FanPost

Farmhands Firsthand: Feliz, Sanudo, and Gregor - September 2013

On Wednesday, the Tri-City ValleyCats traveled to the Penn State campus to take on the State College Spikes in Game 2 of the 3-game New York-Penn League (NYPL) Championship Series. This was my 4th opportunity to see the team in person this season. Below are reports on Michael Feliz, Gonzalo Sanudo, and Conrad Gregor.

Michael Feliz

I had watched the 6'4" 210-pound righthander Feliz throw 5 innings in July - his background info and performance from that game were detailed in this Fanpost. On this September night, Feliz threw 4 pitches in his pre-game bullpen session: a four-seam-type fastball with some armside run, a secondary two-seam sinking fastball with late downward bite and a little more armside run, a three-finger changeup that had similar action to the second fastball, and a slider. The opposing lineup featured 6 righthanded batters (RHB) and 3 lefthanded batters (LHB); this was an older lot as the average age of the nine exceeded the average age of a NYPL batter by 0.9 years and Feliz' age by 2.1 years.

Feliz' outing got off to a bit of an inauspicious start when the leadoff man turned on an inside 93 mph first pitch and drove the ball high past and perhaps not more than a foot to the left of the left field foul pole situated 325-feet from the plate; the batter whiffed on a check swing two 97 mph fastballs later. Two righties quickly flew out to shallow right and right-center on 96 and 95 mph fastballs to end a 6-pitch first. A 5-pitch walk and a line drive single up the middle would push Feliz to throw 19 pitches in the second, with the outs recorded on a 4-6 forceout, a sharply-hit fly to medium-depth right-center, and a 3-pitch swinging strikeout; Feliz threw mostly 93 to 95 mph fastballs in the frame with five 78 to 82 mph sliders and one 84 mph changeup mixed in. The third began with the 9-hitter singling on a grounder up the middle hit off a changeup, though the runner was caught stealing by catcher Brett Booth two sliders later and the batter immediately popped a 95 mph fastball to second for out number two; the 2-hitter grounded out to short to end the inning after a slider-fastball-slider-fastball exchange. The next 31 pitches thrown by Feliz in the 4th and 5th frames were fastballs - this seemed a "these guys can't do much with your fastballs" rather than a "the off-speed pitches aren't working" kind of decision. The corresponding sequence of plate appearance outcomes played out with a routine fly to straightaway center, 5-pitch walk, popup to second, 4-3 groundout, foul pop to 1st, and swinging strikeout before Feliz and Booth finally went to an 84 mph changeup to K the lefthanded-hitting 9-hitter swinging and end the 5th. By then, Feliz had thrown 67 pitches with 41 for strikes, while allowing 2 singles and 2 walks versus 4 strikeouts. The offense would post 4 runs in the top of the 6th to stretch the lead to 5-0.

Feliz' control wobbled to start his 6th inning of work as the leadoff man line-singled a 1-0 fastball to shallow left, a 2nd-pitch slider hit the next batter, and the 3-hole hitter walked on 4 straight near-miss fastballs to load the sacks. The lefty clean-up man then blooped 1-0 fastball down the leftfield line for a single that plated the Spikes' first run. Nineteen-year-old Cardinals' organizational Top 20 prospect Carson Kelly then drove a 1-0 fastball to straightaway left but Jon Kemmer made an over-the-shoulder basket catch running towards the 378-foot marker on the extremely deep fence to limit the trauma to a run-scoring sacrifice fly with no other advances. A strikeout swinging followed, but then a grounder down the 3rd base line with hook spin bounded past a sliding-over Tyler White to plate a 3rd run (a tough error call) and a broken-bat flare fell for a single over short to score a 4th and chase Feliz.

Results from the prior and this outing are summarized in the table.

