a few of their minor league players some extra work. It's usually not full of top prospects, nothing is on the line in its games, and the stats are essentially meaningless. One thing that the AFL does have going for it, though, are PITCHf/x cameras.
When a prospect goes to the AFL, we fans get a window into what his stuff looks like that we normally wouldn't for minor league pitchers. So far I've profiled the explosive rising fastball of Jamie Schultz, and the more pedestrian sinker of Matt Lollis.
Clicking on the image will enlarge it, or you can view an interactive version that will let you filter by pitch types and give information on each individual pitch. The classifications are my own.
Here are the averages:
|Pitch||Velocity||Horizontal Run||Vertical Rise|
There's something that should immediately catch your eye here: the changeup. We're talking about only six pitches, so the ground we're on is extremely shaky. A pitcher's stuff changes from day to day. Cameras can be miss-calibrated, and their calibration can change over time. My confidence that what we see here is actually Colton Reavis's average changeup is pretty low. It might move more, or it might move less.
But uncertainty like this never stopped Admiral Farragut from writing PITCHf/x scouting reports, and it won't stop me either. If this is an accurate representation of Colton Reavis's changeup, then oh what a changeup it is!
That ten inches of run and three inches of rise will make the pitch appear to dart down and away from left-handed hitters, and at 86 mph, it's pretty hard (which isn't necessarily a bad thing). These numbers would compare favorably with someone Rays fans will remember well. The following movement numbers are taken from Brooks Baseball. They are Alex Torres in 2013, when he pitched for the Rays (before being traded for and replaced by Brad Boxberger).
|Reavis CH||Torres CH||Reavis FF||Torres FF|
Remember how Torres's changeup danced? Remember how opposing hitters knew it was coming yet they missed it 35% of the time the swung? Remember how they pounded it into the ground 50% of the time they put his changeup into play?
I think that Colton Reavis's breaking ball falls short of Torres's. It's more of a slurve than the hard slider that Torres flashed, but that shouldn't lessen our enthusiasm. Torres didn't make it to the major leagues on the back of his breaking ball, and if Reavis's changeup is really as good as his brief AFL stint suggests, he won't need a great hook either.
There hasn't been much attention shown to the 30th round draft pick out of Northwood University, but Jessica Quiroli is a great resource for minor league information, and she caught up with the Renegade reliever two years ago in Hudson Valley:
"As a college closer, I had more velocity than I do now. I can still get my fastball by guys, I just have to not go as full force as I was. I have to tone it down some, and I learned how to do that. I threw my slider before just to show I had it, but it wasn't very good. So I've had to develop that pitch, as well as work on my changeup and get the grip right. And now it's probably my second best pitch."
Quiroli also reported that the Rays have been stretching him out for a long-relief role, which is a good way to get prospects more reps (similarly to how sending them to the AFL gets them more reps).
I wouldn't be surprised to see Reavis, who will be 25 next year, earn a promotion to double-A Montgomery at some point in the season (he struck out 27% of the batters he faced last year in Bowling Green and Port Charlotte). It takes more than movement and velocity to make a pitch good. The deception in the delivery can be important (especially for changeups), and command is crucial. But movement and velocity are a part of the story.
If Reavis can continue to refine his changeup, I imagine he'll begin to show up on prospect radar soon.