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Scouting the Mud Hens: The Relief Corps

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Not only did I get to see some quality starting pitching and a couple pretty good position players while watching Triple-A Toledo face off against my hometown Charlotte Knights, but I got a good look at a couple relievers too. Today I'll take looks at incredibly small sample sizes of Scot Drucker, Zach Simons, Jay Sborz and Daniel Schlereth.

Scot Drucker

Drucker doesn't seem to have overpowering stuff; the gun had him at 89-91 (probably off slightly, maybe a mile or two) on his fastball and in the upper 70s-low 80s on his off-speed stuff. He pitched one inning on Saturday, in relief of Charlie Furbush, and struck out two batters and drew a groundout. His strikeout of rehabbing lefty Mark Teahen was particularly impressive considering Drucker has been hit hard by lefties this year (FIP of 4.85 compared to 3.22). Drucker started him on four fastballs, the first two of which went for balls, and finished him off on an offspeed pitch and another fastball. Two of the three strikes in the at-bat were swinging, which was a good sign. Drucker also got a four pitch strikeout against Steven Gartrell, relying heavily on his secondary stuff, and caused Tyler Flowers to ground out on a 79 mph off-speed pitch. Drucker could have a solid future with Detroit if Leyland promised to keep him away from lefties, but that's as unlikely as me getting named to the scouting staff.

Zach Simons

Ah, Zach Simons. He'll be forever known as the return in the Jason Grilli trade to me (and to a lot of Tigers fans), but he is a pretty good relief prospect in his own rights. His appearance was 1.2 innings in relief of Andy Oliver on Sunday, and it was pretty uneventful. He drew a popup as well as two groundouts and two flyouts, which seems to indicate that he had problems putting batters away on strikes. It seemed a little like he did; he got ahead of four of the five men he faced and struck none out. Part of this could be an underwhelming fastball: the gun had him at 88-89 throughout his appearance, which is weird considering scouting reports from last year said he routinely hit 89-92 and could touch 95. Of course, his last pitch touched 95 so perhaps the lower velocity could be a two-seamer. Or the girl working the radar gun (who was at best inattentive) screwed up the readings. I'd really like to see Simons pitch again. If the fastball has really dropped in velocity, that could explain why he started the year in AA and hasn't been called up to Detroit yet.

Jay Sborz

Color me unimpressed by Mr. Sborz (or at least, what I saw of him). His command was pretty good (eight of 10 pitches for strikes) but he couldn't put away the one batter he got ahead of via strikeout, instead yielding three flyouts. His stuff was okay: The fastball started out at around 91 but touched 93 and 94 on the night. Unfortunately, Sborz only threw one off-speed ptich (his curve) that hit 83, so I can't really evaluate that pitch. But there was no flash of dominance or swing-and-miss stuff that would pinpoint him as a future impact reliever. His future's probably in middle relief.

Daniel Schlereth

Finally, the most interesting reliever of them all. A word on Schlereth's control: you don't understand how iffy it is until you see it live. Of course, I'd say the same thing about his stuff. You don't understand how electric it is until you see it live. We're talking about a lefty that came in pumping gas at 91 and 92 miles an hour, and hitting the mid-90's several times during his appearance. AND the pitch was moving, big time. He threw 20 pitches, eight of which missed the plate, but the balls all came at inopportune times and all of them seemed to be on secondary pitches (either the change or curve). In fact, out of the 13 fastballs he threw only three were balls. My question is whether Schlereth has been explicitly told to work on commanding his secondary stuff. It seems to me that's where his real weakness lies. But man, is that fastball electric.