Name: Mike DeMark
DOB: May 20, 1983
After posting a 3.74 ERA and striking out 70 in 53 innings for the Lake Elsinore Storm in 2007, the right-hander was back in California for a second stint.
He improved upon his numbers in a big way – although his first season was no slouch in a hitter's league – by posting a 2.17 ERA across 49.2 innings and holding the opposition to a .196 average.
DeMark slotted fifth in the league with a .263 BABIP (batted balls in play) among all California League pitchers with more than 40 innings under their belt. He was also sixth in WHIP with 1.09 mark and fourth in average against – considering all pitchers with at least 40 innings thrown.
The Pennsylvania native was downright dirty against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .153 average against. And he was just as stingy with men on base – keeping the opposition to a .164 average with runners in scoring position.
"He did a good job for us," Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. "He's a guy that throws it in the 90s with a good slider. He just got it all together and threw strikes; was aggressive. That arm was there last year also, but it was more consistent throwing strikes, and he really kind of dominated in our league."
DeMark is a manager's and pitcher's best friend. When there are inherited runners on base, DeMark is the master at stopping the bleeding. Of the 21 runners he inherited while with the Storm, a scant six scored.
He was second best in the circuit in left on-base percentage – stranding 83 percent of all runners who reached base. He then went on to post a 91.3 left on base percentage in the Texas League.
Double-A proved to be an easy challenge. After dominating in California, DeMark posted a 0.76 ERA across 12 appearances and 23.2 innings.
If you see DeMark reaching for the sky during his windup – he isn't trying to snatch a butterfly overhead. DeMark uses the windup to put align his body and set his checks in motion for the delivery home. The deception is a secondary bonus.
A power pitcher, DeMark hides the ball well in his shirt, allowing his fastball to appear even harder than it is and making hitters face a difficult time picking up his secondary pitches. Part of that comes from standing on the right side of the rubber – giving right-handed hitters a tough time since the ball appears to come from the shortstop and darts away from their ready bats.
His fastball comes in at 92-94 mph and can touch 96 with late life that darts away from a right-hander. He gets a lot of hitters flailing at the pitch or pounding it into the dirt.
"He's sneaky," former Lake Elsinore pitching coach Wally Whitehurst said. He's got a sneaky fastball that's anywhere from 90 – 94. It's kind of unorthodox, his delivery, and that could have something to do with it."
A plus slider that has short, tilting action compliments the heater. The slider is his out pitch and his ability to get separation in the mph department make it even more effective – as the slider ranges from 85-87.
"His slider got better as the season went on, and he even started to throw changeup which really helps his fastball," Whitehurst added. "This year, he really commanded his pitches a lot better. I didn't have him last year, but I know he had quite a few walks, and that's the one thing that he tried not to do this year and he didn't. He commanded the fastball. "
The third pitch he has been working is the changeup. It is a pitch that has been slow to come around but showed signs of being a positive part of his arsenal late in the season. Part of the problem early on was faith. He didn't have it. DeMark worked hard to make it an integral part of his offerings and began to feature it more in the Texas League. The changeup is still a work in progress but a necessary one to keep left-handed hitters at bay. They were able to feast on him when he worked only with the fastball/slider combination.
Going forward, the changeup is a pitch he knows he has to throw. He has put forth the effort to make it a key component of his arsenal and should be better served because of it.
Fearless and aggressive, DeMark has a ‘this might be the last time I pitch' attitude. He believes his competitive nature is what separates him from the pack. By living by the mantra, he challenges himself to be the best each time out and isn't as susceptible to the daily grind that so many others fall prey. He is geared up for action each day and vows to challenge hitters along the way.
"We know he's aggressive, he throws in the right sequences, it's all about the feel of pitching, and I think he came through the season pretty well," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said.
"He went out there and he had a job to do, he did it," Whitehurst said. "You never can tell once you get to Double-A. You're fairly close to the big leagues, so you never can tell with him."
Conclusion: His fastball/slider combination is deadly and his mental makeup off the charts. Since he is unaffected by situations or conditions, he makes for the perfect reliever.
DeMark has the stuff to compete in the major leagues but needs more seasoning with his changeup. Confidence in that pitch could lead down a path of sustained success. One thing he understands is now is the time to develop the pitch so he can have success at the major league level – and that is what it is all about.