Toledo MLN: Oliver on the Bump and New Faces

As the Mud Hens wind down their season, there are still quite a few points of interest, including the performance of heralded prospect Andy Oliver, along with a handful of others that could see themselves in Detroit yet this season or next year.

The majority of the focus though remains on Andy Oliver, who made a few starts in Detroit before returning to Toledo to develop more and continue to refine his off-speed pitches.

However, thus far it continues to be a back and forth battle for Oliver. While his off-speed stuff still needs work, he continues to lean toward being effective and relying on his mid-90s four seam fastball.

In a recent start, Oliver almost exclusively threw his four seamer, with just a few sliders and two seam fastballs mixed in to go with it.

His reliance on the pitch is understandable – most guys can't dial it up to 95 and above to begin with, but it's even more rare to see that sort of heat from a lefty on the mound. But while that strategy will allow him to be effective in Triple-A, it likely won't help much if he hopes to return to the big leagues.

When thrown, his two seamer was more of a show-me pitch, used very sparingly and seemingly only thrown to give the hitters a different look and speed.

The bigger concern remains with his slider, which he has struggled with, especially since returning to the minor leagues. While it ideally sits in the mid-80s, he vacillated between over throwing the pitch, making it more of a spinning pitch that sat around 90, and guiding it, ultimately losing his heat (coming in around 83 MPH) and coming nowhere close to the plate.

In the handful of sliders he threw, only one made it over the plate for a strike, and in the later innings when he was likely "encouraged" to throw the pitch by pitching coach A.J. Sager more, he found the ball hitting the dirt first more frequently than it hit the catcher's mit.

Oliver is still immensely talented and has the pure stuff to be a quality big league starter, but it's absolutely imperative that he sees more development out of his breaking pitch over the last few weeks of the season and into the fall.

Focusing more on the team, it's once again been a revolving door in and out, with the club recently adding Cale Iorg and Chris White to the lineup, but losing Will Rhymes again along with the pending departure of Casper Wells to Detroit.

Despite the changes in faces, Toledo was able to post a 3-3 record for the week, capitalizing on a few strong pitching performances and getting just enough in the run department to squeeze out wins.

One player who will of course receive plenty of scrutiny in the final couple of weeks for the Hens will be Iorg, who has struggled at the plate despite plenty of hype around his game. Iorg has made a splash early on for Toledo, hitting .417 in his first ten at-bats with a pair of doubles and three RBI. There have been many waiting for Iorg's light to finally flip on at the plate, and continued success like that could be an indicator he's finally there.


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