Scouting State College Starting Pitchers

With the season winding down, and nearly a full year of observations and data to look back on, TCN’s Robert Davidson provides a five-part look at the 2014 State College Spikes from a scouting perspective. Installment three covers the starting pitchers with Daniel Poncedeleon showing late-season promise.

I have decided to forgo the classic 20-80 scouting scale for these reports and make more general observations about the players for two reasons, 1) many of these players are in their first year of professional baseball, which can be a difficult adjustment for some, and 2) because these players are so young, and inexperienced professionally, a lot can change from one year to the next.

This is the third of five posts breaking down the State College roster. Today we focus on the Spikes’ starting pitchers. Will Anderson has been the Spikes’ most consistent starter this season, but Fernando Baez, Trey Nielsen and Daniel Poncedeleon likely have the highest ceilings in the group.

*Starting pitchers who have been promoted or have started fewer than six games will be discussed in the final installment of Scouting the Spikes.
** Stat summaries from MiLB.com and Baseball Reference. All stats are through Thursday, August 29.

Player  HT  WT  DOB  Resides  Acquired 
Anderson, Will RHP 6-3 205 8/26/92  Pleasanton, CA 26th Round, 2013
Baez, Fernando RHP 6-1 190 2/1/92  San Cristobal, DR Int. FA, 11/30/09
Gomber, Austin LHP 6-5 205 11/23/93  Winter Garden, FL 4th Round, 2014
Nielsen, Trey RHP 6-1 190 9/1/91 Salt Lake City, UT 30th Round, 2013
Perez, Dewin LHP 6-0 175 9/29/94 Cartagena, Col. Int. FA, 7/5/11
Poncedeleon, Daniel RHP 6-4 190 1/16/92 La Mirada, CA 9th Round, 2014
Schumacher, Cody RHP 6-1 190 12/1/90 Topeka, KS 36th Round, 2014

Will Anderson – RHP

  W L ERA G GS IP  H ER BB SO AVG WHIP
PB  0 0.00  3.0  .364  1.33 
SC  6 2.52  11  11  64.1  66  27  18  11  56  .261  1.20 
2014 6 2.41  12  11  67.1  70  28  18  11  60  .265  1.20 
Career 8 3.29  23  20  109.1 118  54  40  17  88  .275  1.23 

Will Anderson is tied for the team lead in wins (6), and is fifth in the NYPL in ERA (2.52). Anderson has put together a rather impressive season, especially when you consider the tools he possesses, or lack thereof. Anderson throws in the lower 90s, sometimes sitting 88-90, but his fastball consistently sneaks up on batters as he uses a solid curve, changeup mix to set up his fastball. Although Anderson doesn’t boast a particularly hard fastball, he maintains his velocity quite well and has no trouble pitching deep into ballgames.

Anderson’s best asset is his command. The 6-foot-3 righty has walked just 11 batters in 11 starts, and only four NYPL pitchers have walked fewer batters in as many, or more, innings. His .261 opponent average is respectable, but Anderson keeps runs off the board by limiting free passes, something other Spikes’ pitchers have struggled with.

I don’t believe Anderson has the tools to become a major league starter, but throwing strikes and eating innings the way he has this year will give him time to add to his repertoire or find his place in the pen as a long-reliever.

Fernando Baez – RHP

  W L ERA G GS IP  H ER BB SO AVG WHIP
2014 2 3.89  12  41.2  28  19  18  24  44  .192  1.25 
Career 8 2.05  52  114.0 68  29  26  67  141 .175  1.18 

Fernando Baez is an interesting study, and is definitely someone to keep an eye on. Baez worked exclusively out of the bullpen at the beginning of the season, but after allowing just four hits and two earned runs in 7 2/3 innings out of the pen, he was moved into the starting rotation. The jury is still out on whether Baez is a starter or a reliever, but he was moved to the rotation as way for him to get more work and force him to use and refine his off-speed pitches.

While Baez flourished as a reliever in his first two professional seasons (Baez posted an ERA of 1.14 in the Dominican Summer League in 2012 and 0.82 ERA in Johnson City last year) he was able to carve up hitters working with a plus fastball that sat in the mid to upper 90s with a “show me” curveball. In an effort to develop secondary pitches, Baez was moved to the rotation where he would be something other than the late-inning power pitcher he had been early on.

For the most part, it has worked. Baez’s velocity is down, as he sits 92-94 during his starts, but he has developed a decent curveball that will be key to his success, regardless of whether or not he’s coming out of the bullpen.

Baez has the tools to be a lights-out late-inning reliever, and developing another out pitch would give him a great one-two punch. But, it is up to the Cardinals to decide his fate. I would anticipate that he starts the 2015 season as a starter and stays in the rotation until he proves that he can’t be a starter, at which point I hope he can regain the late-inning tenacity he showed at the beginning of this season.

Austin Gomber – LHP

  W L ERA G GS IP  H ER BB SO AVG WHIP
2014 1 2.70  10  10  40.0  50  17  12  18  32  .313  1.70 
Career 1 2.70  10  10  40.0  50  17  12  18  32  .313  1.70 

Austin Gomber was one of the bigger names to land in State College following this year’s draft. Until this week though, the Cardinals’ fourth-round pick had not done much to show he was deserving of such an early selection, but I’d wager that being a 6-foot-5 southpaw had a lot to do with it.

