Phillies fans hear tall, lanky, Canadian right-hander who battles inconsistency and they think immediately of Phillippe Aumont. That's not the case with Nick Pivetta. Yes, he's all of those things, but the inconsistency isn't because of overthrowing or trying to blow-up radar guns. It's simply because he's young and is still figuring out a lot of things about himself and the game of baseball.
Pivetta has a low-to-mid-90s fastball that is his go-to pitch at this point in his career. He commands the pitch well and doesn't try to get more out of it than he's already got, meaning he doesn't overthrow it and he realizes that he can't just blow it past every hitter. Instead, he relies on commanding the pitch and getting enough late movement.
His second-best pitch is the curveball that has an 11-to-5 break. The problem with the pitch is that he hasn't quite fine-tuned the location and he'll sometimes leave it up too far in the zone, resulting in him having to snap his neck around to watch the ball fly out of the park after the batter hits it. Much of the trouble comes from not being able to repeat his motion and he often loses his release point. The inconsistency with his motion is difficult to understand, since he has simple, clean mechanics that he should be able to readily repeat.
Third in his repertoire is a changeup that sits in the mid-80s range. Pivetta gets good sink on the pitch and he disguises it well. Again, commanding the pitch is still a work in progress, but when he's on with it, he can use it as a good weapon to keep hitters off of the fastball.
At 6' 5", 220 pounds, Pivetta has a big frame and can use that to his advantage to throw downhill to hitters. He hasn't quite figured out how best to take advantage of his size, but as he continues to develop and gains confidence, it's likely that will be taken care of on its own.
Pivetta is finding out that Double-A hitters are much pickier than hitters in High-A ball. His first three starts for Harrisburg haven't been overly impressive, but he is making progress and has shown flashes of brilliance at times. He reached Double-A with a career SO/W ration of 2.41, but his nine strikeouts and six walks with Harrisburg (0.67 ratio) have lowered that to 2.23.
Strikeouts and groundouts are the predominant results against Pivetta. His groundout-to-flyout ration isn't quite where he needs it to be to have success at the upper levels and he'll need to add more of the strikeout and/or groundout results and limit the flyballs to have success at Citizens Bank Park. He also doesn't get enough groundballs with runners on base to get a lot of double-plays.
As for how some of the Phillies prospects have fared against Mr. Pivetta, here's a look:
- Zach Green - 3-7 (.429), 1 double, 1 HR
- Dylan Cozens - 3-13 (.231), 1 double, 1 HR
- Aaron Brown - 1-5 (.200)
- Andrew Knapp - 1-7 (.143)
- Carlos Tocci - 1-10 (.100)
- Malquin Canelo - 0-8 (.000)
The expectations for Pivetta are that he can continue to develop and be at least a back of the rotation starter. If his secondary pitches come along and he can maintain consistent mechanics, it's likely that he'll be more than that and could work his way into the middle of a major league rotation. Considering all of the circumstances surrounding Jonathan Papelbon, the Phillies weren't going to get a top-notch prospect in return. He wanted out of Philly, the Phillies wanted him out and there simply aren't a lot of contending teams looking for closers. When you consider Papelbon's no-trade clause, the options were even more limited and if Pivetta develops into a mid-rotation starter, they did well for themselves getting the return that they did and dropping both Papelbon's attitude and his 2016 contract that would have given him $13-million.