Luis Heredia Game Report – 8/5/2012 vs. Aberdeen IronBirds
My continued thanks goes out to Joe Putnam and the State College Spikes for granting me access.
Arguably the most hyped prospect — until Kevin Gausman made his professional debut — in the NYPL plays his home games at one of two venues that I frequent. Yet it took me until August to finally have the opportunity to watch him pitch. As Sunday approached, the forecast gradually became more and more bleak; by that morning game time, along with the preceding and succeeding hours, showed precipitation percentages in the 70 to 100% range. Mildly dejected, I had resolved myself to the fact that the 2 and a half hour drive to State College was too far to chance such low odds of a game being played. I still kept close watch on the changing radar map; around 2:30 I took out my lituus, observed the flight of a few birds, and augured that the storm was moving with enough rapidity and at such a trajectory that most of it should pass by 6:05 game time. I left the house at 3:15 and saw perhaps 20 minutes of light rain during the entire drive/game/return drive. As a result of such a late start, I missed long toss and the bullpen session, but I did not miss a pitch. Thus, I finally present to you, Luis Heredia.
The thought that comes immediately to mind when looking at Luis Heredia is something along the lines of “dam, this kid is huge!” Listed as being 6’6″ 205 pounds, it would not be much of a surprise if he were a bit heavier than that. He has a big strong base with thick thighs and a well developed upper half. His frame is filled out to the point where, despite the fact that he is so young, it’s hard to see much future projection. What he can do is improve his conditioning and turn some of that baby fat into muscle; that may lead to a slight uptick in fastball velocity and an improvement in his ability to replicate his delivery. Heredia could also go the other way and balloon into a CC Sabathia type of body shape. Either way he has the look of a future workhorse.
Rather than give you my woefully amateurish opinion on Heredia’s mechanics, I brought in our expert, Kevin Scobee for his analysis:
Initial Reaction: I don’t see it – one good thing, for me at least, about doing these pieces is I’m not at all the prospect guy that Jeff, Steve, Josh, and everyone else is on our site. I know zero about who the “it” prospects are, who the big international signings are, who the guys are that are receiving all the hype. Because of that, I don’t get lost in the white noise of hype that could very well cloud my judgment on a player. I don’t know what I’m supposed to see; only what I do see.
With Heredia, he looks very much like the typical “throw like a pitcher” that’s been trained all the (inefficient) ways to throw a baseball. He’s very, very slow to the plate. He’s very upright with little athleticism. He’s very over-the-top with his arm angle that would cause more of a red flag to future injury than the narrative would have you believe. He may fit the wrapper of what a pitcher should look like to the conventional scouting eye, but man, there are a lot of slow, strictly regimented, non-dynamic movements happening here.
Likes: I’m having trouble finding anything I really like. This kind of super-controlled, super-contained movement with the delivery will only lead to more control problems moving forward than the alternative. The over emphasis of the glove side “pull” and teeter-totter action of the shoulders from the time of foot-strike to release will result in an incredibly inconsistent release point.
Dislikes: This list could go for awhile: Slow, very slow. No dynamic, explosive trunk movement. Lazy and disinterested pre-inning warm-up. Stays too much on his back leg without a proper hip-slide to the plate. No rotational movement to work the hips and shoulders off one another to create velocity. Cookie-cutter, old school mechanics that decrease the natural athleticism of a pitcher.
One Thing I Would Change: It’s been a theme for me with this series to simply say “speed him up” and move on, but in the case of Heredia, there’s so much of the “tall and fall”, “pull the glove side”, “come straight over the top” teachings that I would almost try and completely overhaul the delivery.
If it was just one thing I could chose, I would start with the arm action and force more rotational sequencing to release.
