There aren’t many pitchers to look forward to on the current West Virginia roster. A few guys have jumped out to surprising starts, and there are some good numbers from guys who don’t profile as prospects. But in terms of top prospects to keep an eye on, the list is limited. In fact, the only guy who was in our top 50 coming into the season was John Sever, who I saw last night.
Sever was a 20th round pick out of college last year, but made a name for himself when he struck out 63 batters in 40.2 innings last year in Bristol, giving him the best strikeout rate in the Pirates’ system. He started off in relief, and quickly moved to the rotation. That move carried over to the 2015 season in West Virginia, where he has made five starts. The results have been good on paper, with a 3.18 ERA in 22.2 innings, along with a 27:8 K/BB ratio.
Last night featured another good stat line from Sever. He went four innings, giving up just one unearned run on three hits, with two walks and six strikeouts. However, in this case, the numbers were better than the results.
Sever had some issues with his command, specifically his command with the curveball. He had a few longer innings, with two of them going over 20 pitches, which resulted in a shorter outing.
“His pitch efficiency wasn’t very good tonight,” West Virginia manager Brian Esposito said after the game. “Ran up his pitch count, had some long innings. Had some guys that he could have put away early and he wound up nibbling a little bit. Trying to make things too good. Trying to make the perfect pitch as opposed to going ahead and competing in the zone, and letting those guys put some balls in play.”
Sever was having difficulties with his breaking stuff. He was over-throwing the pitches, leading to the curveball bouncing in the dirt well before the plate, or leading to the slider getting flat up in the zone. He also went to the breaking stuff too often, and too early, a point I brought up to Esposito after the game.
“That kind of set the tone right there,” Esposito said. “You showed your hand from the first batter of the game. So guys had a pretty good idea of what he was going to do, how he attacked guys when he’s ahead in the count, and what he needs to do to put guys away. They saw his hand from the first batter of the game.”
Despite this, Sever managed six strikeouts, and didn’t allow an earned run. His stat line would have been impressive for any pitcher at this level, but it’s especially impressive when you consider he was off his game. I saw him a few times in Spring Training this year, and came away impressed with his stuff. He throws on a downward plane, usually sitting in the 89-92 MPH range, and touching 93-94 at times. His breaking stuff has the ability to get some strikeouts, with the curveball being the better offering when he can command it and keep it low in the zone.
“When he’s consistently in the zone, he’s a guy that they’re going to swing and miss at his pitches, because everything looks the same,” Esposito said. “Everything out of his hand looks like it’s a fastball, and then it has late funk, late deception.”
I talked with an American League scout who saw Sever last night. This was the first time the scout saw Sever in action, and he wasn’t impressed with the stuff. He didn’t like the slider, and liked the curve better, but said that Sever wasn’t showing good command.
I’ve seen better outings from Sever, and definitely agree that the curve is his best breaking pitch. I’m generally skeptical of left-handers who have success in the lower levels, since that doesn’t always translate to the upper levels. I don’t want to say that Sever is an exception yet, but he is a guy I like more than most of the left-handers who have come through the lower levels of the system the last few years. He didn’t have his best stuff last night, but even with a lack of command he still managed to put up good numbers.