Name: Chris Fetter
DOB: December 23, 1985
Drafted in the ninth-round of the 2009 draft out of Michigan, Fetter was assigned to short-season Eugene in the Northwest League.
Placed into the rotation to begin the year, the right-hander allowed two runs or less in each of his six starts, going at least five innings four times.
Moved into the bullpen, Fetter continued to perform. He did not allow a run in 16 innings of relief, primarily as the team's closer where he saved six contests, and held a 25-inning scoreless streak before he was promoted to Fort Wayne.
He boasted a 2-0 record with a 1.33 ERA across 40.2 innings for the Emeralds, allowing 24 hits, walking eight and striking out 54. The opposition hit just .164 off him and that dropped to .107 with runners in scoring position.
Fetter also stranded four of the six runners he inherited and did not allow a homer during the regular season.
The Indiana native went on to post a 2.22 ERA across five games with the TinCaps. He went 2-1 with one save, allowing two runs or less in all but one outing.
During the Midwest League championship run, Fetter started two key games, going 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA, throwing shutout ball in the second game of the championship series.
The former Wolverine finished third in school annals in career victories (28) and strikeouts (281). A two-time Big Ten selection, Fetter went 7-3 with a 3.26 ERA across 94 innings, striking out 103 while issuing 17 walks. He also rattled off 10 wins in 2008 while holding the opposition to a .209 average against.
"He had some mixed reviews up until this year, his senior year, at Michigan," former Padres vice president of scouting and player development Grady Fuson said. "Until this year he topped out around 88, but this year he had some new found strength and velocity and was touching 94. He has an above-average fastball and really advance makeup, a very bright guy."
The fifth-year senior has a low-90s two-seam fastball that he spots at will. He attacks the inside of the zone to get a hitter's feet moving away from the plate and can paint the outside corner with his heater. His heater ranges from 91-94 and touched 95 mph in college. There is room for projection with his fastball, and team insiders believe he will one day ramp it up to 96-97. He worked it down in the zone and rarely found himself getting beat with his best pitch.
"Chris is kind of the same mold as Simon Castro," former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said. "His fastball, it's an easy 92, 93; plays a little bit higher than that.
"He doesn't have the slider yet like Castro has, but he has worked at it. Just a tremendous, tremendous kid. He went to Michigan, and we were glad that he was able to come back and start those games down the stretch and into the playoffs (for us)."
He worked on the slider throughout the year but never seemed to find that perfect feel. He changed grips several times trying to attain a comfort level but it seemed to be just out of reach. When he went to the Padres fall Instructional League, Fetter focused solely on the slider. He found out that he had a different idea for what the slider was supposed to do than the coaching staff and worked to make it sharper and crisper. Originally, Fetter believed the Padres wanted one that was loopier. He found success when the mental side caught up to the physical side.
"I have had him working on a slider with a different grip," former Eugene and current Fort Wayne pitching coach Bronswell Patrick said. "The last one he had was a little bit big. It looked more like a slurve. It is a different grip so we can cut down on the bigger break and make it smaller. He has caught onto it pretty well. He just needs to keep working on it because he has real good downhill plane to his fastball. He has real good stuff. I have been impressed."
Fetter is able to command the changeup down in the zone and get a strike when necessary. It doesn't have a tremendous amount of movement and needs to come in a tad slower, but the Padres were impressed since he did not throw the slip much in college.
"That guy is good," catcher Emmanuel Quiles said. "I like him. He throws his changeup down. He uses all of his pitches. His two-seam fastball is really good."
A master of first-pitch strikes, Fetter can be too predictable. During those times, his fastball will be overused. He was able to get away with it at the lower levels but will have to improve his overall pitch sequencing as he moves up.
One thing he does get, however, is not changing if something is working. If a team is struggling to catch up with his fastball, he will continue to use it rather than giving them the chance to time his off-speed pitches.
"He's a 6-foot-7, right-handed, great plane to his fastball, keeps the ball down extremely well," former Fort Wayne and current Eugene pitching coach Tom Bradley said. "He can pitch with both sides of the plate. He's not afraid. The game against Burlington he threw out about 85 percent fastballs because they couldn't catch up to it. So his size and he's around the plate, he throws strikes; he's not all over the place. He's in the zone, he closes his pitches – that's a hard skill to teach people."
Fetter generates terrific arm speed but is really just learning to incorporate his entire body into the pitch. Taking strain off the arm and distributing it will enable him to go longer in games and potentially add more ticks to the fastball. While his mechanics are sound, Fetter wasn't driving off the mound to propel him towards home.
He has more of a three-quarters arm angle and does a good job staying on top of the ball. There has been talk of moving him further over-the-top to get an even better downward plane on the ball. While Fetter does change eye levels, he is more of a fly ball pitcher, as hitters are able to get under his offerings – due in part to his height – a la Chris Young. By adding even more angle, the sharper downward break may make it difficult for hitters to get underneath without simply popping it up.
"He was a guy that opened my eyes because he did have good mechanics," Patrick said. "He has real good downhill plane for being 6-foot-8. He gets on top of the ball well. The thing that helps Chris out is he stays over the rubber – which means he stays back for a good part of his delivery. He is able to let his arm catch up to where he gets a real good downhill plane on his pitches. Chris is going to be fine with his mechanics.
"I worked with him on something he was doing with his back foot and that helped him out a lot. He has been impressive and his delivery is solid."
Surprisingly quick to the plate for his frame, Fetter keeps runners close with some varied looks. Also, because he is around the zone on a consistent basis, runners don't have many chances to run on him.
Strong in character, Fetter has the mental skills to be a dominant pitcher. He doesn't let little things faze him and is willing to put in the necessary work to improve.
"I think his upside is high," Bradley said. "He could throw a curveball in college, now he's throwing a slider, and, at times, it's a pretty good pitch for him. He's got to work on it a little bit. He knows that. He's got to get a little bit better two-plane depth to it.
"His changeup, he didn't throw much in college, and it came on he could throw it over the plate on his own. There's a lot to work with there. He's got good command of his fastball and his slider will get better and his changeup will get better. I look for good things for him also. Great kid, works hard, and really pitches a great game."
Conclusion: It would not surprise if Fetter opened the year in Lake Elsinore and is more than likely at this stage. At 24, his timetable is slightly accelerated. He does, however, have the fastball command to succeed in High-A. He has shown signs of netting a quality slider and changeup – if those two pitches come along rapidly, Fetter could move fast.
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