Name: Will Inman
DOB: February 6, 1987
Drafted in the third-round of the 2005 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, Inman passed up a scholarship with Auburn to begin his professional career. He was subsequently traded to the San Diego Padres, along with Steve Garrison and Joe Thatcher, for reliever Scott Linebrink in July of 2007.
After being acquired from the Brewers, Inman was assigned to Double-A San Antonio. He went 3-3 with a 4.12 ERA across seven starts, striking out 40 and walking 19 in 41 frames.
Returning to Double-A in 2008, Inman went 9-8 with a 3.52 ERA across 28 starts. He gave up two runs or less in 15 of his starts and threw shutout ball over at least five innings on six occasions.
"He's a very unique guy who has a lot of moving parts to his delivery and style, which is tough to maintain for accuracy," Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "In the spring, he wanted to lower his arm slot, which we allowed, and it gave him a little more velocity but caused some other issues that he didn't have a year ago. His stuff is better with his arm slot, but his curve can still get him into trouble. He's very young and it was his second run through Double-A. There is still a lot to be tweaked and to be cleaned up."
Inman paced the circuit with 140 strikeouts but also led the league in walks with 71. While he fanned 9.31 batters per nine innings, he also walked 4.72 batters per nine. He also ranked fourth in the Texas League in ERA and his 3.80 FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) was fifth best.
"Will's one of those guys where you just sit back, throw up your hands and let him pitch," former San Antonio manager Bill Masse said. "He's going to be the guy that loads them up and gets three strikeouts to end the inning. He'll load them up with three walks and then strikeout three. That's just kind of the way this year went. Obviously, you've got to get better command.
"It's tough because, listen, one of his reasons to his success is his deception. He's throwing arms and elbows at you, and his legs are flying and everything's flying at you. He's all over the map as far as on the mound. That's one of the reasons why he gets so many strikeouts is that deception that he has messes up the timing of the hitters. Half of the time they find themselves late, late, late so then they start cheating and then he throws an, he's got an above average breaking ball, so you mix that one in there.
"So, you've got to be careful about cleaning up his delivery so he can repeat his delivery more. The problem is, you clean up his delivery, you're going to take away some of that deception. That deception was a big reason why he had a lot of that success. So, you've got to be careful."
At the end of June, Inman had notched eight of his wins but didn't register another victory until his final start of the year on August 31.
While he had eight games with seven or more strikeouts, Inman also had 13 games with at least three walks. A .234 average against – third best in the Texas League - with 119 hits in 135.1 innings was also met with a 1.40 WHIP thanks to the high walk tally.
Inman notched a perfect 1-2-3 inning during the Futures Game played at Yankee Stadium during the '08 season and was named a post-season All-Star.
The Virginia native changed his arm slot leading into the season. It was met with increased velocity, but the command of his pitches suffered.
"Trying to pitch for the strikeouts – the second part of it, he kind of floated around with his arm angle this year," Padres pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. "It started relatively high when he came in the spring and then, the next thing you know, it was really low and then we just tried to get it into a spot where he was more comfortable and more natural with it. That had a lot to do with it. He had a number of different arm slots that he was throwing with this year and that came into play with his command."
Inman's fastball sits in the high-80s and touches 91-92 mph. He ball doesn't have a whole lot of sink, but the deception in his delivery makes it appear even faster. Hitters have a tough time locating the ball and are forced into quick decisions on whether or not to swing at the ball. Taking became a bigger part of the oppositions' focus, as they preferred to make him throw a pitch over before committing towards a swing.
The command of his fastball, however, was not as crisp as the season before. His foot placement and line to the plate were erratic and he could not spot the pitch as effectively as he had showed the previous year.
"I think with him it's just a matter of consistency with his pitches," San Antonio pitching coach Steve Webber said. "There were times when he commanded his fastball a little bit better than others. I think there were times when he pitched away from contact some and pitched deeper in counts. But when he was more aggressive with his fastball then that made all his other pitches better. So I think it is his mindset of maybe not getting enough of the plate some of the time. And I think that's when he gets in trouble."
The right-hander has a plus curveball that he can spin in any count. It comes out behind a right-hander and hooks back over the inside corner – making it a tough pitch for hitters to stay in on and allow to travel deep.
His changeup remains a work in progress. It is a usable pitch that he has confidence in but is does not have consistent drop. He mixes the pitch in to both righties and lefties but can be beat when it hangs.
Inman has a lot of moving parts to his delivery. His arm motion is not traditional and flares back well behind his body. When it comes through towards his release point, the ball remains hidden. His leg kick aids the deception, as he hangs towards the midpoint between home and third before driving all of his focus points towards the plate.
"He's another guy that throws between, averages, 88-89," Masse said. "He's got a good breaking ball, though, he's got a little above-average breaking ball. He's got a pretty decent changeup. But, there's another guy, you've got to be careful. A lot of what he does is off deception; a lot of what he does is off of having that no one is going to hit me type attitude.
"He's very similar to (Matt) Buschmann. Buschmann has deception throwing across his body so much, but he's got that mentality that no one is going to hit him. Both of those guys are very similar. If you graded out there stuff, you'd be kind of be like, ‘Well, his fastball's only 88-90, his changeup's o.k.' But, if you take the total package of deception, mentality, you're looking at a possible major league pitcher.
"But, that being said, both of those guys need to work on they still have to get better command of their pitches. If you've got a pitch with that kind of deception, you better figure it out how to throw more strikes. Hopefully he does."
An All-Star for each of his four minor league seasons, Inman tossed 63.2 percent of his pitches for strikes. Deep counts, however, plagued him through the year.
The former Brewer was exceptional against the leadoff hitter of an inning, limiting them to a .192 average and .284 on-base percentage.
That allowed for some margin for error, but Inman can't afford to continue throwing 30 pitches over the course of an inning and not get burned.
"I think it ends up sometimes where he doesn't stay aggressive through the pitch, and it ends up maybe missing arm side or he pulls it out of the strike zone glove side," Webber said. "The batting average against him was fairly low. I think he just needs to learn to trust his fastball a little bit more and understand that he throws it low in the strike zone, and he's going to get a lot of weakly hit balls."
Inman is an agile defender that is able to limit the opposition from stealing bases. He gives varied looks, works quickly, and is quick to the plate. He and his catchers were able to catch 7-of-22 runners attempting to steal.
Conclusion: There is no doubting Inman's effectiveness when he is throwing strikes. He simply isn't throwing them often enough. At 21, he was, however, a Texas League All-Star. There is reason to believe he can make the adjustments and continue the path that has him rated so highly.
Inman is a hard worker who is always looking to improve. He went through a new training regimen this offseason to strengthen his arm and better his mechanics while not taking away from its effectiveness. If he can regain command, Inman can be a quality starter in the middle of a major league rotation.
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