Date

7-12-2013

9-11-2013

Batters Faced

18 RHB, 2 LHB

(average age = 20.4 yrs)

18 RHB, 8 LHB

(average age = 21.9 yrs)

Pitches-Strikes

77-58 (75%)

87-52 (60%)

Fastball %

62%

80%

Slider %

34%

15%

Changeup %

4%

5%

Velocity of Fastballs (mph)

92 to 97, average 94

90 to 97, average 94

Fastball Results

12 Ball (1 BB)

7 Called strike

2 Swing whiff (1 K)

15 Fouled off

1 Flyball- Pull

1 Flyball- Center

1 Flyball- Oppo

4 Line drive (4 singles)

4 Groundball (1 single)

1 Infield pop

28 Ball (3 BB)

6 Called strike

6 Swing whiff (4 K)

16 Fouled off

2 Flyball- Pull

2 Flyball- Center

2 Flyball- Oppo (1 single)

2 Line drive (2 singles)

3 Groundball

3 Infield pop

Slider Results

5 Ball

7 Called Strike (1 K)

10 Swing whiff (5 K)

4 Fouled off

5 Ball (1 HBP)

3 Called strike

1 Swing whiff

2 Fouled off

1 Groundball

1 Flyball: 1 Pull (single)

Changeup Results

2 Ball

1 Called strike

2 Ball

1 Swing whiff (1 K)

1 Groundball (single)

Final Impressions: Feliz threw a much lower and more typical for the level percentage of strikes this time around versus the July appearance. The slider which had looked exceptional then seemed more average this game. There did seem to be a bit of a deference to trusting the fastball over the change-up in situations suggesting usage of the off-speed pitch against opposite-handed bats. Fastball velocity averaged 94 mph on both occasions, though there were perhaps more two-seamers mixed in this time around to the eye and given the lesser usage of off-speed offerings. This outing completed Feliz' 2013 body of work and he would stand to be the biggest riser among Houston pitching prospects during the campaign, with lack of exposure to full-season ball hitters being the main ding against him in prospecting circles. That the twentyish Feliz grades out excellently to well on several key 2013 performance stats (walk rate, strikeout rate, batting against on contact, slugging against on contact, vs LHB splits) and on age-relative-to-competition-level scales would lead many prospectors to project continued success for him in full-season A ball. Barring an exceptional spring, Quad Cities would be the likely destination for a healthy Feliz in April 2014.

Gonzalo Sanudo

This was my first in-person look at the mysterious Mexican righthander Sanudo, who was acquired from the Twins in exchange for A-ball outfielder Mike Kvasnicka near the end of spring training. Sanudo threw 3 pitches in his warm-up sequence: fastball, curveball, change-up.

Sanudo threw 23 pitches including twenty 89 to 93 mph fastballs, 2 slow curves (72 and 73 mph), and 1 change-up (79 mph). Both curves were called balls and the one change was fouled off. For the most part, the opposition struggled to barrel the fastball. Two batters made a total of 3 bunt attempts at it and popped all 3 foully including 1 that went for an out and a second that nearly met the same fate. A full swing at another fastball generated a second foul out to the catcher. The two groundballs were a dribbler up the 3rd base line that went for a single and a jam shot double-play to second. The other hit came on a line drive that fell into shallow center. The final fastball of the 2-inning stint was the hardest one at 93 mph and produced the swinging strikeout that nailed down the 5-4 win to force the also-Sanudo-saved series-clinching Game 3.

Batters Faced

5 RHB, 2 LHB

Pitches-Strikes

23-16 (70%)

Fastball %

87%

Curve %

9%

Changeup %

4%

Velocity of Fastballs (mph)

89 to 93, average 91

Pitch Results

7 Ball

1 Called strike

4 Swing whiff (2 K)

6 Fouled off

1 Line drive (single)

2 Groundball (1 single)

2 Infield pop (2 foul)

Final Impressions: A year removed from issuing 2 walks over 36 Gulf Coast League innings, Sanudo issued only 2 unintentional walks over 45.2 innings spent with 3 Astros affiliates in 2013. In person, the 6’3" 235-pound Sanudo fits the profile of the extreme strike thrower that his miniscule walk rates would suggest. One would surmise that his general success this season, which includes allowing only 28 hits in those 45+ innings, is rooted in impeccable placement of a fastball featuring decent velocity and better movement that produces a mix of weak off-center contact and swings and misses. Sanudo will be a young 22 when spring training opens, and given that and the current state of his repertoire he seems likely to remain in short relief and break camp with Lancaster.