Gomber racked up the strikeouts in his three years at Florida Atlantic, but has given up 50 hits and 18 walks in 40 innings in State College. The amazing thing about Gomber is his ability to work out of trouble. Despite a WHIP of 1.70, and an opponent average of .313, Gomber has given up just 17 runs, 12 earned, and owns a 2.70 ERA.

He has a fastball that sits 88-91, and lackluster off-speed repertoire, but I don’t expect the Cardinals to give up on the lanky lefty any time soon.

Trey Nielsen – RHP

  W L ERA G GS IP  H ER BB SO AVG WHIP
2014 3 2.58  14  45.1  33  15  13  13  42  .205  1.01 
Career 3 2.58  14  45.1  33  15  13  13  42  .205  1.01 

Trey Nielsen is another example of a pitcher who was moved into the starting rotation in an effort to “learn how to pitch.” Nielsen was the 30th round selection in 2013 from the University of Utah, where he was a third baseman for the Utes, although he did make four mound appearances in college. Nielsen was originally drafted as a pitcher by the Cubs out of high school, in the 42nd round, but turned down the Cubs to pursue a two-way collegiate career.

Nielsen was slated to be the Utes’ Sunday starter during his senior year, but sprained his UCL the week before opening day.

In his first professional season, after missing 2013 due to Tommy John surgery, Nielsen has posted some fairly impressive numbers.

Nielsen’s first seven appearances were out of the bullpen, and he allowed just three earned runs in 17 2/3 innings of work. But his move to the starting rotation does not seem to have affected him, as he has gone deeper into games as the season has continued, and has struck out 42 batters in 45 1/3 innings while walking just 13.

Nielsen has a lively, mid-90s fastball, a solid breaking ball and will mix in a change-up every now and then. Nielsen is a very intriguing prospect that, despite Tommy John surgery, doesn’t have too many miles on his arm, which could make for a higher ceiling for this late bloomer.

Dewin Perez – LHP

  W L ERA G GS IP  H ER BB SO AVG WHIP
2014 6 3.68  13  13  63.2  62  28  26  26  46  .258  1.38 
Career 9 10  3.39  32  28  138.0 118  63  52  62  118 .234  1.30 

Dewin Perez, like many players in the NYPL, is still trying to figure it out, but the 19-year old southpaw should have plenty of time to do so. Perez is one of the Spikes’ more inconsistent hurlers, especially when it comes to command, but when he throws strikes, he looks like he’s on the up and up.

Perez has a solid mid 90s fastball, with a classic curveball, change-up off-speed mix, but his ability to command any of those three pitches varies from day to day.

Aside from command, the most concerning thing for Perez are his struggles against left-handed batters. Lefties are batting .375 against him, while righties are batting just .229. His numbers against righties are impressive, thanks in part to a solid change-up that runs down and away from righties, but if he can’t get left-handed hitters out more consistently, Perez won’t even be able to fall back on a lefty specialist role out of the bullpen.

It is still early for the 19 year-old Colombian, but he needs to find consistency in order to take the next step in his development.

Daniel Poncedeleon – RHP

  W L ERA G GS IP  H ER BB SO AVG WHIP
2014 2 2.75  11  39.1  34  13  12  14  45  2.30  1.22 
Career 2 2.75  11  39.1  34  13  12  14  45  2.30  1.22 

Daniel Poncedeleon had his two best professional starts at just the right time, to help clinch a playoff spot for State College, and be featured more favorably in this series. Poncedeleon’s numbers reflect a pitcher who has been much more efficient than he has actually been. Like Gomber, he finds a way to work out of jams and keep runs off the scoreboard, despite throwing a lot of pitches and tending to go deep in counts.

The ninth-round selection in 2014 was a journeyman collegiate athlete, attending four different schools before being drafted by the Cardinals in June. He had also been drafted three times prior to 2014 (24th round by Tampa Bay in 2010, 38th round by Cincinnati in 2012, and 14th round by the Cubs in 2013).

Poncedeleon was considered to have an excellent repertoire in college, working in the mid-90s with a sinker and a cutter, two of the hottest pitches in baseball right now, but he didn’t show much of that early in his first professional season.

Poncedeleon was working with a max-effort, flat, low 90s fastball at the beginning of the season, but his delivery has looked smoother as the season has gone on.

If his last two starts are any indication (a combined 10 innings pitched, no runs, eight hits, two walks and 15 strikeouts), Poncedeleon has a very high ceiling, and would be my highest-rated “true starter” in the Spikes’ current rotation.

Cody Schumacher – RHP

  W L ERA G GS IP  H ER BB SO AVG WHIP
2014 1 3.58  27.2  22  14  11  18  .218  1.01 
Career 1 3.58  27.2  22  14  11  18  .218  1.01 

Cody Schumacher has been sidelined with an undisclosed injury since the end of July, likely a tired arm, but the Missouri State product has shown flashes of his former teammate, and fellow Cardinals’ farmhand, Nick Petree this season. Although Schumacher has also been touched for four home runs in just six appearances.

Schumacher pounds the strike zone and sits in the low 90s with a smooth and compact delivery. He has a 3.58 ERA, the second highest of any State College starter, but a WHIP of just 1.01 and opposing batters are hitting just .218 against him. The 23 year-old has pitched well at times this season, but he is likely at or near his ceiling.

Previously posted

Scouting the State College Spikes Outfielders
Scouting the Spikes – Infielders and Catchers

Coming soon

TCN members should look for the final two installments of this series coming this next week. They will cover Relief Pitchers and the others – those who were promoted or do not have a qualifying number of at-bats or innings pitched.



Follow Robert Davidson on Twitter @robo_tweets.

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