First-Hand Reports: Midwest League Pitching Bonanza, Part 2

Jun 8, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Vanderbilt pitcher Kevin Ziomek (35) pitches against the Louisville Cardinals during the second inning of the Nashville super regional of the 2013 NCAA baseball tournament at Hawkins Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

And now for the continuation of my series about the quality pitching that I saw over the weekend in Midwest League action in Lansing, Michigan.

Saturday, May 3

Highlight 1

Watching Kevin Ziomek work for the White Caps was a treat. He’s a second round pick from 2013, coming out of Vanderbilt University and he went to work right way, striking out the first four batters he faced (two swinging, two looking). Ziomek then got a few fastballs elevated and Matthew Dean hit a solo home run (a pretty impressive opposite-field shot) in the second inning. Ziomek turned to his excellent curveball, throwing an awful lot of them the rest of the way to get himself through six strong innings. He got into trouble again in the fourth but was able to get out of it with only one run allowed in that inning. All told, Ziomek struck out nine batters in his six innings and walked just one.

Ziomek’s fastball is solid right now, sitting around 90 mph from the left side with some arm-side run. His curveball was his best pitch on Saturday and he threw it with excellent command, using it to effectively backdoor righties. It has some good depth and sharpness. He also threw a change that is still a work in progress as it tended to stay up and get hit.

Highlight 2

Jeremy Gabryszwski has had some outstanding success in his career but his results through his first few starts in Lansing have been good but not great but he really stepped up his game on Saturday. Gabby has always been more of a command and control pitcher, not striking out many batters (only 4.7/9 IP) in his excellent season in 2013 with the Northwest League champion Vancouver Canadians. On Saturday, not only was Gabby’s velocity up significantly over what I saw in early April (up from 84-86 mph on April 10 to 87-89 on May 3), but he was commanding the heater down in the zone, to both sides of the plate and getting some excellent sink.

In six and a third innings, Gabryszwski struck out six batters without walking any and got an additional seven outs via the ground ball. He was also getting swings and misses on his slider, which has a sharp downwards break and he was using his excellent changeup (his go-to pitch) very effectively. The 21-year-old second rounder from 2011 is starting to look like he may be turning a corner and may be developing some more swing-and-miss stuff to go with his advanced command and pitchability.

Highlight 3

Griffin Murphy, a 23-year-old lefty, may not be in Lansing very much longer. I’ve seen him twice this season and he’s been impressive both times. Murphy earned his third save of the season, striking out the side in the ninth and now has 20 strikeouts and just two walks in 13 1/3 innings this season.

The thing that I find most interesting about Murphy is that he tends to pitch like a finesse lefty despite the fact that he’s been scraping 94 mph with his fastball. While he usually sits a little bit slower (probably due to the use of a two-seam fastball or sinker), he definitely has velocity that will play at a big league level. When he combines this with the control that he has with all of his pitches (curve, change, slider), he has turned into a dominant relief arm this year. He throws his fastball maybe 50% of the time (when I’ve seen him), which seems a bit odd and could stand to work off of it more, especially as he moves to higher levels of the minors.

Stay tuned for part three!