He has pitched 358 innings in his career. He has allowed just 318 hits, 16 home runs, has walked 100 while striking out 428. He has struck out at least 10 batters in seven different starts this season and after his latest win on July 24 he is 8-3 with a 2.00 ERA with 128 strikeouts and 34 walks in 108 innings of work. No, his name is not Matt Moore and no, he does not not throw 96. His name is Eric Surkamp and he is yet another pitching prospect for the pitching-rich San Francisco Giants organization whose name may or may not pop up in trade talks as we get closer to the trade deadline this weekend.
Surkamp was the 177th pick in the 2008 draft out of North Carolina State University. He was a starter all three seasons for the Wolfpack, but struggled with control even as his strikeout rate went from 7.2 to 7.9 to 10.5 K/9IP in his three seasons in Raleigh. He signed the same season he was drafted and threw just 17 innings that season for the two lowest levels in the Giants' organization. In 2009, he reported to Augusta, Georgia and went 11-5 with a 3.30 ERA striking out 169 and walking just 39 in 131 innings. In 2010, he took his talents to the launching pads of the California League and was 4-2 with a 3.11 ERA and 108 strikeouts and just 22 walks in 101 innings before going down with a hip injury that would require surgery and shut him down for the season. This season, his work has been incredible at Richmond in the Eastern League he has the best ERA of all starting pitchers in the league and is one strikeout behind Brad Peacock of the Nationals who was just recently promoted to Triple-A.
By his own admission, Surkamp is a four-pitch pitcher who throws a curveball, changeup, slider, and a fastball that sits at 87 and gets up to 90 mph on a good day. Being able to throw just two pitches consistently for strikes is a good skill for the lower levels of the minor leagues and one of the reasons Surkamp was so successful against the Low-A and High-A batters. That said, the fact he can throw all four of his pitches for strikes, along with the delivery he has, is what allows him to put up the kind of statistics that match the fireballers such as Moore and Peacock while throwing eight miles an hour slower most outings.
Of the four pitches, it is his curveball that has given batters a lot of trouble this season. He throws a spike curve (see picture) and John O'Connor of the Richmond-Times Dispatch tells us exactly how Surkamp utilizes his curveball (from earlier this season).
He delivers a slow one with a rounded break. Surkamp uses that early in counts. And he throws one that approaches the plate at a higher velocity and dives diagonally. Surkamp usually unveils that with two strikes.
The late break and Surkamp's command help his curve tame right-handed hitters as well as lefties. Surkamp starts the curve in the strike zone against a righty. It falls toward the hitter's back foot and, typically, below his swing plane. Of Surkamp's 41 strikeout victims, 36 are righties.