68. Billy Strode - Left-handed Pitcher
Born: 08/10/1982 - Height: 6'0" - Weight: 180 - Bats: Left - Throws: Left
Facts & Info: Strode was drafted by the Indians in the 10th round of the 2015 Draft out of Florida State University and signed for $5,000. He was named to the All-ACC Academic team in 2014 and the ACC Academic Honor Roll from 2012-13 and 2013-14. He served as the team’s closer in 2015, following in the footsteps of NFL quarterback and MLB pitching prospect Jameis Winston who held the role in 2014.
Stuff: Strode is a low projection arm who is what he is as a finesse lefty who is a command and control specialist. He is a strike thrower and has a three pitch mix of a fastball, slider and changeup that are all average across the board. His fringe average fastball sits at 87-89 MPH and will occasionally flash 90-91 MPH, but what he lacks in velocity with his fastball he makes up for with very good command of it to all parts of the zone. He really does a nice job of locating it well glove side which allows him to spot away to lefties and also jam righties with consistent success. He shows a good feel to spin his average slider and gets hitters to expand the zone on it, so there is a little upside to it where it could be a solid average offering. His developing changeup is still coming along and flashes average, and give him a pitch that he can attack right-handed hitters with.
Delivery & Intangibles: Strode has a unique arm angle that is a low three-quarter slot and has some funk to it which helps him leverage lefties well and create some deception. With a lack of pure stuff, he maintains effectiveness by commanding the ball very well, throwing the ball on the plate, and mixing all of his pitches in any count and at any time. He is mechanically strong, is a smart pitcher and has a lot of pitchability, which helps his stuff play up a tick because of how he can keep hitters off balance by keeping them guessing not only on the pitch that is coming but also the pitch location. He is an ice water in the veins kind of reliever who is a competitor and remains completely composed on the mound regardless of the situation. He is not afraid to go after hitters and displays a lot of toughness and heart when he pitches in high leverage situations and has to pitch out of jams. He just knows what he wants to do and does a good job of consistently making pitches. He is a plus makeup guy who is an incredible teammate and someone the coaches love to have around.
Focus: Strode has a low Major League ceiling because of his age and lack of much projection with his body and repertoire, so the focus is more on finding a niche for him as lefty relief specialist. While he has the ability to compete against right-handed hitters, the feeling is as he moves up the minor league ladder that he will have trouble with more advanced right-handed hitters. His fastball can get flat and be left out over the plate arm side, and he hasn’t had a secondary offering truly step up as a true Major League weapon, so he has to be elite with his command and mechanics not only to have success but to put himself into a situation where he could get a Major League opportunity. The Indians are continuing to explore ways to add a little velocity to his fastball and also fine tuning his stuff to push it up a tick or two. He is working to get stronger through a strength and conditioning program and they are continuing to work on refining his delivery to get him into a more powerful position so that there is a little more explosion which may add some velocity. While he is starting to grow and understand what works and doesn’t work against certain hitters, his pitch selection and execution needs improvement.
Future: Strode had a very nice first full season in the organization last year and essentially split the season between both full season Single-A levels at Low-A Lake County and High-A Lynchburg. He came down with some arm tightness in early April which shut him down for four weeks, but he returned without any limitations and didn’t have any issues the rest of the season. He’s never going to be someone who impresses with the radar gun, but because of his ability to command and locate the baseball and his unique arm slot he has a chance to have a lot of success as a professional. If he can stay healthy he should have a long pro career at least in the upper levels of the minors, but there is some intrigue as a lefty specialist in the big leagues. If his slider takes a step or two forward, he is advanced enough where he could be a Major League option as soon sometime this season. He should open the season with a return to High-A Lynchburg, but should see meaningful time at Double-A Akron and could even get to Triple-A or higher depending on what strides he makes in his development.
Ranking History: #85 (2016)