When I visited Angels camp, Tyler Chatwood was pitching at the same time as Pat Corbin, just one diamond over. Corbin was the guy who I planned on focusing on, but Chatwood quickly gained my undivided attention.
Here's to filling a brief void in the MLB schedule -- there's still time to hit up your online sportsbook for the World Series -- and covering some of the talents who may someday make their own postseason appearances.
What makes him special
A few 97 MPH Chatwood fastballs were what initially caught my eye. That he was also mixing in a high-70s MPH changeup with some movement further interested me.
Some of the Angels pitchers in the bleachers commented on how unfair Chatwood's fastball/changeup combo was due to the 10+ MPH difference between the two pitches.
Then there was the curveball. Chatwood consistently snapped off a sharp, 12-to-6 downer from his over-the-top arm slot -- shown in the .gif below. With a little more command, it will be a plus offering.
In terms of raw stuff, the three-pitch mix I saw from Chatwood was among the best I witnessed in minor league camps all spring. He was every bit as electric at Julio Teheran.
Chatwood's fastball sat 93-96 MPH with some tail away from lefties over his first three innings. His changeup was 78-80 MPH and featured a bit of late tumble. He primarily worked off of those two pitches initially, holding off on mixing in his curveball until later in his outing.
Too good to be true, why haven't I heard more about this guy. Right?
Reasons for caution
The 74th overall pick of the 2008 draft, Chatwood become a Tommy John patient after his freshman year in high school. Unlike most pitchers who undergo the operation to repair a torn UCL, Chatwood's surgery was to tighten his. During minor league spring training, he told me that his elbow hadn't bothered him since.
While he does get the ball up above his shoulder prior to foot plant, note that Chatwood brings his arm to a jarring stop after releasing the ball, rather than letting it decelerate against his body.
His fastball steadily lost velocity during the second half of the start I witnessed. While it touched 94 MPH in the 6th inning, it sat 89-92 during the 4th-6th innings, a significant dip from the 93-96 he showed out of the gates.
Chatwood also struggled with his command at times, though it's very promising that his walk rate has steadily improved as he has risen through the minors.
Last of all -- and least of all -- Chatwood is going to get dinged by some people for only standing about 5-foot-10.
Future big leaguer?
The outing I saw wasn't the first that Chatwood sat in the mid-90s and he has a lot going for him overall.
"I've seen him pitch frequently and his velocity was at times 97 mph and generally in the 94-95 range. Tyler also has what we consider to be an above average curve ball. His athletic ability shows that he is also a prospect as a shortstop," Eddie Bane told MLB.com after the 2008 draft.
Few 20-year-old pitchers can hold their own in the California League. Chatwood's 64% ground-ball rate ranked 3rd in the league (min. 80 IP) and his 20.9% strikeout rate was above the league average. Though his strikeout rate took a hit in Double-A, his ground-ball rate remained promising and his walk rate improved.
The Angels decision to give Chatwood a taste of Triple-A to close out the season says a lot about how they view him. In the 15 minutes I talked to Chatwood, he was shy, modest and quietly excited to prove himself in the minors.
His best-case outcome is as a top-of-the-rotation starter who misses a good amount of bats and gets grounders. Barring injury, I think Chatwood will at least turn into a valuable reliever, possibly ready to contribute in the big leagues as soon as 2011.
It would be a lot to expect Chatwood to transition as well to the PCL as he did the Cal League, though I wouldn't put it past him. But even if it takes him two full PCL seasons to sharpen his game to the point where he's ready to make a serious push for a 25-man roster spot, he'll still be only 23-24.
Expect to see Tyler Chatwood on our 2011 Top 100 prospect list. His fastball and curve may both surface as above-average MLB pitches. And the changeup I saw in the spring of 2010 was drastically better than the changeup I read about in 2008 draft reports. He's a talented youngster who will almost certainly pitch his way to the big leagues.
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