Prospect Parade: Dutch Delight
While Europe is not known for it’s production of baseball players, there has definitely been a slow improvement in the talent pipeline in recent years. An improvement in youth development has been taking place in recent years has been taking place, most notably in the Netherlands, Italy, Germany, and in stretches of central and eastern Europe. One of the faces of that European progress has been Lars Huijer, who recently put on a nice show in a start for the Everett AquaSox.
Huijer, who the Mariners signed in 2011 for $170,000 (the highest European bonus that year), is a 19 year old right-handed pitcher born in Haarlem, a town outside of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. He’s been on the radar since he took part in the World Youth Championships in Taiwan when he was 14, and was playing in Holland’s top professional league for a year before signing with Seattle.
Huijer stands at 6’4″ and a shade under 200 pounds, and has a good frame with some good projection still to go. On the night I saw him (7/25/13 against Tri City in Everett), he sat 86-88, touching as high as 91, with an loose and easy 3/4 delivery. His fastball a nice little bit of weight to it, which helped him keep it down in the zone for the most part, though he wasn’t afraid to reach back for a bit more velocity and elevate to try and get a whiff.
For offspeed stuff, he showed both a slider and a curveball. The slider was not an effective pitch at all; he worked it at about 80-81 MPH, but it didn’t have much depth and frisbeed on him more often than not. It was scrapped after the first inning and replaced with a curveball, which was a much better pitch for him. Huijer worked it at around 75-76 MPH, with nice 11-5 shape. There were some issues with it being a bit loose at times; that seemed to stem from issues in not staying over it and finishing it properly with consistency. On a whole, though, the curve was probably Huijer’s best pitch on the night, and offers the most projectability. Talking to someone familiar with his development, the stark difference between the slider and the curve made sense; Huijer didn’t throw a slider in the Netherlands, and the curve had occasionally flashed as a plus pitch in the year leading up to him signing with the Mariners.
A changeup also showed up in Huijer’s repertoire that night, clocking in around 77-78. It wasn’t a remarkably effective pitch for him on the night, but it also wasn’t so poor as to write it off for his future development. It will definitely be an important piece to track in his development path, however, and how it goes will determine whether or not Huijer will stick as a starter.
What was most notable about Huijer’s outing was that he gave up very little in the way of hard contact. By my count, there were only a handful of sharply-hit balls all night, and not one left the infield (although one did take an impressive diving knockdown by Jack Reinheimer to keep it off the grass). No one could square him up properly, even when he was struggling and missing spots in the first inning. That’s a very good thing to see this early in a pitcher’s development, and will hopefully be a trend that continues as he faces more advanced batters.
I do think that Huijer could make a fairly effective starter so long as the change gets solidified. He’s got good command (not just control), and can pound the zone all day long with two effective pitches. He desperately needs a good change to be effective against lefties, though. If he can make the change work, I see someone who could be a decent 4/5 guy in a rotation. If not, his fastball and curve are still good enough for a relief role, especially as I feel that he has it in him to reach back and rip for some more velocity, and that there’s even a little more velo in his frame as he adds good weight.
Huijer is definitely one to watch, especially for the fun side story of a (hopefully) successful European import.