Position: Right-handed Pitcher
After finding success with another Old Dominion product – Justin Verlander in 2004 – the Tigers opted to pluck another lanky right-hander from the four-year school in Virginia. Anthony Shawler finished his three-year career at ODU in impressive fashion. Playing both ways, Shawler finished ranking fourth in school history with 253 strikeouts, and tying for fourth in school history with four shutouts. During his junior campaign, Anthony whiffed 18 in a game against Northeastern University, and earned 2nd Team All-CAA honors as a pitcher, and 3rd Team honors as an outfielder.
As a sophomore at ODU, Shawler put together a banner season that put him on the prospect map, earning various All-American honors from Louisville Slugger, the American Baseball Coaches Association, and Baseball America, along with earning 1st Team All-CAA and All-CAA Tournament honors. Shawler finished the 2007 collegiate season with an 11-2 mark in 15 starts with eight complete games, a 2.20 ERA, and 130 strikeouts in just 114 2/3 innings of work.
After going in the ninth round of the 2008 draft to the Tigers, Shawler made his pro debut pitching for the Oneonta Tigers in the New York-Penn League. He appeared in 22 games (one start) and compiled a 2-3 record with three saves over 51 innings of work. In his 51 innings, Shawler allowed only 34 hits and 18 walks, while striking out an impressive 54. Though he excelled all summer long, his July was particularly impressive (1.06 ERA in 17 innings); earning him TigsTown's Oneonta Pitcher of the Month award. For his efforts throughout the season, finishing with a 1.76 ERA and 1.02 WHIP, Shawler was named TigsTown's Oneonta Pitcher of the Year.
Shawler is a well-rounded pitcher capable of working in multiple roles. His fastball works from 89-92 with some movement down in the zone. He has showed excellent command of the pitch in the past, but that has wavered over the last year and a half. When he is on, he can work his fastball to both sides of the plate and is still learning when and how to elevate appropriately.
His go-to strikeout pitch is a nasty 86-88 mph cutter that absolutely eats up left-handers and right-handers alike. Some scouts refer to the pitch as a slider, but its sharp single-plane movement is more indicative of a top notch cutter than a slider. Shawler also mixes in a split-finger fastball and a change-up, though both only flash as average pitches at times.
The Tigers like him working out of the bullpen where he can rely primarily on his fastball-cutter combination while mixing in his other two pitches simply to keep hitters off balance. His ability to find the strike zone is the key to his success in the bullpen, and he has begun to do that more regularly again this season. If he can routinely work both the fastball and cutter to both sides of the plate, he should find success in any number of bullpen roles.
Anthony has an easy delivery with a quick arm, though it's a little short on the back side. He works well through his balance point and typically doesn't allow his body to get in front of his arm; reducing the stress he feels towards the end of his delivery. Shawler is a fine athlete, and he fields his position well with a good understand of his defensive responsibilities.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG A
Despite a hefty workload over his final two years at Old Dominion (190+ innings with 10 complete games), Shawler has had no trouble with excessive soreness or fatigue in his arm. Clean mechanics, an athletic body, and a strong work ethic should combine well with his reduced workload in the bullpen to keep him largely healthy going forward.
The Tigers made the logical progression with Shawler to start this season, moving him to West Michigan for his full-season debut. As expected, he has been working as a multi-inning reliever at any point in games.
He is likely to continue working in the sixth to eighth innings of games, a role that fits his stuff and mentality well. Despite past starting experience, it is unlikely he will garner more than a handful of starts from here on out, as he projects much better in a middle or long relief role. Shawler will likely move a level at a time, earning his next promotion at each stop, and it is not out of the realm of possibility the first of those promotions comes later this year if there is an opening in the Lakeland bullpen.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.