It’s that time of year, when we oooh and ahhh at about adjustments players are making or have made while they work at the kinks during spring training. To be specific, that includes changes in mechanics or pitcher characteristics. Until we have access to the consistent, high-quality footage that comes during the regular season, it’s tough to see of the finer details regarding player mechanics. Luckily, we do have access to some pitch data from Baseball Savant’s game feeds.
We’re limited to velocity and movement looking at spring Statcast data, but changes in either are something to pay attention to, depending on the magnitude. A change in velocity likely means a change in mechanics, while changes in movement could be due to mechanics, pitch grip, or hand position at release. There are two pitchers who have had noteworthy velocity jumps thus far that are entering the most crucial stage of their respective developments.
Coming off injury, Clarke Schmidt was really just getting his feet back under him in 2021, making it difficult to judge his true talent. If his start against the Tigers are any sort of indication, then the Yankees should start getting excited. His velocity has jumped back up, with Schmidt averaging just under 96 mph against Detroit. In 2020, he averaged 95, but in 2021 he was two ticks lower at 93. That includes the curveball too, which has jumped up two ticks to 84 mph. For Schmidt, my guess is he’s made improvements in movement quality. In the past, he has trained with Yankees Director of Player Health and Performance, Eric Cressey. With years of elite training in the bank, it would not be a shock to see him maximize his body’s capabilities.
Deivi Garcia hitting 95 and 96 tonight proves the Yankees are winning the World Series. pic.twitter.com/Xuo1JoTI52— Joe Randazzo (DonaldsonRBW) (@Yankeelibrarian) March 24, 2022
Schmidt’s fellow post-hype prospect, Deivi García, had himself a velo jump as well. I’m actually extremely excited about this one. García has unique characteristics. His delivery is deceptive. I wrote about this back in January, but García was best known for his extension and release point. When he was throwing with more velocity previous to 2021, he would dot fastballs at the bottom of the zone and get called strikes with the best of them. If we see that command while he is routinely throwing 95-96 and topping 97, I’ll be anticipating a bounce back.
Those two aren’t the only pitchers flashing velocity jumps in the spring. Greg Weissert, who I have pointed out as a potential break out reliver in the Yankees’ system, has had a jump of is own. Baseball America has ranked Weissert’s slider as the best in the system for three consecutive years, so a velocity jump would be a great addition to an already interesting arsenal. He mentioned in an interview he made some adjustments and was mainly 95-97 mph on the gun. He averaged 93.7 yesterday against the Phillies, but on Monday threw 95.3 mph on average and topped 98.3 in two scoreless innings. Those numbers are a bit more eye grabbing. A 97-mph sinker and an absurd sweeping slider would pair very well together.
Lastly, we have Lucas Luetge. This time, we are focused on the horizontal movement of his slider.
Similar to the Clay Holmes discussion yesterday, Lucas Luetge is averaging 16 inches of horizontal movement on his slider this spring after averaging 8 inches in 2021. Expect a lot more of these as the season goes on. pic.twitter.com/C2nn8gBrxu— Lucas (@DBITLefty) March 24, 2022
The more sweep the better. This is a nasty pitch if Luetge continues with this change. We saw how productive he was with just eight inches of horizontal movement; now just imagine 16.
I’m sure more improvements will come to light as spring training progresses, but these four changes are all promising for these players who are looking to make an impact at the big league level this season. If these jumps persist, you should get used to seeing them on the mound for the Yankees sooner or later.