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Behind the Backstop: Back On Track

Tory Hernandez

Tory Hernandez

Tory's experience in the baseball industry includes a four-year stint as the Manager of Baseball Operations for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, where his responsibilities were comprised of contract negotiation, advance scouting, and the development and implementation of the organization's statistical research methods and use of analytics. Most recently, Tory served as the Director of Pro Scouting & Recruiting for Boras Corporation.

The Arizona Fall League is still in full swing and after writing up a few hitters and their performances last week, let's turn to the bump and focus on some pitchers. I was in Arizona to see a few fall league games this past weekend and here is what I saw on the rubber.

Washington Nationals lefty Matt Purke is throwing the ball well and despite a couple of rough outings his last two times out, he is having a very encouraging fall. The 6-foot-4 southpaw out of TCU received a major league contract with a $2,750,000 signing bonus after being drafted by the Nats in the third round of the 2011 draft. Purke was a well-known arm coming out of TCU after turning down a lot of money from the Rangers, who drafted him in the first round in 2009. He has battled arm injuries throughout his career and his stuff is not what it was back in college, when he touched the upper 90's with his fastball.

Purke has more than enough stuff though to be a solid mid-rotation arm. He's consistently hitting 92-93 mph on the gun and he looks healthy. His fastball has about average life and sink, while his changeup is a plus pitch, and his breaking ball is about an average major league pitch. Purke will have thrown about 130 innings in 2013 once the AFL is complete, which will set him up to get to about 175-190 innings in 2014. He should finish the year in Double-A and be knocking on the doorstep of the big league club in 2015.

Dallas Beeler of the Cubs resembles Roy Halladay and Charlie Morton as his delivery is almost a carbon copy. His stuff resembles more that of Morton, rather than of Halladay during his prime. He runs his fastball anywhere from 89-93 mph, mostly 92, with good downward action and plenty of run to the armside. Beeler is physical, standing at 6-foot-5 and is lean and angular, but with a strong looking frame. He features a slider with good depth and a shorter, cutter with good down action. He is around the strike zone and has plus control. Beeler pitches to contact and goes right after hitters. He isn't going to rack up a lot of strikeouts and hitters get healthy hacks against him. He gets enough movement on his fastball though that he creates a ton of groundballs. He's probably best suited for middle relief and can be a guy to come in and get a groundball. Beeler will head to Triple-A in 2014 and the Cubs will keep him stretched out to see if he can develop a better breaking ball. If he can improve his slider, he could have a chance to be a back of the rotation starter.

Another left-handed arm from the Nationals in the fall league this year is starter Sammy Solis. I saw Solis last Friday and he pitched very well over four innings. On pure stuff alone, Solis could be a solid third or fourth starter in a big league rotation. He has had a difficult time staying healthy throughout his career, however. He should rack up about 100 innings once he completes his Fall League circuit, which will be a good benchmark after missing all of 2012. He's expected to pitch at Double-A in 2014 and his focus will be on taking the ball every fifth day and to get through a full season without the injury bug creeping up on him again.

I was a bit surprised by how much I liked Sam Gaviglio of the Cardinals. Gaviglio is a right-hander out of Oregon State. He missed most of 2013, only compiling 47.2IP. He's not overpowering at all and actually has barely average fastball velocity in the 89-90 mph range. His fastball is a bowling ball with heavy sinking action, though. Batters beat his ball into the ground and he gets a ton of easy groundballs. He should be ready for the challenge in Double-A next year at the age of 24. At worst, Gaviglio will be a solid middle, right-on-right type in a major league bullpen, but if he proves durable enough, he could fit in as a fourth starter. A trade out of St. Louis could open the door for him to start but he's probably primed for a middle relief role for the Redbirds.

Yankees lefty Vidal Nuno is having a solid fall league after a successful 2013 campaign that saw a brief audition in New York. In 20 innings with the Yankees, Nuno proved he belonged. Nuno has a short and stalky build and while he's not a soft-tosser, he doesn't break 90 mph, sitting at 88-89. He has impeccable control, but his fastball is straight and while his breaking stuff and changeup are at least average pitches, he has to rely on his defense. He's an interesting guy to keep an eye on because he's a smart pitcher that is able to add and subtract with his fastball, keeping hitters off balance. In the right ballpark with a good defense, Nuno could be a No. 4 or No. 5 starter type out of the rotation.

Keyvius Sampson has always been on the radar as a potential premium prospect and he broke out this year in the Texas League before running into a wall in the tough Pacific Coast League. Sampson sat at 93 mph in his most recent start, and while he doesn't get much angle and his fastball is fairly straight, it can be an overpowering pitch at times. The six-foot righty in the Padres organization has a plus curveball and changeup and when he commands his fastball, he has three plus pitches. He has the chance to be a quality No. 3 starter but he has to throw more consistent strikes. He'll start the year back at Triple-A in 2014 but he's in position to be one of the first callups for the Friars early in the season.

As far as prospect rankings go, Royals right-hander Jason Adam is behind Sampson but an interesting arm nonetheless. He had a breakout campaign in 2012 in the Carolina League, only to take a step back as a 21-year-old in the Texas League in 2013. He sat at 93 mph last time out in the fall league, but it was mostly straight. His curveball and changeup are still a work in progress. Adam has a great, durable pitcher's body and can be successful when he throws strikes. He doesn't have a put away pitch right now but if he can develop command, he could slot in as a nice third or fourth starter.

Orioles right-hander Branden Kline has had a disappointing start to his young career. The second-round pick out of the University of Virginia missed two months this year after fracturing his right leg working out. He's trying to make up for lost time but he doesn't appear fully recovered or in sync. He'll be 22 years old next year and he hasn't mastered Low-A ball yet. He was a power arm in the 92-94 mph range in college, but he sat at 91 in his last start. He gets pretty good life on his ball and his off-speed stuff is still early in the development stages. His arm is whippy and quick and he still has to be considered a prospect. However, 2014 will be a big year for him to determine if he belongs in the prospect equation.

I only saw him briefly but Angels' right-hander R.J. Alvarez was hitting 94-95 mph with an extremely quick arm. I've heard he can run his fastball up to 99 and while it's straight and he pitches up in the zone, he could be someone the Angels give a look at closer in the very near future.

Next week, I am going to write up A's pitchers Raul Alcantara, Nolan Sanburn and Chris Kohler along with M's pitchers Tyler Pike, Edwin Diaz and Victor Sanchez. I'll also give you my takes on Tyler Naquin of the Indians and Chris Taylor of the Mariners.

Catch me on Twitter @torybaseball for information throughout the week.

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