Overall I was a bit underwhelmed by the fastball; that’s not to say it was bad by any stretch of the imagination, merely that I came in with some expectations that were not quite fulfilled. Heredia sat 88-91* throughout the evening, touching 92: predominantly 90-91 in the first few innings with a slight down-tick in the last couple. He pitched off of the fastball and showed an impressive ability to move it around the zone for his age. The movement on the pitch was inconsistent with some showing a decent amount of armside run and others looking a bit more true. The fastball only garnered a handful of swinging strikes, most of them when the pitch was elevated; the majority of contact was fairly weak and/or fouled back, but a few hitters managed to square him up. I’d label it an average pitch currently with a chance to be a plus offering as he improves his body.
Velocity High: 92 MPH
Velocity Low: 88 MPH
Velocity Avg: 89.9 MPH
Heredia only threw three curve balls in the game, one of which occurred while I was filming his open side. Off of the two pitch sample size, we see an 11-5 breaker thrown down and away from right handed hitters. One is thrown fairly well with steady break (although without a ton of depth) that results in a weak ground out to the left side; the other comes out of his hand poorly, pulling it into the dirt with little break. Heredia maintains his arm speed and arm slot well when throwing the pitch, but this is clearly still a work in progress. The well thrown one shows that he can spin the ball well enough, so it could turn into an average future pitch with work.
Velocity High: 78 MPH
Velocity Low: 76 MPH
Velocity Avg: 77 MPH
This was the most pleasant surprise of the night. Luis Heredia used his change-up extraordinarily effectively to hitters from both sides of the plate — more frequently to left-handed hitters of course — mixing it in fairly regularly. Action on the pitch can be inconsistent, but the well thrown ones have excellent late fade and drop. It garnered by far the most swinging strikes out of his arsenal. Heredia throws the pitch with arm speed similar to his fastball; however, he does drop his arm slot from high 3/4 (fastball & curve) to a more true 3/4 slot in the process. The inconsistency keeps me from putting a plus label on it presently; in the future it has a chance to exceed that.
Velocity High: 85 MPH
Velocity Low: 81 MPH
Velocity Avg: 82.9 MPH
Heredia controls his fastball, for the most part, very well. He will occasionally have his arm slot drift too high resulting in the ball sailing on him, but he shows a surprising amount of polish in this area. The change up was used almost exclusively as a chase pitch (I believe there was one changeup thrown in the zone); he had trouble throwing it for strikes to his armside, typically having it fade out of the zone towards the right-handed batters box and dip into the dirt when thrown to the glove-side of the plate. At least one of the curve balls was thrown in the zone.
Heredia works both sides of the plate with his fastball and generally knows where the pitch is going. He has trouble keeping the ball down and will often miss up in the zone. Hitters generally weren’t doing much more than fouling those pitches off at this level though. His fastball command started to worsen as the outing progressed, but the early ability to throw to the general vicinity provides hope for further refinement in his command as he matures. With the change-up Heredia has enough feel to throw to a particular side of the plate. Eventually you may even see plus command emerge once the delivery and body are refined.
There is a lot to like about Luis Heredia. The confluence of his size, polish relative to age, and a quality fastball/change combination makes him a fairly rare commodity as a 17-year old. He shows an aptitude for moving the ball around the zone and mixing his pitches; he maintains his arm speed when throwing his offspeed pitches; and he does not seem to get easily rattled when runners are on base. He is often thrown into the same sentence as Gerrit Cole and Jameson Taillon, and that’s where I object. I did not see a future ace on the mound Sunday. His fastball was good but far from an elite weapon — it is important to note that this was only a one start sample size, and it came on a humid, rainy day which could have plausibly mitigated his velocity — and it’s hard to project it to reach such heights. Ultimately, I see Heredia as more of a future workhorse starter with a quality three pitch mix (two of which could very easily be plus) than someone who will front a staff. That is not an elite prospect at this point in time.
*Most velocity readings were taken from the radar guns of players charting behind home plate. Readings were generally 2 MPH faster than the stadium gun, and I used that conversion as a supplement for times when I was filming elsewhere.