This article is part of our Scouting Pitchers series.
Spring statistics through 4/4/09
Let's check out the Marlins' #3 starter, South Florida native Chris Volstad. He came up from Double-A last year and pitched very well, giving up more than three runs just twice in his 14 starts - and in those games, he gave up just four.
Florida selected the right-handed Volstad (6-8, 225, Born 9/23/1986) with a first-round pick (16th overall) of the 2005 draft. They showed some patience with him through the minors, giving him nearly 400 innings at Rookie ball and Class A from 2005 until 2007. Volstad posted a 3.08 ERA in 152 innings at Low-A in 2006, then made 20 starts (4.50 ERA) in the High-A Florida State League in 2007 before moving up to Double-A Carolina for the end of the year. He began 2008 back at Carolina and made his major league debut on July 6.
As a Class A pitcher, Volstad gave up more than a hit per inning and averaged between six and seven strikeouts per nine innings - good, but not great. In his 22 Double-A starts between 2007 and 2008, he became harder to hit, but his strikeout rate (5.5 K per 9 IP) remained low for a top prospect. Ground ball pitchers often get by with fewer punchouts, however, and Volstad's 52 strikeouts in his first 84.1 major league innings were right at his Double-A average.
Chris Volstad: (Lifetime G/F 0.72)
Rating: %Thrown: Fastball 65 60 Curveball 70 35 Slider N/A Changeup 55 5 Control 55 Delivery 50 Composure 60
Volstad throws a sinking two-seam fastball that runs from 88-93 mph and touches 94. His 76-81 mph curveball is his best pitch. It has excellent downward break, and he controls it better than he does his fastball. Volstad can pitch backwards, using his curve to set up his fastball. Volstad's 84-85 mph changeup is pretty good, but he only throws it a few times per game. He has said he will throw more changeups this year, MLB.com reports.
Volstad's fastball will generate a lot of ground balls, and his G/F ratio last year was 2.18 in Double-A and 1.27 for the Marlins. He can struggle to locate his fastball and will bury it in the dirt. When he is on, Volstad locates it under right-hander's hands or sinking away from left-handers: the same pitch, but to different batters. Volstad will come up and in to right-handers to keep them honest before going away with his curve.
Volstad has good pitching sense. He stays away from hitters' strengths and makes them hit his pitch. If he falls behind in the count, he's willing to walk the hitter rather than give in to him. This will be a problem down the road if his command doesn't improve, but for now he gets away with it because he keeps the ball on the ground and in the park. A walk from Volstad isn't likely to turn into a big inning, as he isn't easy to hit and gave up just three home runs all year in 2008.
Volstad's efficiency depends on the discipline of the lineup he faces. Home run hitters who don't adjust beat the ball into the ground or pop it up. Patient or high-average hitters hit the ball where it is pitched or don't chase his fastball out of the zone. Volstad will have innings where he chews through the opposition and ones where the game slows to a crawl.
Volstad's motion resembles Matt Garza's: he rocks backwards and drops his forearm before staying tall as he comes through. He stays under control and doesn't leave himself in bad fielding position. Chris Carpenter also has a similar delivery and stuff, although he threw a little harder than Volstad when he came up. Because Volstad starts his motion with his forearm in a downward position before bringing it through, he ends up hanging his breaking ball now and then.
Volstad has a bright future as long as he keeps his health and his control, as he only has to repeat what he did in 2008 to be successful. Will he? I'm optimistic for him being a #3 starter, but he doesn't have the raw stuff of an ace. He could develop into a #2 if he stays healthy over a number of years. While Volstad has been healthy his entire career, he doesn't have an entirely free and easy motion. I'd guess that his good stuff and moxie will translate into about 100 wins over his career.
In two weeks: AL East and Central: Ricky Romero and Rick Porcello
Article first appeared 4/6/09