Conrad Gregor

Gregor is a 6'3" 220-pound lefthanded-hitting but righthanded-throwing firstbaseman who has also made a handful of appearances in left field after being selected in this year's draft (4th round, Vanderbilt University). To begin the night Gregor would face righthander Nick Petree, one of the more accomplished collegiate pitchers of 2012 and 2013 though he went undrafted after his junior year and fell to the 9th round of this year's draft owing to sub-par fastball velocity and a Tommy John history. Petree had gotten off to nice start as a pro posting a 1.62 ERA and 1.12 WHIP over 57 regular season NYPL innings. Petree threw fastballs in the 87 to 90 mph range, a slider, a change-up, and a curve.

Gregor led off the second and took a fastball away before driving an 89 mph middle-away fastball over the center-right-centerfield wall (estimated 390-feet wall distance) on a rather linear trajectory for the first run of the game. With a runner on 2nd and 1 out in the 4th, Gregor would take a fastball away for a strike, foul a down-and-away changeup off, and foul a up-and-away fastball to left before taking a called strike three fastball that tailed back to perhaps nip the inside corner. With a runner at 3rd and 1 down in the 6th, Gregor lined Petree's first-pitch 88 mph fastball through the 4-3 hole to plate the ValleyCats second run. In a curious move, the Spikes' manager would lift his lefthanded reliever to bring in a righthanded one to face Gregor with 1 out and runners at 1st and 2nd in the 7th with the ValleyCats now ahead 5-4 and the new hurler walked Gregor on 4 straight to load the bases. Gregor would face that same righty with 2 outs and none on in the 9th of the still 5-4 game; after taking two off-speed offerings for balls around fouling back a 92 mph heater, Gregor laced a change to right that clanked a few feet below the top of an exaggerated 18-foot high wall in the corner (estimated 330-feet wall distance) and he held at first as the carom quickly found the rightfielder's glove.

Results from the 3 prior games I saw and this one are summarized in the table.

Date

7-11-2013

7-11-2013

7-12-2013

9-11-2013

Pitcher Types Faced

3 RHP

1 LHP

2 RHP

1 LHP

1 RHP

3 LHP

5 RHP

Pitch Results

4 Ball

3 Called strike (1 K)

0 Swing whiff

3 Fouled off

1 Flyball-LF

1 Groundball

1 Infield pop

3 Ball

2 Called strike

0 Swing whiff

0 Fouled off

1 Flyball-LF

2 Groundball

8 Ball (1 BB)

2 Called strike

0 Swing whiff

1 Line drive

1 Groundball

1 Infield pop

7 Ball (1 BB)

2 Called strike (1 K)

0 Swing whiff

3 Fouled off

1 Flyball-RF (single)

1 Flyball-CF (HR)

1 Line drive (single)

Final Impressions: Unlike in the three hitless July contests, contact was loud and powerful and Gregor looked like the sort of hitter you would hope to see after drafting a 1B-LF type in the 4th-round out of a top 4-year college program and placing him in short-season A ball to begin his pro career. Combining this small sample of witnessed plate appearances with the improved production posted by Gregor since August leads this observer to be increasingly optimistic about Gregor's chances of offensive success in A ball for 2014. Gregor would seem to be the type of player who may be more productive walking less and swinging more and in particular aggressively so when ahead in the count; having not swung and missed at a pitch in the 4 observed games, Gregor should still be able to make a heavy percentage of contact in 2-strike scenarios were he to display increased aggression earlier in the count. I have yet to see Gregor in the outfield, so there remains some question as to whether he would be a potential viable option there as a big leaguer. To the eye, he hasn't stood out in either a positive or negative way in the 4 games at first though his physique does skew him a bit towards the muscular, athletic end of the spectrum of professional first basemen. Besides his spring offensive showing, the defensive development plan for Gregor could also impact whether he begins next season at Quad Cities or Lancaster.

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