6/22/22 : Today at the Complex
It’s been a bit since we have wandered over to the complex back fields just to watch practice, we were there Monday for the Florida Complex League game but in past times we would venture over pretty much daily to watch practices as well. The heat over the past ten days or so along with some personal items that needed to be addressed coupled with the continuing feeling of being an outsider looking in sort of deflated the enthusiasm balloon.
This morning though we thought we would give it a shot once again and to be honest what we saw brought back a good bit of the enthusiasm that’s been waning. Over the years we’ve gotten to know quite a few ( ok - most 🤓 ) of the players in the minor league system and come to realize that when injuries occur the road back is bumpy, wearing and often long. It’s encouraging and exciting to see fellas work their way back into the competitive mix.
At 11 AM on Roberts Field four rehabbing pitchers took yet another step forward. RH Nicoly Pina, RH Brett Schulze, LH Taylor Lehman & LH Nick Fanti.
The 22 year old from San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic has always us impressed with his velocity and power. This morning he threw two innings with an up/down interval but showed us something we hadn’t seen before. Nicoly has added a slider and changeup to the arsenal - the slider in particular had both side to side action and vertical drop. He looked like a pitcher this morning ( first time we’ve seen him live in a couple years actually ) rather than the thrower that dominated Gulf Coast League late innings in 2019. The power and velo were still evident, especially in his second frame today but the ability to locate and include secondaries was something that brought tingles to this old baseball fan’s arms - we were genuinely excited to witness a full arsenal. What was also very encouraging was how free and easy he was releasing the baseball, prior to the elbow injury which required TJ surgery after the 2019 season, there was much more effort in the delivery. Today we saw a repeatable arm slot and solid mechanics. It’s only one appearance but we’ve long been a fan of this young fella - the raw skills witnessed back in 2019 coupled with present good health and coaching are very encouraging. A tip of the cap to the rehab coaching and training teams as well to Nicoly who’s worked very hard to get back. Watching him today was worth the trip in itself 🤓.
Brett Schulze :
Today was the first time we’ve seen Brett throw since spring training, it’s not that he hadn’t continued his progression but rather we just missed being there on his outings. He’s also added a slider to his repertoire and showed it today. Brett is a power arm pitcher - capable of mid to low upper nineties velocity coming out of the University of Minnesota and selected by the Phillies in the 7th round of the 2019 draft. He was excellent in 10 games with Williamsport that season posting a 0.38 ERA in 23 2/3 IP. Brett also incurred an elbow injury and had TJ surgery to repair the issue which forced him to miss the balance of the 2021 season in addition to the 2020 lost season to all. He was popping the mitt with impact this spring again - today he faced Nick Maton ( he just arrived recently ). I don’t have velocity reads but he was popping pretty good - liked what we saw.
Taylor Lehman :
Lefty pitchers some say already have an advantage in baseball simply by being left handed, as a former left handed hurler I take that as both a compliment and competitive challenge. I never had the height, arsenal or skill that Taylor possesses though. The 6’8” twenty six year old from Pittsburgh who attended Penn State and was signed by the Phillies as an un-drafted free agent in 2018 sat generally in the 90-93 mph range prior to Tommy John surgery in June of 2021. In his rehab live bullpens the fastball has consistently sat at 95 mph. While he always had a slider and changeup in his arsenal today we saw a different mix - Taylor showed an 12 to 6 action curve ball along with a re-designed slider that was sharper with darting action down and away. He predominantly threw off speed deliveries today but we did get to see glimpses of the higher octane heater. While his release point isn’t as extended as say other lefties like Bailey Falter there is good deception and hiding of the ball from a consistent three quarter arm slot - it’s a darting action release - not a complete short arm but similar slot. Again, today was the first time we’ve seen him since the injury - solid outing and looks on his way to a return to game action.
A fella who’s got two no hitters on his resume as a professional certainly deserves attention. Nick was coming off a strong 2017 season with Lakewood when he initially suffered a set back in 2018 with the Threshers that led to shoulder surgery. He missed the 2019 season and incurred an elbow injury during his rehab work that led to Tommy John surgery which cost him the 2021 season. Nick was recently resigned to a contract on May 24th. Today was the first time we’ve seen him pitch since instructs a few years back. He’s always had a compact, textbook like delivery - smooth mechanics and repeatable release. Nick’s success came from pinpoint command, precision in his pitches and the ability to pitch to soft contact. What we saw today was very encouraging - he showed the ability to throw a high fastball with velocity to push past hitters. It had both movement and quickness against batters Albert Rodriquez & Luis Garcia. He’s added a slider to the mix as well that had vertical drop and side action incorporated, it’s a new pitch for him that will keep right handers in particular off the sinker. What was exciting to see was the free and easy motion with the high inside heat that will also keep righties from lunging over the plate. Adding those two pitches to the arsenal set up the sinker, change and curve to be even more effective. Very encouraging outing today which again gave an old baseball fan goosebumps - good stuff !
Hope you enjoyed reading what we saw today and that the enthusiasm and passion for the game shined thru. Really pull for these young men to succeed - was very encouraged by our wander over to the complex and what we saw 😎.
Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️