Saturday, October 11, 2008 | By Alex Eisenberg
Ezekiel Spruill was the Atlanta Braves' second round pick (No. 70 overall) in last June's draft. He has some mechanical issues to work out, but he gives the Atlanta player development staff an awful lot to work with.
The first thing I notice is a very deliberate wind-up, almost as if he is moving in slow motion. Get Spruill to speed up a little--get his hips moving a little more toward home plate before his front knee reaches its highest point and simply move at a faster pace, and you’ll see his velocity add an extra gear.
Spruill's arm action is on the longish side as he straightens his arm all the way during his arm swing. By working to shorten the arm action, Spruill lowers his risk of injury and helps eliminate any hitches or pauses that might be brought on by a longer arm action. Any pause or hitch in one's mechanics cause a bleeding or leaking of energy, which can hurt a pitcher's overall velocity.
As of now, Spruill throws his fastball in the 88 – 92 range, getting as high as 94 at times with pretty good tailing movement. A late body rotation makes his fastball a little deceptive and sneaky. Spruill also keeps the ball down in the zone, resulting in a solid number of ground balls. I would expect him to increase his velocity with a couple mechanical adjustments, as well as fill out his projectable frame.
Spruill also throws a slurve like pitch that shows some promise and comes in between 78 and 82 mph with decent bite. The pitch profiles as an above average pitch down the road, but he needs to further tighten the pitch. He has a change-up, which is presently considered below average and his future as a starter could depend on the development of the that pitch. Below are a couple clips of Spruill's fastball and breaking ball. The fastball is on the left and is clocked at 90 mph, while the breaking ball is on the right and clocked at 81 mph.
Spruill is throwing his breaking ball out of the stretch and one thing to point out is Spruill's velocity decreases somewhat out of the stretch position. This is partly because he doesn't as efficiently use his lower body from the stretch.
Spruill already possess above average to plus control and he's able to throw all three of his pitches for strikes. One reason for this is Spruill's already advanced front side mechanics. Spruill firms up his front side very well, which keeps his front shoulder from flying open. Spruill's delivery is also compact, simple, and repeatable--another reason for his solid command.
In his debut season, Spruill put up respectable numbers. In 41 innings, Spruill recorded an ERA of 3.03, struck out 19% of the batters he faced, and walked just 5% of batters faced. Spruill also had a GB% of close to 50%.
Spruill was a little too hittable with a .331 BABIP against, indicating he was often times getting too much of the plate with his pitches. However, he was still stingy when it came to homeruns as he gave up just one homerun-and just four extra base hits the entire season.
One last thing...remember how Spruill doesn't generate as much power from his delivery out of the stretch? This is born out in his splits (keep in mind this is a very small sample size):
No Runners On - 16.3 IP, 10.64 K/9
Runners On - 25 IP, 4.68 K/9
The bottom line for Spruill is he is at this moment, a control/command pitcher with two average to above average pitches and a developing change-up. The fastball has the potential to be plus, while the breaking ball has close to plus potential. The development of his change-up is key for his success to remain a starter. If everything goes right, Spruill has the upside of a No. 3/4 starter at the big league level.
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