Last season was without question a disappointing year for right-handed reliever Calvin Drummond. After dominating the Midwest League in 2013, allowing less than a hit per inning, while racking up more than ten strikeouts per inning with a tidy 2.23 ERA, Drummond struggled a bit in 2014 with Advanced-A Lakeland. Over 45 1/3 innings last season, Drummond posted a 3.97 ERA and a 1.70 WHIP, thanks largely in part to an alarming 33 walks.
This season Drummond has made a few changes, and the results are starting to pay dividends. Drummond has ditched his high leg kick and has switched to a more compact delivery with less wasted motion. The simplified delivery is being repeated more frequently, as are his landings. He has also parted ways with the max-effort over-the-top arm-slot, dropping down a tick to a high-3/4 slot. The new release point is still giving him the nice downward plane that yielded lots of weak contact in the past.
The fastball velocity has however dialed back a bit. Formerly a mid-90s guy that would occasionally scrape as high as 97 mph, Drummond's fastball now typically sits between 90-92 mph topping out at 93. Drummond is commanding the fastball much better, and the late life is more explosive than the product of his former delivery. As a direct result, Drummond has cut his walks from an alarming 6.55 BB/9 last year to a respectful 2.96 BB/9, while still maintaining an impressive 8.23 K/9.
Drummond's arm-speed has also noticeably slowed down a tick after parting ways with his past max-effort delivery; but it's actually pairing exceptionally well with his spike curveball. In the past, the fastball arm-speed was well above-average, but he'd drastically slow down when throwing the breaking ball, often telegraphing the pitch. That gap has closed on both ends, yielding more of an all-around average arm-speed, and the curveball has taken a step forward as a result. Drummond's spike curve still features the tight 12/6 shape at a solid 77-80 mph velocity. Once a below-average offering in my eyes, the consistency of the breaking ball has drastically improved, flashing above-average potential.
Keeping things in perspective, we are talking about someone who turns 26-years-old in September and is still pitching in the Florida State League, where the average age is between 22 and 23. The progress is encouraging nonetheless, and Drummond could be an arm to keep an eye on in a shallow system with an underachieving big league bullpen. The former 6th rounder has posted a 2.63 ERA and 1.36 WHIP with 25 walks over 27 1/3 innings for the Flying Tigers this season; and should be in line for a promotion to Double-A Erie.
James Chipman is TigsTown's Senior Lakeland Correspondent, covering the organization up close from Florida. Be sure to follow him on Twitter @J__Chipman.