Casey Sadler’s progression in pro ball so far has matched his progression on the mound in college. In college, he began his career in the bullpen, then later moved to the rotation full time. Sadler was moved back to the bullpen once he turned pro, and has stayed there until this season.
“It was a little frustrating at first, because everyone wants to be a starter,” Sadler said.
The right-hander made one start in State College, but has worked out of the bullpen until this year. He made a few spot starts early in the year, then moved to the rotation full time after Gerrit Cole was promoted to Altoona. Heading in to tonight he had been excellent, with a 3.02 ERA in 47.2 innings over nine starts this year, along with a 36:9 K/BB ratio.
“Looking back, I think it was the best,” Sadler said of his time in the bullpen. “College, I kind of struggled a little bit, early innings as a starter, and then would progressively get better as I went on. And as a reliever you don’t have time for that. You come in and you’ve gotta go. And I think it’s done wonders for me as a starter to come in and kind of view that first inning as a reliever inning, and then after that inning just go as deep as you can.”
Sadler has gone deep in a lot of his starts recently. In three of his last four starts he’s pitched in to the seventh inning. He struggled tonight, but still made it six innings, throwing 93 pitches, with 59 for strikes. Sadler gave up a season high six earned runs on ten hits in six innings. There were times where his defense didn’t do him any favors, but he was also hit hard, leaving some two strike breaking balls up in the zone, and leaving fastballs up trying to push them to a certain spot.
Last year Sadler was pitching out of the West Virginia bullpen, making a lot of multi-inning appearances. He struggled early in the season, but in the second half saw his velocity sitting consistently in the 91-93 MPH range with his sinker. He’s been 89-93 MPH this year, including tonight when he had a 7:3 GO/AO ratio. He had a few other ground balls that should have turned in to outs, but didn’t.
“That second half I just finally said ‘you know, I’m going to go out. I’m going to do 110%, pitch my butt off, and whatever happens, happens.’ And you kind of clear your mind. Get yourself out of your own way and good things start to happen,” Sadler said of the change last year. “I tried to carry that over to this year. At times I do good with it, and at times I relapse. Try to do too much. Try to be too perfect. Try to throw too hard. Try to make the perfect pitch. In reality, you’ve just got to trust your stuff. Trust what you’ve been taught by the coaching staff. Trust what you’ve learned over progressive seasons in pro ball.”
Sadler compliments his fastball with a slider and a changeup. The slider is usually a hard breaking pitch, although tonight it wasn’t as sharp, sweeping through the zone and not getting a lot of batters to chase.
“Execution of that pitch is huge,” Sadler said. “Sometimes I’ll get a little too relaxed with it. Flatten it out. If I get on top of it and throw it like I know how, it is a good pitch for me. It’s a pitch I can go to in any count, whether I need a strikeout, or got a guy that’s sitting dead red fastball, and I know he’s going to be aggressive. I know I have the confidence to throw it for a strike whenever I want to.”
A big difference for him this year has been the changeup.
“That’s really been the pitch for me that’s allowed me to go deeper in to games,” Sadler said.
The Pirates have stressed the importance of the changeup even more this year than they have in years past. Sadler worked on the pitch during instructs last year, and carried the work over to Spring Training.
“I’ve always had it, but I never really have thrown it a whole lot,” Sadler said. “Really, in college I didn’t need it a whole lot. Get to pro ball, guys can hit the hard stuff. They can hit stuff that’s 90-plus. You gotta have that pitch that gets them off your fastball a little bit, and makes your fastball play better than what it is.”
Sadler is a very intriguing pitching prospect. He signed for $100 K in the 25th round of the 2010 draft, but was over-shadowed by top picks Jameson Taillon and Stetson Allie. At 6′ 4″, 200 pounds, he’s got that tall, projectable frame. He’s also got three good pitches to work with, and is a smart kid who is very introspective about his work on the mound.
Bradenton pitching coach Mike Steele said that Sadler has done a lot of growing up this year. When asked if Sadler could remain as a starter in the long-term, Steele said “Absolutely.”
“He’s done really well. He’s a sleeper guy,” Steele said. “He’s a good one. That’s what they look like. That kid.”
Dickerson Connects For Two Homers
Alex Dickerson had a four hit night tonight, connecting for two home runs to give him ten on the year. Dickerson is now hitting for a .293/.356/.453 line in 369 at-bats this year, and has been on fire since the start of June. Dickerson hit for a .316 average and a .906 OPS in June, and currently has a .315 average and a .923 OPS in July. Eight of his ten homers have come in the last two months, spanning 187 at-bats.
“Been feeling good for about a week or so now,” Dickerson said of his homers tonight. “Kind of had a quick set back against Clearwater, and then recently I’ve been hitting the ball well. It’s just been finding people, and today it was just finding the holes. Sticking with my approach, that’s just been working for me.”
I saw the GCL Pirates in action earlier today. I’ll have a summary of more players tomorrow after I watch them for the second time. Three of the top prospects were out of the lineup, with Dilson Herrera, Harold Ramirez, and Wyatt Mathisen all sitting today (Mathisen was injured). A few quick notes on the game:
**I’ve talked about Jin-De Jhang a bit in the past. He really stood out to me today. He’s a thick framed catcher with a very strong arm. He used that arm to throw out a runner at third on a ball in the dirt, and it took him a second or two to pick the ball up, so the throw was more impressive. He also has a lot of speed for his size, and he’s an all out runner, making a hard turn on every hit. At the plate he went 3-for-3 with two walks.
**2012 16th round pick Max Moroff had a good day at the plate, going 3-for-4 and showing off his speed with two bases. He and Kevin Ross also made some nice plays in the middle infield.
**Stetson Allie went 1-for-5 with one strikeout. He swung at a lot of pitches, but didn’t look lost at the plate and wasn’t swinging at a lot of bad pitches. He was late on a few swings, battling to foul a few off on check swings and protect himself in two strike counts. Allie looks like he’s slimmed down a bit.
**Luis Urena showed off his arm, throwing out a runner at second base in the first inning. Urena went 1-for-5 with a double, and one of his outs was a long fly out to right field. I’ve always been inexplicably high on Urena, mostly for the body and tools, and ignoring the poor numbers. I felt the same way about Gregory Polanco, who finally broke out this year. Urena is still young enough that he could have that breakout that we’re seeing out of Polanco.
**Edwin Espinal had the nickname “Tank” in Spring Training. He’s a third baseman with a plus arm, but had a huge frame, looking more like a defensive lineman. When I saw him today, he had noticeably slimmed down. He’s still a big guy, but if he keeps going in this direction it might improve his chances of sticking at third base (and he might lose his nickname in the process).