Lone Star Dugout Video: C.J. Edwards
Although he has yet to pitch an official inning in professional baseball, right-hander C.J. Edwards is currently turning some heads with his strong performance at extended spring training.
A native of rural South Carolina, Edwards appears to have been a highly under-the-radar arm in last year's MLB Draft. Texas selected the 6-foot-2 hurler in the 48th round and signed him on the August 15 deadline day.
Edwards was scouted, drafted, and signed by area scout Chris Kemp, who played in the Rangers' organization between short-season Spokane and High-A Bakersfield in 2006 and 2007. Kemp now scouts amateur talent for the Rangers in North Carolina, South Carolina, and eastern Tennessee.
The 2011 draft was a big one for Kemp, as he signed a handful of players––LHP Will Lamb (2nd), C Joe Maloney (10th), OF Chris Grayson (13th), LHP Andrew Faulkner (14th), OF Saquan Johnson (28th), 1B Matt Leeds (31st), and Edwards (48th). Most of the players show some intriguing talent––particularly for later-round picks––but Edwards (and Grayson) may be the most impressive thus far.
Kemp had a relationship with Edwards and his family dating back at least a couple years. Before the former outfielder joined the Texas organization as an area scout, he was an assistant coach at Spartanburg Methodist College––a JUCO in South Carolina. Kemp recruited Edwards while coaching, although the pitcher ultimately signed a letter of intent to play at Charleston Southern University.
Because Edwards didn't sign with the Rangers until mid-August, he'd inked a 2012 contract that kept him from pitching during the regular season last year. He made his debut at fall instructional league before pitching in both spring training and extended spring this year.
Showing a loose arm and a wiry, long-limbed frame, Edwards entered the Rangers' system with an upper-80s fastball that touched 90 mph on occasion. But there appeared to be more velocity in the arm as his body got stronger and filled out.
Edwards was slightly intriguing during one-inning spring training outings in March, running his fastball up to 92 mph early in innings. But he often lost strength by the end of the frame and ended up working at 86-89.
The 20-year-old's velocity has continued to spike during extended spring training, as he hit 96 mph during a start in early May.
In a May 12 outing versus the Reds' extended club––shown in the video below––Edwards' fastball worked anywhere between 88-95 mph. His fastball had some natural cutting action, which was nice, but it was also a sign that he wasn't letting it go with full conviction.
The prospect threw 39 of his 51 pitches for a strike in three innings that day, yielding two runs on two hits. He struck out six without issuing a walk.
Still very lanky, Edwards worked between 92-95 mph in the first inning before settling into the 90-91 range––bumping 92––for the remainder of his outing. He needs to add muscle in order to sustain the velocity, but the peak velocity is a promising sign of what's in the arm.
While Edwards' command was a bit loose, he pounded the strike zone with relative ease in the outing and recorded 15 swings and misses out of his 51 pitches. He also showed impressive feel for his 72-76 mph curveball, which had fairly tight spin with two-plane break and good depth. Edwards threw nine of his 11 curves for a strike and struck out the side in the third––all swinging, and all on curveballs. The pitch has at solid-average––if not plus––potential.
After the game, Edwards said he'd thrown more changeups (seven, including four for a strike) on May 12 than any previous outing in his young career. The 80-84 mph change was inconsistent (and clearly his third pitch), but it had lots of tumble with some deception at times.
The Prosperity, S.C., native is still a bit of a mystery at this point. He's yet to appear in an official game and is physically raw. Pitching his entire first full season at 20 years of age, he's also a year older than most high school draft picks. But Edwards already throws strikes while showing flashes of plus velocity and a promising curveball.
Although he may have been slated for the rookie-level Arizona League coming out of camp in March, Edwards now seems a favorite to open his career with Spokane.
The first two innings of his May 12 outing versus Cincinnati are shown in the following video.
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