Name: Gabe Encinas
DOB: December 21, 1991
Repertoire. Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball. Encinas is the prime example of why patience is needed when drafting young high school arms. Sitting mostly 90-93 mph when he was first drafted, he now sits comfortably in the 92-96 mph range with both his four-seam fastball and sinking two-seamer. It has taken some time to get his velocity back to that plus level, however, including some arduous work coming back from Tommy John surgery. He doesn't hit much higher than that on the gun but with an effortless motion he is able to generate a ton of deception with his fastball and it shows a lot of late life explosion as the ball crosses the plate. While the velocity and late-life are both big-time plus weapons as well as his ability maintain his power deeper into his starts his command is still very inconsistent and that can have his fastball play down a level at times.
Other Pitches. Just like his fastball Encinas' curveball has made a full recovery from a velocity standpoint. It had fluctuated down to the high-70s, low-80s range initially upon his return from Tommy John surgery in 2014 but it got back up to the power 81-83 mph range last year. It has some great late-biting action with true 12 to 6 shape and it's a pitch he's been able to command a lot better as of late. He'll still throw a few too many higher up in the zone than he would like, especially earlier in his starts, but it's a pitch he commands quite well for the most part and it serves as his primary strikeout weapon. It is a true plus big league pitch. He also has a changeup that can also be inconsistent from a command standpoint but like his curveball can be a plus pitch at any time with the movement he's able to generate with it. It has real fade and depth to it, and it is the mirror image delivery-wise to his fastball.
Pitching. Encinas has been a work in progress ever since the day he was drafted. He entered the organization with some real ceiling to him stuff-wise and in that regard he has come a very long way, now boasting three pitches that will at least flash plus potential on any given day. While the stuff has really progressed though the inconsistent command remains his biggest bugaboo. A true rhythm pitcher, when he's on he's really on, seemingly able to throw any pitch wherever he wants and opposing batters have very little chance to hit him when he's ahead in counts. However, he'll also battle his own mechanical issues at a moment's notice too as his delivery still has some moving parts and that leads to a few too many walks; he's not up on the mound trying to nibble corners, he's up there to throw strikes but sometimes his delivery [though effortless] evades him. Supremely confident and a hard worker though, and still just now two years removed from his Tommy John surgery, it does stand to reason that his delivery issues should be ironed out in due time.
Projection. There's no mixing words, with three legitimate swing and miss pitches, stuff-wise Encinas has front-line 'ace' big league starting potential but his inconsistent command doesn't always allow his stuff to play at an optimal level. He simply walks too many batters. It hasn't been a real big problem at the lower minor league levels because his stuff is so good that he's been able to pitch himself out of the jams that he puts himself into with the free passes but it could be a problem as he continues to ascend the minor league ranks where the better hitters might not offer quite as consistently at stuff out of the zone. Very much like former Yankee hurler A.J. Burnett, until the command can come around more consistently he better projects as an eventual middle of the rotation type big league starter despite the top-shelf stuff but can pitch much higher than that on any given day.
ETA. 2017. Encinas should open up in the Double-A Trenton starting rotation and from there will move only as quickly as his command progresses. Stuff-wise he's big league ready now so the focal point will remain on throwing more strike ones and limiting walks. If he can do that more consistently in 2016 he will most likely see some Triple-A action at some point later in the year.