The Philadelphia Phillies received some good news this week about a player they took in the most recent Rule 5 draft. On Wednesday, word broke that pitcher Noah Song, claimed from the Boston Red Sox, had been discharged from his active-duty Naval service commitment, and was expected to report to Phillies spring training camp on Thursday.
Song is a Naval Academy graduate, and had to work through an exception to the regular five-year commitment Annapolis grads make. Back in 2019, when he graduated, his petition to forego active duty entirely was swatted away by the Navy.
The Phillies got a surprise Wednesday. Noah Song will be in camp after all.
The pitcher’s arrival is an interesting if not entirely promising development for Philadelphia since Song’s possibly sticking with the team when they go north would fill perhaps the last available spot on the team’s bullpen bench.
Or maybe someone sees him competing for the fifth starter’s slot.
I wouldn’t bet a truckload on that eventuality, however.
This is not to say that one day Song might not start for the Phillies. He is six years old than Andrew Painter, who is given a very good chance to make the team as a starter by those in the know, and Song’s stuff is “filth,” according to a scout who saw him train in ’19 for the World Baseball Classic.
Bryan Price, the former Reds manager and Team USA pitching coach at the time, said he had a “live arm with command,” but added a touch of damnation with faint praise: “I can see why he was effective in college, and I can see why he’s seen [emphasis mine] as a very valuable asset and commodity with the Red Sox.”
Noah Song is big, 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. By all accounts, his fastball is in the 95 mph neighborhood (92-99, considering various reports).
However, there are a heap of reservations about predicting what sort of professional career the right-hander might have.
First among those is the fact that, although he dominated as a college starter, he did that at Navy, against Patriot League competition.
Second, it’s very difficult to assess what two years of active military duty has done to his development, which must be coupled with a third point: Not all observers have been as enthusiastic as those in the Team USA camp three-plus years ago.
In the December, 2020 Prospects Live report on Song, evaluator Geoff Pontes gave his fastball a 60 rating, noting “will sit 94-96 mph for stretches.” However, the pitcher’s curve was rated at 40.
His slider was given a 55, and his changeup a 50 with the note that “good arm speed sells pitch in tandem with fastball.”
Good stuff, then, generally.
But Pontes wasn’t seemingly as thrilled with the pitcher’s mechanics, which may not bode well for his health going forward:
“Higher effort mechanics with violence at the point of delivery. Head whack at release, arm speeds up at end of stroke. Arm lags early on in mechanics with stroke slightly behind timing wise at foot strike.”
And that brings Song back to reservation point number two with a new question: How well did he maintain pitching strength and improve mechanics in flight school and on active duty?
The more violent the motion, the more important strength, and there was mechanical work to do.
All that said, Noah Song may turn out to be the Phillies next greatest Rule 5 draft find, nearly 20 years after Shane Victorino. He may be an exceptional young player.