Name: Steve Garrison
DOB: September 12, 1986
"I like Garrison more than all of them," former Padres minor league field coordinator and current MLB scout Bill Bryk said about the trade that brought Garrison, Will Inman and Joe Thatcher to San Diego. "He is a left-handed Greg Maddux-type. He can pitch, is a good athlete, up to 90 MPH fastball, good changeup, good breaking stuff, holds runners well, good fielder."
After posting an 8-4 mark with a 3.44 ERA over 20 starts with Brevard County of the Florida State League, Garrison was tasked with meeting the challenge of a hitter's league with Lake Elsinore.
He took the California League by Storm through the tough summer months, making seven starts and posting a 2.79 ERA over 42 innings.
The southpaw also went 1-0 with a 3.27 ERA over two playoff starts, cementing himself as a big game pitcher that attacks hitters with a deep compliment of pitches.
"I think we have a good one here," Storm manager Carlos Lezcano said. "This guy can pitch. I think he was a little tired at the end. Our starters at the end needed those four days in between to get their strength back."
Armed with an array of pitches that includes a fastball, a curveball, a slider and a changeup, Garrison is a master of working both sides of the plate and expanding the zone.
"He has four pitches and throws them all for strikes," former Lake Elsinore and current San Antonio pitching coach Steve Webber said. "His two breaking pitches – his curveball and slider – are different. His curve is more like a breaking pitch and his slider is probably his put-away pitch. He has excellent command is only 20 years old. There is an upside."
Favoring a fastball that sits 86-88 MPH and will hit 90 MPH on what Garrison calls "A good day!" his ability to spot the pitch is essential.
He moves it in and out while keeping it away from the middle of the plate. Working in the lower quadrants of the zone, Garrison is able to stay away from hard hit balls.
"He reminded me of Mike Hampton a little bit with his sink and the way he throws," Lezcano said. "He is a finesse type guy who is not going to blow you away, but he keeps the ball down and has good command of the slider and the changeup down in the zone – he is going to get some people out."
His fastball inside sets up the rest of the at-bat, as he will force hitters off the plate and come back with a two-seamer or changeup on the outside corner. With good sink on his fastball, hitters have a tough time getting good wood on the ball, and, because of his command, his changeup has a chance to be a true plus pitch.
Aggressively working the corners and pitching ahead in the count, Garrison is able to keep hitters off-balance by mixing in the slider and curveball. His curveball has heavy breaking action while his slider has more tilting action down and away to left-handed hitters. He favors the slider as an out-pitch and its solid tailing action gets hitters expanding their zone.
That combination was especially effective against left-handed hitters in the California League, as they managed just a .097 average against in 31 at-bats.
"He has a good feel for pitching and can command his fastball to both sides of the plate, change speeds, and really that is a lot of what is involved in pitching," Webber added. "I think he has a bright future."
A control pitcher that mixes things up on a batter by batter basis, Garrison maximizes his ability without any overpowering pitch.
Being very clean mechanically also helps, as his release point and line to the plate are consistent and repeatable.
He has a deliberate delivery and good tempo to the dish. Everything flows smoothly and there are no strange hiccups or points for failure, as he hits each checkpoint.
Garrison also holds runners close to the bag as his pickoff move and quick delivery home make it tough for base runners to figure out when to run.
Despite the regularity in which he commands the lower half of the zone, he is not a ground ball pitcher. Batters are able to get under his pitches and that could lead to an increase in homers allowed. By working all parts of the zone, he has been able to mitigate that so far.
Working with confidence on his side, Garrison does what most pitchers wish they could do – hitting his spots with regularity, not hurting himself by giving up a free pass, and working every facet of the strike zone.
"Steve is a great guy," Inman said of his fellow prospect. "He gets out there and competes with the best of them. He is one of the best guys I have met in pro ball. He is just a great guy. He gets after it and is a great person."
ETA: Garrison, at 21, figures to begin the year in Lake Elsinore with a midseason promotion to Double-A likely; starting the year in San Antonio is also not out of the question. He has the poise and moxie to be a steady performer each step along the way and isn't one of those pitchers that will change what made them successful as he ascends the minor league ladder. Look for him to make a splash in the majors by the 2010 season. His ability to hit his spots could keep him there for a long time.
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