The Grayson Garvin Experience | The Process Report

The Grayson Garvin Experience

The Vanderbilt Commodores played the Oregon State Beavers on Saturday night. It marked the second game of their super regional series, with the Commodores already holding a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three series. A week ago, such a match would have drawn little consideration from me; however, Grayson Garvin was on the mound for the Commodores and the game represented a rare occasion to catch a worthwhile Rays prospect in action during the College World Series—even if it meant missing some of the ongoing Rays game.

I took some notes, so here they are:

– The first thing noticeable about Garvin is his size. Most sources list him at 6-foot-5 or 6-foot-6 and he appears to fill the same amount of space as David Price on the mound. That may seem like a lazy comparison because of the other things they share in common (good fastballs from lefties, although Price’s is elite, and the Vanderbilt connection), but it really is just a physical comparison of the room they require on the mound and nothing more.

– Everything about Garvin having a worthwhile fastball appears legitimate. Early on, he was hitting 91-to-93 consistently, but towards the end of his line, the velocity dipped to 87-to-90. Still, Garvin works off the pitch and while he had some efficiency problems throughout, he managed to throw the heater by a few of the Beavers hitters. There is some thought out there that Garvin can retain his velocity deeper by conditioning better.

– Sometimes you hear about college pitchers working backward in order to avoid the aluminum bats and escape the high-run scoring environment. The change in bats has helped them out some, but Garvin didn’t seem to worry one way or the other. He did start a few at-bats with a secondary offering, but nothing egregious.

– As for those secondary offerings, the changeup has been described as “solid-average”, and the slider gets tabbed as a pitch that sometimes resembles a slurve. First, a note about what “solid-average” means: if you take an average pitch, you often think it’ll be good x amount of the time and bad y amount of the time. The “solid” part of the description is there to alert everyone that despite the average tag, it is good more often than you would expect.

– The changeup does seem to have potential, and perhaps it improves over time. It’s such a feel pitch, reliant on arm action as much as anything, and maybe the professional instructors can help him with an aspect or two to improve the quality. If not, it still looks playable, although he did seem to have some issues placing it for strikes and I’m not certain it was just part of the game plan to miss the zone.

– Garvin’s slider needs work too. There was a moment late in Garvin’s outing where he threw one to a right-handed batter. The movement resembled a slurve (at least, the movement presented on television through the traditional shoulder angle), with a sweeping motion rather than a tight break, and the batter smacked into left-center for extra bases. I’m not sure what the plan for Garvin’s secondary stuff is, but it wouldn’t shock me if he winds up dumping the slider and attempting to learn another pitch.

– A few batters did seem to make good contact off Garvin throughout. I wouldn’t fret too much, as this is nearing the end of a long season and it is possible he was dealing with fatigue issues. Besides, off nights happen, whether it’s in the pros or in college. Often, an off night is nothing more than an off night.

– Garvin had a few fielding opportunities and made a nice play on a popped up bunt towards the third base side. He had to deliver, follow-through, then get off the mound and charge the ball. He made it look easy, although later on he messed up a routine assignment on another bunted ball by attempting to grab the ball with the end of his glove. He never got a hold of the ball, and the runner reached—giving him a bases loaded, nobody out situation to handle.

– Unrelated to Garvin’s performance, but something I didn’t realize until Saturday: he was drafted by the Astros in the 45th round of the 2008 draft. Oddly, Garvin is the second former Astros pick in as many years to go early to the Rays, joining Derek Dietrich.

– Credit to Tim Corbin, the Vandy manager, for not abusing Garvin and trying to squeak out an additional inning. Garvin left right around 90 pitches and without completing five innings, but Corbin and Vanderbilt have a sterling reputation for developing pitchers in a sport where so many managers seem to have total disregard for the future health of their arms.

– All and all, I do intend to watch Garvin’s next start, and sort of fancy his fastball. I don’t want to make sweeping statements about his ceiling or potential, but it’s not too hard to think of him as a middle-to-backend of the rotation starter down the road. Maybe he can discover another pitch and improve his stock a little more. Frankly, that is not bad value at pick 59 in any draft.

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