With an abbreviated spring training, MLB hitters may be ahead of the pitchers at the moment, but such does not appear to be the case in minor league ball, which did start the spring on time.
Strong pitching performances have been numerous in the Blue Jays system, and superb outings by Dunedin’s Matt Svanson and Vancouver’s Chad Dallas this week have continued that trend.
Svanson is an interesting case. The 6’5’/235 RHP was a 13th round pick out of Lehigh who found himself in his draft year, according to Baseball America:
Svanson is a 6-foot-5 senior who struggled through his first three years at Lehigh, posting a 6.42 ERA in 2019 and a 7.77 ERA in 2020. He turned things around this spring, though, cutting down to a 2.30 ERA in 70.1 innings with 65 strikeouts and 24 walks. His velocity picked up as the season progressed, sitting around 89-91 mph early in the year, then in his last few starts in May he was operating at 91-94 mph and touched 96. He throws a slider and a changeup that don’t miss many bats, but the uptick with his fastball is an encouraging sign.
Svanson earned All Patriot League First Team honours last season, and was a tournament All Star. Unlike many of his fellow pitcher draftees, he wasn’t shut down after being selected last summer. Svanson was moved to the pen, and saved 5 games in as many opportunities for Dunedin, fanning 23 batters in 15.2 innings.
Svanson’s 2022 debut was perhaps a bit under the radar, given that it came in relief in a losing cause against the Yankees Single A Tampa affiliate, but his numbers pop out. Svanson threw 4 shutout innnings in relief of starter Connor Cooke, allowing only one hit and one walk. Svanson pounded the strike zone, fanning five and inducing as many ground ball outs:
The Blue Jays have obviously pared down Svanson’s repertoire to the Sinker/Slider combo, and that velo uptick from last season has been enhanced:
Look, one game does not a future big league bullpen guy make. The conventional wisdom is that Low A relievers are a dime a dozen. But pitchers like Tim Mayza have turned at least some of that notion on its head. We’re not saying Svanson will continue to dodge barrels at this rate, but he’s certainly worth a follow.
Hot on the heels of Svanson’s Tuesday outing was a brilliant combined one-hit, 17 K shutout performance by a trio of Vancouver pitchers:
This was the much-anticipated pro debut of 2021 4th rounder Chad Dallas. Fangraphs’ Brendan Gawlowski saw enough of Dallas as a collegian to rank him the Blue Jays’ 22nd top prospect:
We don’t have Statcast data for this game (c’mon, MiLB.com), but Dallas’ 8 Ks, 5 GBOs and 66% strike percentage certainly tell a story. 5 his 8 strikeouts were of the swinging variety. The only blemish on his night was a nerves-induced lead off walk (a good chunk of the 766 fans in attendance at Gesa Stadium, home of the Tri-City Dust Devils, appear to have been Dallas family members). Dallas retired the last 15 hitters he faced; 5 of the last 8 were via the K. According to C’s awesome media director Tyler Zickel, Dallas threw first-pitch strikes to 11 of the 16 guys he faced, and only five managed to coax a three ball count. He hadn’t thrown a pitch in a game that counted since game one of the College World Series last year, and even on a cool Pacific NW evening, there was no sign of rust on Dallas.
Dallas told C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel his slider was the pitch that was working most effectively for him:
Similar to Svanson, one appearance does not make a career, and perhaps that slider would play up better with his fastball in a relief role, but you can’t help but be impressed with Dallas’ start last night.