Name: Rob Musgrave
DOB: September 26, 1985
A workload of 111.1 innings in college determined his fate. For the Shockers, the southpaw went 12-1 with a 2.51 ERA – tossing six complete games while striking out 101 and walking 22. He held the opposition to a .241 average against.
A two-inning max was placed on the left-hander while working with the Eugene Emeralds. It suited him just fine – until the Emeralds were fighting for a playoff spot during the last week of the season and he allowed six runs and four inherited runners to score without recording an out.
Prior to that stretch, Musgrave had posted a 2.03 ERA across 24 appearances. Used every other day five straight times – where he would normally receive two days of rest before seeing another outing – wore on him.
Even with the minor setback, Musgrave posted a 6-1 record and a 3.21 ERA. In 42 innings, he struck out 66 while walking 11 and holding the opposition to a .217 average.
A postseason All-Star in the Northwest League, Musgrave was dominant against right-handed hitters. They were limited to a .168 average.
"He's got a great changeup," former Eugene and current Lake Elsinore pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "He can throw his curveball anytime in the counts, and he just passes strikes on his first pitch – strikes for probably, I don't have his stats, but I would say probably close to 70 percent for first-pitch strikes."
Musgrave's fastball is below average – coming in at 86-88 and touching 89-90 mph at times. His ability to spot the pitch in all four quadrants while using movement makes it a workable pitch to get ahead in the count. It is also sneaky fast when he uses it in combination with his off-speed pitch.
A large part of his success versus righties came thanks in part to a plus changeup that he used to toy with them. It is a pitch he can bury in the dirt just as easily as he tosses it over for a strike.
"Great changeup," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "I think his fastball will be better than what we saw. I think he was tired. You know they wear those guys out in college and here they run off for the summer. But a tremendous changeup. Sometimes he pulls it across the plate on left-handers. He just needs to use his curveball more versus left-handed because he has a real great curveball."
The Kansas native is still working on perfecting his curveball – a pitch that has been solid at times. It has good two-plane action, but he struggles throwing it consistently over for a strike.
One thing that Musgrave understands is putting hitters away. Despite the lack of a top-notch fastball, the left-hander is able to keep hitters off-balance and get swings and misses with two strikes. Spotting his fastball and working in his changeup have been crucial in that regard.
"He would pound that strike zone and then he'd use that curveball and changeup to finish hitters," Rajsich said. "And when you haven't seen it and all of a sudden: Boom! There it is. It just buckles you. He was very, very impressive."
His 14.14 strikeouts per nine innings were second best throughout the entire minors. His 6-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio was third best in the Northwest League among pitchers with 40 or more innings pitched and he led the circuit with an incredible 1.46 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching).
Musgrave is expected to go back into the rotation in 2009. The focus for him will be throwing the curveball and believing in its conviction. It is a quality pitch that just needs a bit more repetition to see the refinement he expects.
One concern is his penchant for giving up fly balls. Because he doesn't have the velocity to blow a hitter away, he has to rely on changing speeds and working the corners. If he throws it down the middle of the plate, advanced hitters can hit the ball a long way.
A fierce mental competitor, Musgrave keeps a database of every hitter he faces. He compiles a ‘how they beat me' and ‘how I got them out' list so he can be better prepared the next time he faces a hitter.
Musgrave has a good feel for holding base runners close – aided by the fact that he is left-handed. He varies his delivery home and is blessed with good mechanics from an easy motion. He is very consistent with his line to home plate – giving him solid command throughout his outing.
"It's most likely that he will be a starter in Fort Wayne," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "His innings were so high in college we tried to limit his work in Eugene. We didn't want him to have a big inning summer, but we tried to use him in a competitive role. He's a very polished pitcher, good leverage, throws downhill."
Conclusion: Pitching sans a fastball that regularly hits 90 mph is a challenge. He has to be fine with his command – as two inches could mean the difference between a weakly hit ball and one that is tattooed.
Moving into the rotation, Musgrave will have to continue to mix his pitches well while finding a way to get hitters out late into games. Players that see him a second and third time around might have a beat on his stuff. Guys like Wade LeBlanc and Josh Geer have proved how possible success is – Musgrave will have to follow those footsteps.
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