We now transition from hitting to pitching where we can scout individual tools more easily but the complete package is often more difficult to put together. So we start with the most basic of pitches, the fastball. I break the fastball down into 4 components; velocity, command, movement, and deception of which each pitcher and pitch will combine to form a unique offering. If a player cannot get their fastball in for strikes he is going to struggle to reach the majors, and if he cannot get weak contact or swings and misses in the strikezone, he is going to have a severely limited ceiling. By mastering other parts of his fastball a player can marginalize weaknesses and amplify strengths.
The hardest tool to scout is deception, because it is unique to a pitcher. Deception is any part of a pitcher’s delivery that leads to a batter being delayed in his ability to pick up the baseball out of the pitcher’s hand. This limits a batter’s ability to recognize spin and location in time to make good contact. The problem with scouting deception is that it is hard to fully see all of the implications without being in the batters box. Additionally depending on the rest of the pitcher’s arsenal scouting reports on the deception can essentially end that pitcher’s effectiveness. The guy I think of most with deception and the career path it can take a player on is Arizona Diamondbacks RHP Josh Collmenter whose weird delivery brought him early success but forced him to the bullpen when the league began to figure him out (side view of delivery http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MX_wJIcfVx8)
Fastball velocity is the easiest thing to scout about a pitcher. Fastball velocity is often overrated when it lacks the other components of a good fastball, but good velocity allows for more margin for error. The best pure velocity in the system falls to Ken Giles whose fastball routinely sits 96-98 and will touch 100. It is a straight fastball and the control is suspect as well, but he gets the ball on batters quickly. Giles does not have a large frame and the delivery is max effort, limiting him to the bullpen. It does not look like movement will be coming to his fastball, but if he can get it in the zone, it makes him a high leverage reliever.
Fastball movement can come in different forms whether it is sink, arm-side run, or slider like movement. Each can do different things to contact, but inevitably some small movement on a fastball can help keep batters from barrelling up pitches. In the past this award easily went to Phillippe Aumont, whose fastball breaks heavily arm-side and downward to make it difficult for batters to put the ball in the air. In terms of eligible pitchers Nic Hanson, it starts with his frame at 6′ 7″ giving him natural downward plane on this pitches. Additionally Hanson’s primary fastball is a sinker giving it even more downward movement. Hanson will need to develop a couple of average secondary pitches, but walking batters at the rate he does (career 1.31/9) and inducing ground balls (career 2/1 ratio) is a recipe for success at least in a back of the rotation role (here is his spray chart http://mlbfarm.com/player.php?player_id=621181&position=P)
I am going to describe this final piece as fastball command, but in reality if you have at least major league average command in the minor leagues you will be dominant. Fastball control is the ability to put the ball in the strikezone, and fastball command is the ability to locate it within the zone. Severino Gonzalez does not have the gaudy velocity numbers and his fastball does not have any abnormal motion (it is not perfectly straight though), but he does repeatedly put it in the strikezone. If a pitcher is going to be unable to blow his fastball by players he needs to learn to manipulate it in the zone to set up his other pitches and steal strike, while generating weak contact. If there is anything to hang your hat on with Gonzalez and a bright future it will be his fastball command, not his curveball that will carry him to the major leagues.