Vanderheiden Focusing Offspeed

SAVANNAH, GA - Tyler Vanderheiden possesses a rare combination of velocity and a sidearm delivery. What he needs now is to find a consistent feel for his secondary pitches, particularly his changeup. Both Vanderheiden and Gnats coaches still agree that the development of his offspeed pitches will determine his trajectory through the Mets system.

In late high school Tyler Vanderheiden had a solid high school fastball that touched the high-80s but wasn't getting as many outs as he would have liked. In an effort to increase the movement on his fastball his coaches suggested he drop down to a low arm slot.

In making the transition coaches anticipated better movement and reduced speed. They were correct about the increased movement. The radar gun results were unexpected, however.

"They told me I was going to lose velocity but I ended up staying the same and actually gaining velocity. It turned out to be a more natural arm slot for me," Vanderheiden said.

Surprisingly the college of SMU in his home town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi was already flush with sidearm pitchers, sending Vanderheiden to find comfortable collegiate niche at Samford University [where he played with 2013 first round Reds pick Ervin].

Vanderheiden's motion to the plate certainly presents a different look, at the very least to a right-handed hitter. At the moment of his front foot plant his shoulders are tiled downward and his throwing elbow is spiked up behind his back shoulder, forearm dangling underneath. And that's before he re-levels his shoulders and comes through from the side slot.

It's certainly a lot for a hitter's eyes to track. And it's easy to see why the Mets think he can potentially frustrate hitters at the Major League level someday if he finds the touch on his slider and change.

Vanderheiden takes with him to the mound a solid fastball that can touch 90 but usually sits 85-88 with good run back in on right-handed hitters, a slider, and a circle changeup. His preferred offspeed is his slider with its elevated consistency compared to his changeup.

Overall Vanderheiden's stuff surprises in several ways. His good movement on the fastball is expected from his throwing angle. But he only throws a four-seam fastball which is a grip not generally associated with movement.

And interestingly, while Vanderheiden's fastball is known for its uncharacteristically high velocity for a sidearm delivery, his changeup is known for its staggeringly low velocity, having been clocked in the 66-68 mph range.

"My changeup at this point is more of a setup off the fastball for lefties to show it. If I throw it for a strike that's great and if not hopefully they'll swing at it," Vanderheiden said.

As for why he has yet to experiment with a two-seam fastball, Vanderheiden and the Mets appear to be adopting a 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' attitude.

"Coach Romanick told me to stick with the four-seamer since that is what's working and until anything changes that's the plan," Vanderheiden said.

That plan certainly worked well in his first summer in pro-ball. Vanderheiden finished his time in Brooklyn with a 0.82 ERA and 12 saves in 25 appearances. This was Vanderheiden's first time finishing games since his junior year of high school.

And while Vanderheiden was never officially christened the team's closer by the coaching staff, it was nevertheless a role he found himself filling time and time again.

"I think it was a situation where I turned out to be the only guy on the roster who was not a traditional pitcher and so it just kind of worked," he said. "I didn't blow any saves and so they just kept putting me in there to close them out."

Vanderheiden followed up his first pro summer by working out at his former high school. He wanted to put on mass and eat healthy but added that his attempt at putting on mass "didn't really work". Right now his weight fluctuates anywhere between 175 and 180 pounds.

But even despite the lack of added weight, Vanderheiden's attempts to get in better shape have likely paid dividends through the first half of the 2013 regular season. Many of his appearances have seen him asked to throw more than one inning of relief and four of his last ten appearances have been two inning outings. Thus far he has shown good stamina.

"I've definitely had to improve that [my stamina]," he admitted. "It's been a while since I've had to throw two innings. With Brooklyn I got into a good rhythm of just throwing one inning. So going out that second inning and keeping my mental composure where it needs to be in the game is what I've had to work on."

Vanderheiden's mechanics have presented Sand Gnat's Pitching Coach Frank Viola's with "something I've never dealt with before."

"I let Ron Romanick deal with motions like Vanderheiden's because he is more in tune with those type of mechanics," Viola said.

