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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

1/5/2021 : Pushing the Needle - The Big Arms

The velocity ( or speed as we called it back in the day 🤓) of pitches has always been a fascination of followers of the game. Hitting a baseball is perhaps the most difficult thing to do in all of sports, trying to do it against a fireballer is even more extreme. The truth is though that velocity alone doesn’t propel success, without command, control and movement ( spin ) pitchers can’t excel.

The art of pitching and it’s refinement via coaching has had many approaches over the years. Core to the process though are mechanics, mindset and ability. Those three things are required in every approach for success.

Technology and a better education of how the human body performs has enhanced approaches. As an old hurler I know that the primary key to success is repetition of delivery ... I also know that it’s very easy to skew away from such repetition ... often times without even realizing it. I think it’s great that modern methods can readily identify sways from the course. It’s still comes down to the pitcher incorporating the corrections though ... that’s the human element ... that will never change. 🧐

With that being said velocity certainly is a huge advantage and it seems bullpens in particular are built with “big arms” in mind. I’ve spent a lot of time recently researching “big arms” that are available on the free agent market. Even before the off season acquisitions of high velo guys like Jose Alvarado ( upper 90’s ) , Neftali Feliz ( sitting 94-95 in Dominican Winter League ) Michael Ynoa ( upper 90’s ) Johan Quezada ( upper 90’s ) , Joel Cesar( mid 90’s ) and Ian Hamilton ( was upper 90’s before injuries - now around mid 90’s ) there were quite a few that can fire in the mid to upper nineties in our own system ... here’s a fan’s view of fellas I’ve seen in action and have gotten to know a bit that perhaps some folks may be somewhat or not aware of ... yet 🤓.

My latest series of articles ... “Pushing the Speed Needle - The Big Arms” ... these are the Phillies minor league development or developed hurlers that come to mind I’d like to chat up ... presented over a series of postings ... here’s part one ... some fellas who are aligned to have a more immediate big league impact.

Damon Jones - Drafted 18th Round - 2017 Draft - Washington State ... 26 years old ...

In 2019 he recorded a 2.91 ERA in 23 games ( 114.1 IP ) with a whopping 152 K’s, pitched at three levels ( Clearwater/Reading/Lehigh Valley ) and dominated at both the High A & AA level ... was in 2020 Big League ST camp and the Alternate Camp in Allentown.

Definitely has a big league power arm, in workouts at Driveline this offseason he’s been consistent at just below triple digits with his FB. Also has a plus power slider with a sharp break. Has been working on a changeup as most of his deliveries are hard.

He’s a thinker and a sponge ... seeks and absorbs knowledge on his craft. I would bet on him making his big league debut in 2021 and has the ability to become a key contributor. Very cool to chat with about pitching ... really into it and loves the game.

Fun Fact - Damon’s grand dad is Darryl Imhoff - former Center for the 76er’s.

Connor Brogdon - Drafted 10th Round - 2017 Draft - Lewis Clark State ( Idaho) ... 25 years old ... will be 26 on 1/29 ...

Made his major league debut in 2020 ... pitched in 9 games ... was dominating in the month of September - 6 games ( 8 2/3 IP - 0 runs allowed - 14 K’s - 1 H, 2 BB )

A multi inning reliever who can pop the mitt in the 95-98 range with the FB , change up is his primary secondary offering and it’s both deceptive and has nasty movement ... slider as a third pitch with cutting action that when used sets up the other two deliveries.

He has been a backend piece in the minors and can become so in the majors ... a stopper out of the bullpen. Connor has a competitive motor that even exceeds his physical skill set, he doesn’t accept failure. He’s a battler who sees each game as a mission to deliver punch outs. Great sense of humor as well, relatively quiet personality but I gotta feeling he’s gonna become a fan and writers favorite.

Jo Jo Romero - 24 years old … drafted in 2016 4th round selection out of Yavapai College

Jo Jo made his major league debut in 2020 and showed on multiple occasions that he’s got the talent to excel in the show. He’s a confident young man who can bring the FB in the 95-97 range but also has secondary offerings that are out makers themselves.

When he’s struggled it’s been a lack of command and control that have been the primary issues, the stuff usually always plays. He’s fun to be around, a popular teammate. He took a liking to the bullpen role ... I think it fits him as he can focus on a few pitches rather than trying to formulate and use a wide array which he did as a starter in the minors.

Tyler Carr - Drafted 31st Round - 2018 Draft - South Alabama... 24 years old ...

Tyler hails from Florida ... had an excellent 2019 season playing at three levels ( Lakewood, Clearwater and Reading ) - 5-4 overall with a 1.29 ERA in 54 games ( 99.2 IP ) with 76 K’s and 26 BB ... recorded 6 saves in 7 opportunities ...

He can flash a 95-96 mph heater but generally sits in the 92-94 range ... has a good secondary mix which allows him to be a multi inning reliever ... Tyler is an out producer who’s capable of pitching multiple innings/days in relief. If given a chance to showcase a bit this spring he’s gonna make folks take notice. He throws strikes and has a fighter’s mentality on the hill ... I like his approach ... I also think the skillset is big league level. Just needs a chance to show it.

Francisco Morales - 21 years old … Signed 7/2/2016 ... From San Juan de los Morros, Venezuela

When we first saw Francisco pitch on the back fields in 2017 the stuff was evident however control and command were lacking ... but hey he was just 17 years old then! I remember chatting with a Phillies international scout at the time who openly gushed over the future projection of what he envisioned for Francisco and he wasn’t concerned about control/command, said that would come ... I now believe he was spot on.

At Lakewood in 2019 things began to click, in particular the second half of the season. In August of that season he posted a 1.89 ERA in 5 games striking out 28 batters in 19 IP while walking only seven.

I remember watching him in 2019 Fall Instructs. He threw a simulated game on Roberts field and absolutely dominated. It was then that I saw the vision that my scouting friend had seen in 2017. Francisco has incredible stuff ... upper 90’s FB capabilities and a nasty hard slider coupled with a change up that can also be plus. He’s also got a demeanor reminiscent of Carlos Carrasco ... gets after it. It is my opinion that he was going to be on the verge of a breakout year in 2020 ... don’t think that’s changed at all now as he had a strong Fall Instructs Camp again this past year.

He’s got a chance to move up quickly this year, as a new member of the 40 man roster he’ll be in his first big league camp ... I know folks are gonna like what they see !

Ramon Rosso - 24 years old - Signed 6/2/17 ... from Santo Domingo Centro, Dominican Republic

Ramon has had great success during his Phillies minor league career posting a 23-10 record in 62 games ( 60 starts ) with a 2.80 ERA in 322 IP with 360 K’s. He made his big league debut during 2020 working primarily out of the bullpen in seven appearances. This off season he pitched in the Dominican Winter League and didn’t allow a run in five of his seven appearances punching out 31 batters ( 6 walks ) in 26 IP.

He can sit in the mid to upper nineties with his fastball, especially as a reliever, and has two decent off speed pitches in a slider and change up. Ramon is at his best when he’s having fun on the hill, I’ve seen him animated when going well and it’s fun to watch. The young man has a big frame at 6’4” and hides the ball really well in his delivery. He’s got the goods to be a strong big league hurler, is very capable of starting but in my opinion could be dominating as a reliever. Just sayin 🤷‍♂️.

I’ll continue the series in the coming days ... next up ... fellas either on the verge or expected to be at the AA level this coming season.

One note ... now is usually the time guys start arriving at Carpenter Complex for pre-camp voluntary workouts ... these aren’t normal times snd with the start date of ST still uncertain it’s hard to say who might come in early ... so far only two players have arrived.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️


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