MLB Scouting Notes: Strasburg, Sale, A-Rod

Scouting doesn't end when players reach the big leagues. The same things we analyze with prospects can also be analyzed with big leaguers. Whether it's swing mechanics or an addition to a pitcher's arsenal, these are aspects of a player's game that teams and their opponents examine closely. With that said, here are the latest MLB observations from National Baseball Expert, Frankie Piliere.

Strasburg's Changeup Increasingly Dangerous

It didn't take very long for Stephen Strasburg to show the world that he was more than just a 98 mph fastball. He showed the total package almost immediately upon arriving in the big leagues. As amazing as it may sound, however, he's simply gotten even better here in 2012. In general, he's using his 95-99 mph fastball less, but it's been his changeup that's really taken a leap forward.

The movement on Strasburg's changeup has long impressed scouts, showing more of a true split-change action than anything else. But, it's been his confidence and conviction with this pitch in big situation that has stood out to me most. As long as he's staying ahead in counts, his diving action and 7-9 mph differential can make him a nearly impossible at-bat for left-handed hitters.

Sale Bringing Deception Back

The big leagues are not an easy place to learn on the job, but someone forgot to inform White Sox southpaw, Chris Sale. He's moved back into a starting role almost seamlessly and his secondary pitches continue to make remarkable progress. But, as good as his 91-94 mph fastball, slider and changeup are, the key to his success may be something else.

Baseball lives in a world of cookie cutters. Players are scouted and expected to look a certain way in terms of delivery and mechanics. Along the way, deception and funkiness for a starting pitcher seem to have become at least slightly undervalued. We tend to associate deception with situational relievers. Sale hides the ball, even to right-handed hitters, extraordinarily well. He keeps his shoulder closed until the last possible moment and creates a very difficult angle for hitters to contend with. This is a pitcher that has the plus arsenal to buck that trend of cookie cutter pitchers and deception has been a big part of his success as a starter in 2012.

A-Rod Still Seeking Lift

In 2011, Derek Jeter returned to the roots of his swing mechanics. It may be wise for Alex Rodriguez to try something similar. For a great player, there have been a surprising number of incarnations of Rodriguez' stance and swing mechanics over the years. He's been upright, he's been spread out, he's had a high leg kick, as well as nearly no leg kick.

The bottom line? Alex Rodriguez is a hands hitter and always has been. Maybe the bat speed isn't quite there, some would say, to support that style of hitting any more. But, given that the exit speeds of his home runs still match up to years past, it wouldn't seem that bat speed is necessarily the issue.

Look back at some older highlights of Rodriguez. He has slowly morphed from an upright hitter with a high leg kick and loose hands to a hitter that works from a very spread stance and uses almost no leg kick whatsoever. The style works beautifully for Albert Pujols and under Kevin Long, it has worked wonders for some other Yankees. It may not, however, be the best style for A-Rod.

Hitters can have a love, hate relationship with the high leg kick. It's often abandoned because of the timing issues that can arise. But, A-Rod isn't just any player. I'd like to see the return of the more upright stance and for him to simply let his hands go to work. That spread out stance may be allowing him to stay on his back leg, but it's not giving us those vintage, effortless Alex Rodriguez swings of old. This is a hitter that with that high kick and with his feet closer together, could end up slightly on his front foot and still hit the ball out to the opposite field.

Of course, age and many other things factor in, but it would at least be interesting to see Rodriguez working from his old setup again. There's no easy answer to getting home run power back in a swing, but a return to swing roots is at least worth pondering.

Scouting Baseball Top Stories