Name: Josh Geer
DOB: June 2, 1983
There were some initial concerns when Geer came into spring training. His velocity was down and the Padres were afraid he might get hammered. But they also cautioned against putting too much stock into that opening month of work and understood that Geer was a big game pitcher that rises to the occasion.
After tossing shutout ball in two of his first three starts for the Low-A Fort Wayne Wizards, Geer fell into a rough patch that saw him allow four or more runs in five of his next six starts.
Things changed suddenly – but not without reason.
He ended his run in Fort Wayne with three straight outings of shutout ball to run his scoreless streak to 25.2 innings, allowing 13 hits over that span. The two-seam fastball had a lot of life and turned an even split fly ball-to-ground ball pitcher into a dirt-specialist, inducing grounders at a regular pace.
"He pitched well for us before being shipped up to Elsinore and had a couple of shutouts and 25 scoreless innings," 2006 Fort Wayne pitching coach Tom Bradley explained. "His velocity was starting to come back a little bit. I am not sure it was where it was for Elsinore towards the end of the year but consistent 87-88. I was told that when he was at Rice that he could touch 90-91 occasionally."
A control pitcher that has walked 42 over 223 innings of professional ball, the right-hander mixes in a four-seam fastball that sits 87-91 MPH and touched 93 MPH during his collegiate days, a 86-90 MPH two-seamer that acts like a sinker and a changeup coming in 10 MPH lower.
The two-seamer and changeup worked in tandem, getting hitters to continually knock balls into the dirt.
After his complete game on June 15, he was promoted to High-A Lake Elsinore and was on the mound four days later, yielding one run over seven.
He learned there are subtle differences between the leagues, noticing that the opposition was no longer swinging at offerings in the dirt unless he was ahead in the count.
It became his mantra moving forward – tossing the first pitch strike to setup the hitters with his above average changeup and two-seamer.
But the California League is also unforgiving and hitters began to jump on anything he left out over the plate.
His ground ball-to-fly ball ratio improved dramatically (near 2-to-1) but the balls he was hanging got him in serious trouble, yielding 39 extra base hits in 89 innings for the Storm.
"With him it is all about finishing his pitches and getting out over the front side and keeping the ball down in the zone to get the action that he needs on his fastball and his changeup – he has an outstanding changeup – to be successful," 2006 Lake Elsinore pitching coach Steve Webber said. "He has been inconsistent. When he is on and throwing his two-seamer down in the zone, he gets a lot of ground balls and does a terrific job of changing speeds. That is two important aspects of pitching."
Geer gets in trouble when his four-seamer hangs in the zone and when the two-seamer doesn't sink like he would like, resulting in quite a few long balls.
By the end of the year he had logged over 150 innings for the second straight season and the wear began to show.
"He is a ground ball pitcher, a sinker, changeup guy, and when he elevates his pitches it doesn't work too good," Webber said. "Belt high fastballs don't sink much. He logged 160 innings and started to show the wear and tear."
While his record was 7-4, Geer notched two straight wins to end the year, despite allowing 14 runs on 24 hits in 11 frames. He allowed five runs or more in eight of his 15 starts and one run or less in five – making him a light switch, either on or off.
The right-hander is a heady pitcher that understands the game and will throw strikes – but not "too many" as other control pitchers are prone to do.
What he needs is more command of his pitches, a prevention of the big inning – he surrendered 15 of his 49 earned runs in inning number five – and experience.
"I think he continued to progress," Bradley added. "He has a very good changeup. He has a good curveball too when that arm speed is up. It is just a question of getting that velocity up. He has good control, he has good pitchability, and he has a good feel. By having that good changeup – now if he can get his velocity up and the breaking ball where it is consistent I think he has a good future."
ETA: It is likely that Geer will again be in Lake Elsinore to work on his command and confidence. Two things can happen – he gets trucked or responds and heads to San Antonio. At 23-years old, the Texas native has the time to develop and master his pitches. Provided he shows he can handle the pressure of a tough hitter's league, he should be elevated. If he does not it will be the result of elevated pitches – and that doesn't work in any league.