06 June 2017

Tanner Scott: Coming To A Bullpen Near You

Don’t look now, but we’re about a third of the way through the 2017 regular season already.  At this rate, it feels like the halfway point will be here tomorrow. 

With fifty-plus games in the books, teams will start giving hard looks at their pitcher usage.  October is a long ways off, and it behooves wannabe contenders to plan so they arrive at that sacred land with their best relievers still relatively-fresh.

The Orioles will (at least hopefully) fall into the camp.  Despite the recent slide, they are still less than five games out of first.  However, helped by a scuffling rotation, their bullpen has already logged the tenth-most innings in baseball.    

Veteran arms like RHP Edwin Jackson are just a stone’s throw away, down at AAA Norfolk.  Also residing on the Tide's roster are Jason Acquino, Steve Crichton, Vidal Nuno, Logan Verrette and Tyler Wilson.  They've all done the Showalter Shuffle this season, spending time with the big club.  They also share a common bond in that most of that time ranged from forgettable to horrendous.

It's likely we haven't seen the last of that odd gang of castoffs, but Camden faithful aren't exactly pining for that opportunity.  They'd probably prefer to see the club tap into something with a higher ceiling.

Meet Tanner Scott, the Orioles’ minor league pitcher of the month for May.  He currently resides at AA Bowie.    

The big pitcher from Texas was the Orioles’ sixth round draft pick in 2014.  As a reliever, Scott can ramp his fastball up to 99 MPH, and backs it with a hard slider that arrives in the low 90’s.  Oh, and he’s left handed.

So, why haven’t you heard of him?  He’s been slow to adapt the pro game, struggling at every rung of the minor league ladder.  Also, he’s basically been ticketed for the bullpen from the beginning, skipping the step of being a flamed-out starter.

Their patience has been rewarded, this season, as Scott has really taken to the Eastern League in his second crack at it.  At first glance, his season looks otherworldly:

33.0 IP, 1.64 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 43 SO

Patience is not a virtue often associated with sports fans, and Scott’s early success undoubtedly has many drooling in anticipation.  Currently, the only lefties in the Orioles’ pen are Donnie Hart and Richard Bleier. 

Scott has yet to experience AAA, but we've seen plenty of electric arms shoot directly from AA to the big leagues.  Left-handed relievers who can touch triple digits on the gun are hard to come by.  Let’s just say they’re not exactly handing them out at the local Walmart.

However, it's important Baltimore doesn't rush him too quickly.  A deeper glance at the stat sheet shows that he might not be quite ready for prime time yet.  He’s been fortunate in the strand rate (87.1%) and BABIP (.222) departments.  He’s also been walk-pone, issuing 22 free passes in those 31 innings.

It’s worked so far, because he’s been stingy allowing hits.  Even a slight reversal in luck and that pristine ERA could take a big hit.  At the next level, the margin for error shrinks even further.  I'd like to see that walk rate come down quite a bit before a promotion is considered.  

Scott doesn't turn 23 until July.  If he can continue finding the strike zone, he could carve out a role in the back of the Orioles' bullpen as a left-handed version of Trevor Rosenthal: a high-strikeout flamethrower who deals with the occasional bout of control issues.  That fastball will ensure he gets plenty of chances.  

The verdict?  Truthfully, Scott probably needs more seasoning.  Finishing out a full season at Bowie wouldn’t hurt.  However, if the Orioles remain in contention, expect to find an answer to that question sooner rather than later.


tony2302 said...

the question that will come to some people's minds will be, could he possibly be the closer of the future? of course, he could also be a bust. just curious. maybe a year or two down the line.

btwrestler119 said...

The walks are an issue, although he's been around the plate much more this year, compared to last year when there would be tons of noncompetitive pitchs. I think the BABIP could be sustainable. Having watched almost every inning he's pitched this year, he generates weak contact consistently. Also, on an unrelated note, he's been trying out a curveball, which looks incredibly good considering it isn't part of his regular arsenal. I saw him throw it for a strike and also to get weak groundballs.