My first game of the season has come and gone and, while it wasn't the game I expected, I still walked away thoroughly impressed. Tuesday, the Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox hosted the Chatham Anglers and those in attendance were treated to what we hoped was a pitching duel between YD's Kyle Hansen (St. John's) and Chatham's Buck Farmer (Georgia Tech).
Chatham got to Hansen early and took a 9-3 lead by the top of the 4th inning. YD slowly chipped away at the lead and tied it in the bottom of the 7th before giving up the go-ahead and winning run in the 10th. While I was treated to an exciting game, I was there to primarily watch Hansen and Farmer pitch.
Let's take a quick look at the past before we dive into the present. Kyle Hansen is the younger brother of Craig Hansen. (I will channel my inner Troy McClure) You might remember Craig Hansen as the former first round draft pick of the Red Sox in 2005 who was later traded to Pittsburgh as part of the Jason Bay deal. Like his older brother, Kyle is a tall right handed pitcher for St. John's. He was drafted in 2009 by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 40th round but did not sign. As a sophomore in 2010, he led St. John's in innings pitched (107.2) and strikeouts (106) while walking 41 and giving up a paltry 2 home runs.
Georgia Tech's Buck Farmer was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 46th round of the 2009 draft. In 2010, he was second on the team in innings pitched with 108.1 and also struck out 106 while walking only 31.
The first thing that stands out when you watch Hansen is his projection. He stands 6 feet 8 inches and weighs about 215 pounds so his body should only get stronger as he fills out. He sat 90/91 with his fastball which was down to 89 out of the stretch and that should only increase when, like I said, he puts on a few pounds. Obviously, he stands tall on the mound but he keeps his arms in a slightly cocked set position. It's rather intimidating. He works quickly on the mound and repeats his delivery well but has a slightly stressful delivery.
As for his secondary pitches, the scouts I sat with weren't sure what exactly he was throwing. He was 90/91 with his fastball and it had good life to it and ran in on right handed hitters. He also threw a couple splitters around 85/86. He throws a tight curve/slider at 79/80 and a change up at 82.
As for his performance, it was ugly, at least according to the box score. He gave up 6 runs (3 earned) while allowing 5 hits, 4 walks, and striking out 4.
Hansen pitched significantly better than his line would indicate. He missed bats with 9 swinging strikes on the night. He induced a number of ground balls. I may have missed one, but I had him at 5 ground outs to only 2 fly outs. A lot of the hits he gave up were weakly hit and found holes in the infield. The YD defense wasn't at its best behind him, either.
The defining moment for me, was the second batter of the 4th inning. UCLA's Beau Amaral swung through a slider, took another slider for a ball, and a fastball for a called strike put the count at 1-2. Hansen fired another slider that was a strike.....except in the eyes of the umpire, who called it a ball to even the count 2-2. Hansen wanted the call and clearly looked surprised at the ump's blown call, and missed away with his next two pitches to put Amaral on.
The next hitter was Pepperdine's Joseph Sever and he crushed the first pitch of the at-bat for a mammoth homer to left center. It's easy to blame Hansen for giving up the tater but he had Amaral struck out on a beautiful pitch. He quickly gathered himself to retire Miami's Stephen Perez on three straight pitch by generating another weak ground ball to second.
Look, I know the line looks ugly but Kyle Hansen has "stuff" and has the projectable pitcher's frame to translate that stuff into an awfully good pitching prospect.
Other than having a truly awesome nickname, George "Buck" Farmer pitched well but made a couple costly mistakes. We'll get to that. He's appropriately listed at 6 foot 3 and 221 pounds. Unlike Hansen, Farmer looks like his body is about as filled out as it's going to get. I could see him getting stronger as he continues to pitch throughout the minor leagues but not to the same extent as Hansen. I could see Hansen sitting in the mid-90s someday while Farmer may have another tick or two in his arm, tops. By the way, there's certainly nothing wrong with that because he can pitch.
Farmer uses his legs well in his delivery and, most importantly, it works for him. He slightly bends his back leg in his stride to the plate and at the same time has an exaggerated front leg kick. It's not quite as exaggerated as Pirates prospect Tim Alderson, but it's noticeable.
Farmer flew under the radar Tuesday night. The three scouts sitting around me didn't know much about him. After his first warm up pitch popped the catcher's mitt, out came all the radar guns (I counted 6 within spitting distance).
Farmer needed all of 10 pitches to run through the side in the first inning, including two strikeouts. His fastball has excellent arm side run and sits 90/91 but touched 92 a couple times in the first and second innings and even popped a 93 on the second batter of the game.
He displayed a consistently tight slider and some semblance of a change up, which he used infrequently. I had him tallied for 9 swinging strikes and a number of ground balls and two infield fly outs.
Unfortunately, he made a few mistakes along the way. Stanford's Stephen Piscotty made his Cape League debut last night as the first batter in the second inning and took the fourth pitch he saw, a 79 MPH curve, over the fence in left center.
After having such a clean first inning, Farmer had just given up a rocket of a home run and you could tell the scouts were curious to see how he'd respond. He got a quick groundout by Washington's Jake Lamb and struck out UCLA's Cody Keefer on a nasty slider. Michigan's Michael O'Neill (as in Yankees legend Paul O'Neill's nephew) lasted three pitches before striking out on another curve. I'd say Farmer recovered well.
The unforgiving nature of the Cape League led to Farmer's rough pitching line. He gave up a couple hard hit balls but there was a lot of sloppy plays and bad bounces behind him.
As I said with Hansen, his pitching line looks ugly, but Farmer has a lot of talent. Despite the outcome, both pitchers had impressive stuff and if they can follow up promising sophomore seasons for their respective schools, you could hear their name called sooner rather than later in next year's draft.