Name: Anthony Bass
DOB: November 1, 1987
Taken by the Padres in the fifth-round of the 2008 draft out of Wayne State, Bass moved on to short-season Eugene in the Northwest League.
Bass migrated into the role of quasi-closer, saving games but kept off the mound for one game if he lasted an inning and two games if he went two.
The right-hander went 2-2 with seven saves in eight opportunities across 25 appearances, sporting a 2.10 ERA. He struck out 41 in 34.1 innings while allowing 25 hits and walking 14.
Bass limited right-handers to a .189 average on the year and yielded just one extra base hit to righties in 71 at-bats. He also kept the opposition to a .156 average with runners in scoring position and stranded two of the three runners he inherited.
"I like his size, I like his arm," Padres roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "I only saw him pitch a couple of innings, but he was one of the more advanced kids for me. If you saw our box scores typically when we had a chance to win a game, he and (Rob) Musgrave were in there at the end to try to close it out. I think he's got a chance to be a good one."
The Michigan native struck out 10.75 batters per nine innings pitched – 13th best in the circuit among pitchers with 30 innings or more. His 78.2 left on base percentage topped the team and ranked ninth in the Northwest League.
A reliever in 2008, Bass will move into the rotation for the 2009 season – featuring a four-pitch repertoire.
Going 10-3 in his final collegiate season took some help – a refined delivery with new mechanics that led to a Tim Lincecum-style delivery.
Instead of the conventional delivery, Bass attacks the hitter with his body. He propels himself towards the plate, putting his lower half into the pitch as much as his upper half. His trajectory to the plate is shortened and the arm follows behind.
"Bass has, what he does is he shows you his whole back, he takes a turn," former Eugene and current Lake Elsinore pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. "But what he does, he has very good balance through the delivery, he doesn't really drift with the upper body. If you watch him turn, he just turns like he's on a ballerina stick. And when he does drift a little bit you can see the difference. But when he just turns and then he comes out of there, he almost explodes. It's almost like a coil that just – the spring just pops and it's just, the arm speed is unbelievable. And he's got four outstanding pitches."
The most direct advantage of his mechanical changes was the increase in velocity on his fastball. It went from touching 90 to hitting 94 to 95 mph and sitting in the low-90s. His command of the pitch never wavered and his funky delivery gives the heater late pop – so it looks like it comes upon a hitter even faster.
"Command of four pitches, and he just needs to make sure he uses them," Eugene manager Greg Riddoch said. "Sometimes, he gets locked into fastball, fastball, fastball."
The fastball he favors is of the four-seam variety and is thrown with a good downward plane but lacks the movement of a two-seamer. It still has light dipping action. Command of the fastball sets up the rest of his repertoire.
His out-pitch remains the slider, a tight, tilting five-cent curve that has significant late break outside the zone. Before hitters realize what the pitch is, they are committing to it and find themselves flailing at the air. It is a pitch he can throw for strikes or bury it in the dirt, and Bass is not afraid to throw it to left-handers, hoping it curves around their back leg.
Bass also came into the system with a plus changeup. His motion creates the stir, as he keeps the same arm motion and propulsion home. As it nears the hitter, his changeup bottoms out. The main thing Bass needs to work on is his ability to hit both corners with the changeup. It has a solid variance in velocity from his slider and fastball – making it even more effective, as hitters often roll over on the pitch.
His curveball is the pitch he needs to work on the most. It will get loopy, at times, and doesn't have the crispness of his other three offerings.
"He's got four big league pitches: he's got fastball, curveball, slider, change," Rajsich said. "And you know he had 120 innings coming into the season or 110 somewhere around there so we were trying to keep him under 40 or under 50, and I think we did a pretty good job of that in protecting him, both him and Musgrave. You're looking at some really nice college arms that will be in different roles next year, but what I saw is very impressive. It's going to be a dogfight as far as that rotation in Fort Wayne and Lake Elsinore."
Bass has competitive fire that he takes to the mound with him. He does not accept failure and isn't afraid to attack hitters. Trusting his stuff, Bass is growing more adept at pitch sequencing and going in and out and up and down within the strike zone.
"Tremendous fielder, great kid, fields his position, it's like having another shortstop on the field when he's on the mound, quick feet, quick hands, fields his position well, and I don't know where we drafted him," Riddoch said. "He might have been the first pitcher we took."
His funky delivery was enough to keep hitters from attempting to steal bases, as they could not get a solid read on his pickoff move.
"He's definitely got a good chance to play in the major leagues," Riddoch said. "You know, him and a couple of the other guys that we had – Musgrave – we had to protect their arms, which is important the first year. So, if we used them two innings, we had to give them two days off and sometimes three, just to make sure we protected the arms so that they didn't show up at spring training with a bad arm and getting worn out."
Conclusion: Bass has plenty of stuff to work in the rotation and be successful. The biggest challenge will be mixing his pitches since as a reliever he could come into the game with two and be satisfied.
It would be easy to see mechanics being an issue – particularly with his landing foot, but Bass seems to compensate for any irregularities with knowledge of how his body responds. If he commands his pitches, Bass could move quickly.
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