This was the year of the great pitching-prospect shuffle. It was, frankly, the best part of watching forty or so Louisville Bats games. Among the big three — Cody Reed, Robert Stephenson, Amir Garrett — the one who made the biggest impression on me was the one who didn’t make it to the majors. I am referring, of course, to Amir Garrett.
Garrett has three pitches, fastball, slider, and change up. He doesn’t throw as hard as he looks like he should (he looks like he should throw as hard as Chapman). In my experience, he sat around 93. I’ve seen reports of him hitting 97, but that must be rare because I didn’t see it in Louisville (as far as I can remember). The change up is the key and the pitch he needs to master to reach his potential. His numbers in AA last year were out of this world (9.12 K/9, 3.27 BB/9, 1.75 ERA, 2.50 FIP) and in AAA they were middling (7.18 K/9, 4.12 BB/9, 3.46 ERA, 4.14 FIP).
During the minor league season, I talked to both Louisville manager Delino DeShields and the Bats’ then-pitching coach Ted Power about Garrett. Both, it is fair to say, were enthusiastic. By which I mean, their eyes lit up a little bit. Garrett has the reputation of having an excellent attitude and of being extremely coachable (more on this in a minute). Further, everyone understands that Garrett is an athlete. His time playing basketball — Garrett played Division 1 college hoops at St. John’s — shows. He’s in fantastic shape and I was told he bounces back quickly.
What I Saw
The stuff about his changeup was right. When it was working (and it worked quite a bit in Louisville, Garrett was something to watch. He seemed — to my untrained eye — to usually be quite good at duplicating his delivery and I saw him make plenty of hitters (yes minor league hitters) look silly when the 92 MPH fastball they were expecting turned out to be a 75 MPH change up.
In terms of his AAA numbers, especially where his control is concerned, I’d advise optimism. Over the course of the season, Garrett walked a total of 3.67 batters per nine innings. However, in 17 of his 25 games he walked two batters or fewer. He tends to have the occasional Arroyo-esque blow out, but if you take away the five starts where he had the worst command (24.1 IP and 26 BB) and his BB/9 drops to 2.42.
This isn’t to say we should ignore those starts, but we should note that they were spread far apart and as far as I was told, his reaction was to immediately seek coaching to fix whatever mechanical issues had gotten off track. For evidence of his ability to rebound, I submit that after his worst start of the year (0.2 IP, 4BB, 1 HBP, 0 K) he rebounded by his next start to throw 7.0 innings, 0 BB, and 7 Ks. That’s not a bad way to bounce back.
Is Amir Garrett a completely finished and polished product? No, probably not yet. He still has hiccups. However, he is likely ready to get major league hitters out as long as we can stomach the occasional bad-rroyo blow up. And those will probably go away over time. Garrett has everything you want. His arm doesn’t have a ton of mileage, he’s developed quickly since dedicating himself full time to baseball, he has the stuff, and – by all accounts – he has the make up. He’s going to be a good pitcher. Actually, he’s probably already one.