Wotherspoon Brings Other Things

Matt Wotherspoon was a later round pick this year as a college senior. He isn't overpowering nor is he a true elite command pitcher either. Usually those types of arms have ceilings more in line of organizational pitchers, ones with no real big league potential. Wotherspoon's college coaches, however, caution anyone to judge this book simply by the cover.

Baseball has been in Matt Wotherspoon’s blood for as long as he can remember.

“I grew up watching baseball with my dad and always loved the game. I actually played football until my senior year of high school but knew baseball was my ticket into college,” he said.

What started as a ticket into college has turned into a brand new career as Wotherspoon was drafted in the 34th round out of the University of Pittsburgh in the 2014 MLB First Year Player Draft.

If you ask Pittsburgh Panthers coach Joe Jordano, there was no doubt that Wotherspoon was going to be something special the moment he arrived at Pitt.

In one of his first games as a freshman, Wotherspoon was thrown into a starting role in a Sunday game after the expected starter was unable to pitch. His opponent? A hungry UConn huskies lineup that included future MLB prospects George Springer and Nick Ahmed.

“We had an issue with our Sunday starter so I said ‘Matt, let’s go’. It was his first start in the Big East against an extremely powerful lineup. He pitched seven or eight innings and earned a win against a really good team. At that point I said, ‘this kid’s going to be good.’”

According to Jordano, one of the six-foot-one, 175 lb right-hander’s highest upsides is his durability. Last season, [his senior year], Wotherspoon logged 79 innings, the most of any Pitt starting pitcher. On top of that, he never missed a start because of an injury.

“He’s a grinder, his arm is always live, always fresh. I’ve never had any issues with his starts or any problems with his arm. He’s a durable pitcher, which is valuable to any professional pitching staff,” Jordano said.

Staying all four years in college has made Wotherspoon somewhat of an anomaly. These days, most eager young MLB prospects opt to shed their last year of college or don’t even attend it in the first place in order to get a jump on their professional careers.

If you ask Wotherspoon, though, that added experience is priceless.

“I definitely think having that [experience] will help me,” he said. “Especially pitching against the ACC this year and those top caliber hitters. That really prepared me for where I am now.”

Aside from experience, durability and strong leadership, what does Matt Wotherspoon bring to the table?

For starters, he has a few highly underrated pitches that many have glossed over, including a fastball that touches the mid-90’s, a sharp breaking ball, and an above average changeup.

“When his slider’s on, it’s probably his best pitch. Aside from that he flat out competes,” said Jerry Oakes, Wotherspoon’s pitching coach in college and a former minor league player.

One primary criticism that Wotherspoon has drawn is the lack of movement on his fastball. The speed and velocity are certainly there, but the straightness renders the pitch too predictable. If he can keep the ball down and in the zone he’ll have a far easier time stymieing hitters.

As with any young pitcher, pitch command is also crucial going forward. Command in many cases is what makes or breaks the career of a potential major league pitcher.

“His biggest challenge is going to be command. At times he elevates just a little bit too much. At the professional level that’s not a good neighborhood to be in. Being able to throw it where it needs to go is huge. He’s so competitive though that regardless of the count he’ll be coming at you,” Jordano commented.

All things said and done, the Yankees have gotten a strong-willed workhorse in Matt Wotherspoon. His style is not over the top or finesse, but he flat out gets the job done, evidenced by his high inning counts in college.

His coaches believe he could serve a prominent relief role in the Yankees farm system and eventually the Major Leagues.

“I think he can be an effective bullpen guy without a doubt. He’ll probably be a middle or long relief type of guy. I see him being the 6, 7, 8 inning guy,” Oakes opined.

Jordano agrees with Oakes.

“I see him early in his career as an innings guy,” he said. “He can be the bridge between the starter and the setup man,” he said.

An often neglected attribute when scouting players is what kind of attitude and mentality they bring to a clubhouse. While raw talent will certainly take players a long way, character is a vital facet to examine when assessing a young player. If a player doesn’t cohabit or mesh well with other players, it can cause chemistry issues that reflect on the field of play.

Luckily for the Yankees, they have a class act in Wotherspoon. The son of a former military man, Wotherspoon has been lauded for his discipline both on and off the field.

“He comes from a family of high integrity and incredible character. He has discipline and respect for not only his teammates but for his coaches and everyone he’s involved with. He respects his team and his opponents. I think those attributes are incredibly important as a professional,” coach Jordano concluded.

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