Scouting Padres Prospect Neil Jamison

The poster child for speed versus movement and guile, San Diego Padres prospect Neil Jamison gets it done with a below average fastball but great pitching instincts and the ability to spot pitches.

Vital Statistics;
Name: Neil Jamison
Position: RHP
DOB: August 4, 1983
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 185
Bats: Right
Throws: Right

The running joke around the clubhouse often centers around Jamison and his fastball.

‘I am going to dial it up to 86 tonight!'

It is funny in the clubhouse because that is often what the radar gun hits and the laughter that ensues by those charting his pitches is because hitter's never seem to get good wood on his pitches, if they manage to scoff the ball with pine tar at all.

"It is a funny to hear him say, ‘My arm feels good – I am going to throw 86 today,'" relief pitcher Ryan Klatt confirmed. "And he does it and no one touches him."

Since entering the Padres' system in the eighth round of the 2005 MLB Draft out of Long Beach State, Jamison has simply got hitters out.

"He has a fastball that sinks and a slider that he locates," Padres' scouting director Bill "Chief" Gayton said. "He does not have real big velocity but has good tilt to his slider and a fastball with movement. He has the makeup to continue advancing in that role."

The California native began the season in Fort Wayne but after four scoreless appearances with the Wizards he was brought up to Lake Elsinore to assume the closer's role.

He went on to post a 3.31 ERA with 31 saves. After holding the opposition to a .194 average over his first three California League months, Jamison was tagged at a .304 clip down the stretch. He attributed that to fatigue and trying to push through the hotter months without his best stuff. His pitches were elevated and it resulted in four homers over a seven-game span. Given his frame, Jamison could also stand to add some muscle mass to his 6-foot-3 body while finding a way to keep it on through the season, adding stamina as a result.

Jamison was at his best with runners in scoring position, holding opponents to just 11 hits in 73 at bats.

Pitching to contact and limiting his walk totals has been the staple of his young career. His ability to move his "fast" ball around and place it on the corners often puts him ahead in the count. It is something that he worked hard on and didn't necessarily do well in college. Then comes the real fun for the right-hander.

His nasty slider takes over and gets hitters chasing outside the zone, accounting for his high strikeout ratio – despite not profiling as a strikeout pitcher.

"He is very much accustomed to the closer role – he did that in college and last year," 2006 Lake Elsinore pitching coach Steve Webber said. "He is a guy that is very accustomed to the close, late game situations. He just throws strikes. He can move his fastball around and his slider he can vary with a sweep and one with slightly more depth. But I think the main thing is the command of his fastball."

He led the league in appearances and had four or five in Fort Wayne so that was a lot of outings. He withstood the grind and the rigors of being that guy who went out 61 times. He has done well to hold up under that heavy workload.

Because of the low velocity on Jamison's fastball, there are concerns that as he enters the higher levels of the system it will be exposed, but it is hard to argue with the results. Jamison's fastball has dipped from his college days at Long Beach State and the team is hopeful he sees a return of velocity in the coming year.

Overall, he allowed runs in 16 of his 65 appearances on the year, surrendering eight runs in a three-game, all losses, span in July – his worst stretch of the year.

He held right-handed hitters to a paltry .207 batting average while lefties swatted him at a .303 clip.

Jamison is working on a two-seam fastball and a changeup to throw off left-handed hitters. With a three-quarters type delivery, Jamison's fastball and slider are effective against right-handed hitters because it is coming from behind them and tailing away. By contrast, both pitches come into a left-handers wheelhouse.

The changeup and two-seamer are pitches he hopes will offer a different looking, tailing back over the outside portion of the strike zone from left to right as it crosses the plate instead of naturally coming into the zone as his other pitches have a tendency to do.

Working on getting lefties out, however, has been something that has hounded him since his collegiate days.

Jamison went out to the Hawaiian Baseball League to work on his supplemental pitches with mixed results. He was wilder than he had been in the past but did prove to be more effective against left-handed hitters over his 20.1 innings of work. After not allowing a run in his first seven innings, Jamison was tagged for ten over his next 13.1 frames.

"He did real well and was working on some things too," 2006 Mobile hitting coach Arnie Beyeler said of Jamison's time in Hawaii. "A little movement on his fastball and being more aggressive to right-handers and trying to get the ball inside on them."

ETA: His understanding of the game and studious approach has him ahead of the curve. He is a stickler for preparedness and it shows in how he sets up hitters. Jamison will continue to be moved up the chain as he sports command and a knack for missing bats. He could figure into the mix by the end of 2008.

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