Viola echoed Vanderheiden's appraisal of the status of his changeup saying simply "it's messed up" (in reference to its high 60's velocity) and remains "a work in progress", but that with continued work can be turned into a serviceable pitch when combined with his odd delivery.

"He is tough to pick up driving down and hopping out at the hitter," Viola said. "He hides the ball a little bit from righties and is fine against lefties."

From Vanderheiden's perspective, his best outing of 2013 came against Greenville in an outing in which he felt he was effective and efficient.

"In Greenville I pitched an inning where I felt like I did really well," Vanderheiden said. "I threw 13 pitches, 12 of them for strikes. I went out there and commanded the zone with three pitches and kept them off-balance for sure. And when I do that I'm successful."

Vanderheiden's goals for 2013 are concrete and specific. He hopes to maximize his chances of moving up through the Met's system by effectively commanding three pitches.

"I think I can speak for everyone on the team that they want to get moved up in the league. You start in low-A and want to finish in high-A," Vanderheiden said, "and I also want to lower my ERA. I feel I had a couple innings early in the year that set me back."

Vanderheiden clearly has absorbed the advice of the Met's system coaches and wants to improve his offspeed pitch repertoire before the year is finished.

"Eventually before the season ends I want be able to command all three pitches. I have that command for my fastball, mostly for my slider, but before the season ends I definitely want to develop a third pitch," he added.

Vanderheiden follows predecessors in the Mets system who have cultivated success with a submarine or sidearm slot. Joe Smith set the bar for hard throwing side-armers, Greg Burke is currently having a quality year with the big league club, and Met's alumni like Jeff Innis and Chad Bradford [who is available to Vanderheiden should he seek his advice] have built solid careers with unorthodox deliveries.


