For the two years prior to this season Matt Price has been the closer for the South Carolina Gamecocks. He is the all-time saves leader for South Carolina, picked up the win in the final game of the 2010 College World Series and closed out the final game of the 2011 College World Series. Price is one of the main reasons why the Gamecocks have back-to-back championships.
This season he started the year as the Gamecocks Saturday game starter and actually had quite a bit of success. In early March FanGraphs took notice of his success:
Fourth-year junior Matt Price‘s conversion to starter from closer has been very successful so far. Here’s his line so far: 10.0 IP, 15 K, 4 BB.
On March 22, with Carolina scuffling to begin the season he was returned to the bullpen to resume his closing duties. In 58 innings this season he's struck out 63 while walking 26. For his career at South Carolina he's struck out 236 batters and walked 75 in 193 inning. He's got the stuff to be a late inning reliever, but also has the potential to be a middle of the rotation starter.
His breaking stuff has good movement and he commands all his pitches well. Those two factors likely play a roll in why he's been so successful despite a fastball that sits in the low 90's. I don't see any red flags in his mechanics, but I'm far from the mechanics expert and gifs will be provided after the jump for your own analysis.
The only red flag has been the way he's been used in college. The only time Price gets an off-day is if there's a non-save situation, even then if Tanner is uncomfortable with a lead he's likely to be called on to close out a game.
Ray Tanner is not afraid to use his closer extensively: during this years SEC tournament in the win over Auburn he was brought on for a three inning save; In the 2011 College World Series semifinals he earned a win against Virginia after pitching 5.2 innings of scoreless relief in extra innings out of the bullpen; He was then called upon to close both games against Florida; The win he collected in 2010 came after pitching 2.2 scoreless innings of relief.
For those of you pinning for "old school" baseball the college ranks are where it's at. Bunting in the early innings, relievers going more than one inning, it's all there. Concerning Price, his potential to start may make null his use in college, however, the extensive use of him in innings and back-to-back days should raise some concerns about his ability to avoid injury.
A minor league reliever. Injury is a big concern, but his stuff lacks speed. A low 90's fastball out of the bullpen doesn't seem like a recipe for success.
Middle of the rotation starter. I think a team that drafts him will try to see how he holds up as a starter if that doesn't work out he's likely at best a late inning reliever. I don't think he has the speed to be a closer but he could survive filling that 7th/8th inning role if he can add a couple ticks to his fastball.
Projected Draft Round
Middle to early in the first 10 rounds. He was drafted sixth last year by the Arizona Diamonds backs and while he hasn't had as good a year as his previous years, he may actually move up because of the depth of the draft and the fact that he showed flashes of potential starting for Carolina early in the season.
The move back to the bullpen seemed to be more of a team move, than a player move. Carolina didn't have anyone else in the bullpen they could count on to close games as effectively as Price had. Given more of an opportunity in a starting role may prove fruitful for a team willing to develop him as a starter. In that regard I think that makes him a better choice than a pitcher who's only going to be a relief pitcher and could help him move up a round or two in the draft.
Will he sign?
Like Christian Walker he doesn't have much left to prove at South Carolina, so I think he signs this year especially with Walker and Michael Roth on their way out the door.
Bibliography after the jump
This is a fastball getting a swinging strikeout against a left handed batter. He misses his location, but is still able to get the strikeout because it's up and out.
This is a breaking pitch getting a swinging strike against a right handed batter. That's highlights the good movement on his breaking pitch.
Price also throws a fairly effective slider. He's generally shown good control of the ball over the course of his career. At his best, he's shown a repertoire that could get it done in a variety of MLB roles. It's also worth pointing out that Price is a proven clutch performer in the post-season, something any MLB team wants in its closer.
Despite his uneven performances as a starter this season, Price has the repertoire to give it a go in professional ball. That’s likely what the Diamondbacks were thinking when they drafted him in the sixth-round last June. That’s also the likely route the team that drafts him next month is expected to take. If all else fails, they can always shift him back to the pen, where they know they have a sure thing.
normally I start by writing about the fastball, but I really, really like his low-80s SL (82-84) so that gets top billing; also throws a softer CB; 89-92 FB, up to 94 out of bullpen; had strange, brief peak of mid- to upper-90s during brief stretch in 2011, but more of a low-90s guy; solid third pitch in 79-81 CU; experiment as starting pitcher went more or less as expected (i.e. not great), but Price has recaptured his magic in the bullpen; he’s more of an all-time great college pitcher than an exciting pro prospect, but he’s not just a college guy, either – there’s a big league bullpen out there that could surely use a competitor like Price; 6-2, 215 pounds