Lindgren Belongs

Jacob Lindgren, this year's top draft pick by the New York Yankees, concluded a whirlwind debut season by soaring his way to the Double-A level. He dominated every step of the way and, while he admits there are areas to improve going forward, he feels he belongs at the upper levels.

"I feel fine," Lindgren said. "The guys really welcomed me in, they're a great group of guys. Each level is different for sure. You've got to make adjustments but at the end of the day you still have to make your pitches."

He certainly made his pitches en route to the Double-A level, posting a 0.73 ERA and striking out a whopping 28 batters in just 12.1 innings between two A-ball levels. He adjusted pretty well to Double-A too, posting a 3.86 ERA in eight games for the Thunder and striking out 18 batters in just 11.2 innings.

"Oh, great stuff, a really good fastball," Trenton pitching coach Tommy Phelps said. "It moves a lot and he's got a great slider with that too. When he's in the strike zone he gets a lot of swings and misses with balls in the zone and that's a good sign.

"He pitches with a lot of confidence and if I had that kind of stuff I'd pitch with a lot of confidence too."

But with each new level comes a new set of adjustments and Lindgren noticed a discernible difference between Double-A and the lower levels.

"They just lay off of certain pitches that other levels they'd swing at but it just means I have to focus more and execute my pitches better," he admitted.

He learned quickly that the more advanced hitters are not always going to swing at the borderline pitches and that led to increase in walks. In fact, he walked nearly seven batters per nine innings in his brief Double-A time but he still believes his game has improved.

"Just making better in-game adjustments," he listed as his biggest improvement in his debut season. "The seams [on the balls] are smaller here so it took me a little while to get used to the new balls; the ball moves a little more so I have to adjust a little more but I'd say my command has gotten a little better."

Getting more movement on pitches that already had moved a lot has come with its own set of adjustments needed to be made, but Lindgren also realizes that little bit extra movement has its positives too.

"I would say movement is a big key. You've got to get ground balls and swings and misses, and I guess movement really helps with that.

"It makes it tougher but at the end of the day the hitters still have to hit it so I just try to put it in the zone to get the hitter to put it in play but if he gets behind in the count maybe I can strike him out. It's all about getting outs and executing your pitches."

One of his main focal points on the mound is the extremely quick tempo he employs. Hitters barely have enough time to set themselves in the batter's box before he is throwing another pitch by them into the catcher's mitt.

"I like to have a quick tempo on the mound, I like the defense to be ready," he said. "If I have a slow tempo out there [the defense] might be on their heels.

"I just want my defense to always be in it and me and the catcher get on a good page, a quick tempo, a good pace for the game, get quick outs and get back into the dugout so we can score some runs."

With a plus fastball-plus slider combination and a ultra-high, quick tempo approach on the mound, Lindgren has a lot going for him. It doesn't mean, however, that there aren't things to work on going forward. As impressive as he has been and as quickly as he has moved, he is still a first-year pro.

"The big thing is just learning the professional level and how to prepare himself daily to be able to pitch," Phelps said. "It always comes down being able to command and control your pitches, and he does a pretty good job with that. He'll go to Instructional League and next year we'll see where he goes from there."

One of the main focal points for Lindgren at Instructs will be sharpening his fastball command and working on incorporating his third pitch more into his repertoire.

"I've been working on a changeup," Lindgren said. "I want to get a better feel for that. I just want to get better everyday, command obviously always needs improvement. I feel like every pitcher needs good command. I just want to get used to the game. Double-A is a different level so I want to get better as a ball player in general."

And that's the truly scary part -- as dominant as he has been there is still a lot of room for improvement. But despite pitching in college just a couple of months ago, Lindgren can't help but feel he belongs at the upper levels.

"I'd say so. I'm lucky enough to be here and I've just got to keep pitching, and keep doing my job," he concluded.

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