A Live Look at Hunter Virant

Hunter Virant enters 2012 as one of the better pitching prospects in southern California. He mixes a deep repertoire with tons of projection. I took in his second start of the season, seeing some current deficiencies but a lot of potential.

Physical Description

When scouts talk about projection, they look for guys like Virant. He's listed at 6'4 and 175 lbs, which seems about right. He has broad shoulders and long arms, with a little meat on his upper legs but very thin lower legs. You could easily imagine him gaining 20 to 30 pounds over the next handful of years.

Mechanics

While Hunter doesn't have perfect mechanics, there aren't many red flags. Using a 3/4 arm slot, he has excellent arm speed on his fastball, gets into the driveline on time and gets some extension out front. He swings his front leg around, rather than driving forward, but takes a healthy stride. There are times when he throws across his body, which affects his command. His favorite pitcher is Cliff Lee and you can tell Virant models his delivery after the Cy Young winner.

Stuff

His fastball has flirted with the mid 90s in the past, but in this start he sat mostly at 89-90. He got as high as 92, in the last inning and hit 91 a number of times. He also dropped down as low as 86, which may have been a two seamer, though I didn't see a significant difference in movement. He does get that natural lefty life, though not a ton.

From what I saw, he threw as many as three separate breaking balls. The first he showcased was a big, slow curve around 70 mph. He also seemed to throw a slurvy pitch in the mid to high 70s. And to top things off, he added a slider in the low 80s. All three offerings have potential, though none look like out pitches at the moment.

Hunter also mixed in a changeup in the high 70s that threw hitters off. He did lower his arm slot and slow his arm down when he threw it, tipping it off. It didn't have a lot of movement but was enough of a change of velocity to disrupt hitters' timing.

Summary

Virant didn't have the best of outings, allowing a pair of runs (including a home run) on eight hits and two walks, though he did strike out eight. He was getting squeezed a little at the plate and had a few calls go against him in the field but he remained composed. I overheard an opposing coach say that he would "telegraph" his curve and change, which is something to work on. I counted at least four major league teams represented at the start. The team that takes him will be betting on his upside, which is considerable. If he improves during the course of the spring, he could make his way into the back of the first round.

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