Amazin Clubhouse Top Stories

\r\n \r\n\r\nIn late high school Tyler Vanderheiden had a solid high school fastball that touched the high-80s but wasn't getting as many outs as he would have liked. In an effort to increase the movement on his fastball his coaches suggested he drop down to a low arm slot.
\r\n
\r\nIn making the transition coaches anticipated better movement and reduced speed. They were correct about the increased movement. The radar gun results were unexpected, however.
\r\n
\r\n\"They told me I was going to lose velocity but I ended up staying the same and actually gaining velocity. It turned out to be a more natural arm slot for me,\" Vanderheiden said.
\r\n
\r\nSurprisingly the college of SMU in his home town of Hattiesburg, Mississippi was already flush with sidearm pitchers, sending Vanderheiden to find comfortable collegiate niche at Samford University [where he played with 2013 first round Reds pick Ervin].
\r\n
\r\nVanderheiden's motion to the plate certainly presents a different look, at the very least to a right-handed hitter. At the moment of his front foot plant his shoulders are tiled downward and his throwing elbow is spiked up behind his back shoulder, forearm dangling underneath. And that's before he re-levels his shoulders and comes through from the side slot.
\r\n
\r\nIt's certainly a lot for a hitter's eyes to track. And it's easy to see why the Mets think he can potentially frustrate hitters at the Major League level someday if he finds the touch on his slider and change.
\r\n
\r\nVanderheiden takes with him to the mound a solid fastball that can touch 90 but usually sits 85-88 with good run back in on right-handed hitters, a slider, and a circle changeup. His preferred offspeed is his slider with its elevated consistency compared to his changeup.
\r\n
\r\nOverall Vanderheiden's stuff surprises in several ways. His good movement on the fastball is expected from his throwing angle. But he only throws a four-seam fastball which is a grip not generally associated with movement.
\r\n
\r\nAnd interestingly, while Vanderheiden's fastball is known for its uncharacteristically high velocity for a sidearm delivery, his changeup is known for its staggeringly low velocity, having been clocked in the 66-68 mph range.
\r\n
\r\n\"My changeup at this point is more of a setup off the fastball for lefties to show it. If I throw it for a strike that's great and if not hopefully they'll swing at it,\" Vanderheiden said.
\r\n
\r\nAs for why he has yet to experiment with a two-seam fastball, Vanderheiden and the Mets appear to be adopting a 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' attitude.
\r\n
\r\n\"Coach Romanick told me to stick with the four-seamer since that is what's working and until anything changes that's the plan,\" Vanderheiden said.
\r\n
\r\nThat plan certainly worked well in his first summer in pro-ball. Vanderheiden finished his time in Brooklyn with a 0.82 ERA and 12 saves in 25 appearances. This was Vanderheiden's first time finishing games since his junior year of high school.
\r\n
\r\nAnd while Vanderheiden was never officially christened the team's closer by the coaching staff, it was nevertheless a role he found himself filling time and time again.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think it was a situation where I turned out to be the only guy on the roster who was not a traditional pitcher and so it just kind of worked,\" he said. \"I didn't blow any saves and so they just kept putting me in there to close them out.\"
\r\n
\r\nVanderheiden followed up his first pro summer by working out at his former high school. He wanted to put on mass and eat healthy but added that his attempt at putting on mass \"didn't really work\". Right now his weight fluctuates anywhere between 175 and 180 pounds.
\r\n
\r\nBut even despite the lack of added weight, Vanderheiden's attempts to get in better shape have likely paid dividends through the first half of the 2013 regular season. Many of his appearances have seen him asked to throw more than one inning of relief and four of his last ten appearances have been two inning outings. \r\nThus far he has shown good stamina.
\r\n
\r\n\"I've definitely had to improve that [my stamina],\" he admitted. \"It's been a while since I've had to throw two innings. With Brooklyn I got into a good rhythm of just throwing one inning. So going out that second inning and keeping my mental composure where it needs to be in the game is what I've had to work on.\"
\r\n
\r\nVanderheiden's mechanics have presented Sand Gnat's Pitching Coach Frank Viola's with \"something I've never dealt with before.\"
\r\n
\r\n\"I let Ron Romanick deal with motions like Vanderheiden's because he is more in tune with those type of mechanics,\" Viola said.
\r\n
\r\nViola echoed Vanderheiden's appraisal of the status of his changeup saying simply \"it's messed up\" (in reference to its high 60's velocity) and remains \"a work in progress\", but that with continued work can be turned into a serviceable pitch when combined with his odd delivery.
\r\n
\r\n\"He is tough to pick up driving down and hopping out at the hitter,\" Viola said. \"He hides the ball a little bit from righties and is fine against lefties.\"
\r\n
\r\nFrom Vanderheiden's perspective, his best outing of 2013 came against Greenville in an outing in which he felt he was effective and efficient.
\r\n
\r\n\"In Greenville I pitched an inning where I felt like I did really well,\" Vanderheiden said. \"I threw 13 pitches, 12 of them for strikes. I went out there and commanded the zone with three pitches and kept them off-balance for sure. And when I do that I'm successful.\"
\r\n
\r\nVanderheiden's goals for 2013 are concrete and specific. He hopes to maximize his chances of moving up through the Met's system by effectively commanding three pitches.
\r\n
\r\n\"I think I can speak for everyone on the team that they want to get moved up in the league. You start in low-A and want to finish in high-A,\" Vanderheiden said, \"and I also want to lower my ERA. I feel I had a couple innings early in the year that set me back.\"
\r\n
\r\nVanderheiden clearly has absorbed the advice of the Met's system coaches and wants to improve his offspeed pitch repertoire before the year is finished.
\r\n
\r\n\"Eventually before the season ends I want be able to command all three pitches. I have that command for my fastball, mostly for my slider, but before the season ends I definitely want to develop a third pitch,\" he added.
\r\n
\r\nVanderheiden follows predecessors in the Mets system who have cultivated success with a submarine or sidearm slot. Joe Smith set the bar for hard throwing side-armers, Greg Burke is currently having a quality year with the big league club, and Met's alumni like Jeff Innis and Chad Bradford [who is available to Vanderheiden should he seek his advice] have built solid careers with unorthodox deliveries.
\r\n
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