Breaking Down Severino Gonzalez

Severino Gonzalez has been the subject of much conversation between those who favor stats and results and those who are looking at scouting reports and the physical body of work.  This is not to say that anybody is wrong in this discussion, but more that we need to strip away all of our personal biases and look at the facts in front of us to come to a more informed conclusion.

The Stats:

No matter how you slice it Severino had an incredible statistical season.  His line across three levels was:

103.2 IP 2.00 ERA 22 Walks 119 Strikeouts 7.3 H/9 0.4 HR/9 1.9 BB/9 10.3 K/9

It is really impressive for a player who had never played stateside before.  Lets break that up a bit more looking at a couple key stats to go along with innings pitched and ERA, in HR/9, K/9, BB/9, for Severino’s three stops this season.

IP ERA HR/9 K/9 BB/9
Lakewood 21.1 1.69 0.42 13.01 1.27
Clearwater 75.2 2.02 0.48 9.75 2.26
Reading 6.2 2.7 0 8.1 0

We can throw out the Reading sample for any amount of reasonable analysis as it is a single start on the last day of the AA season.  The first two are more interesting, we clearly see a drop in stats in the jump from Lo-A to Hi-A, the strikeout rate drops dramatically and the walk rate ticks up.  The next part is to look at starting vs relieving, in 2013 Severino started 14 games and appeared a reliever in 11 games (all in Clearwater).

IP ERA HR/9 K/9 BB/9
SP 80.1 2.13 0.45 10.2 2.13
RP 23.1 1.54 0.39 10.8 1.16

We are dealing with small sample sizes here, the big difference we are seeing is the walk rate.  It is important to note that all of the relief innings game at the beginning of the year so we have to account for possible fatigue as well as teams accumulating scouting reports on him.  Very clearly though the control goes from precise in the bullpen to just very good in the rotation.  To isolate this a bit more lets take out the Lakewood and reading starts and just look at what was accomplished at Clearwater.

IP ERA HR/9 K/9 BB/9
SP 52.1 2.24 0.52 9.29 2.75
RP 23.1 1.54 0.39 10.8 1.16

We see the K rate decrease even more and the walk rate continue to rise.  This is a trend to watch out for because upper level batters are not going to swing at anything and get themselves out.  To keep a low walk rate as a pitcher you need to be able to get batters out in the zone either through swing and miss stuff or inducing weak contact.  If the pitcher can not get outs in the zone they are forced to work deeper into counts and the walk rate can go up, even if the pitcher has good control overall.

Before we move on beyond stats, lets look at platoon splits.  In general, all small sample size caveats apply, but it is useful to look for any trend that may be explained later.

Split Tm IP BF HR/9 BB/9 K/9
v L as R Reading 2.2 12 0 0 0
v L as R Clearwater 23 109 0.39 4.3 8.22
v L as R Lakewood 8 32 1.13 1.13 14.63
v L as R MiLB Total 33.2 153 0.53 3.21 9.09
v R as R Reading 4 14 0 0 13.5
v R as R Clearwater 52.2 193 0.51 1.37 10.42
v R as R Lakewood 13.1 46 0 1.35 12.15
v R as R MiLB Total 70 253 0.39 1.29 10.93

There is a lot to process herem most of it in small sample size, but the splits are glaring.  First I want to point out that over all of his time in Clearwater he posted a 4.3 BB/9 and 8.22 K/9 against LHBs as opposed to dominant numbers against RHBs.  Overall the totals look a little less bad, but still his BB/9 is nearly two walks higher, while striking out nearly two less batters per 9 innings.

The Pitches:

The first things everyone talks about with Severino is the fastball.  His four-seam fastball has no real movement, but he is sharp in commanding it in the zone.  Out of the rotation it sits somewhere 89-91 touching as high as 93.  This would put him in the bottom quarter of major league starters, but it is not the end of him.  In addition to the four seam fastball Severino will mix in a two-seam and cut fastball, but I did not get enough reports on either to give a definitive opinion.

As for the breaking balls Severino throws both a curveball and slider.  Both project to be average long term, but for now they are inconsistent from start to start.  He can throw both for strikes in the zone and has some feel for using them as chase pitches.  The changeup is a work in progress.  As part of this I reached out to Chris King and he said the changeup was “ok, but was good enough”.

Overall the arsenal could be 4 average pitches long term that he can mix up and throw all as strikes.  The problem is that as he goes higher in the minors the lack of a dominant pitch is going to reduce his strikeout rate and force him work into deeper counts against batters.  I touched on the platoon splits earlier, but they can be tied directly to a fringy straight fastball and a lack of a good enough changeup to keep hitters honest.

Here is a video by former Baseball Prospectus Writer and current Tampa Bay Rays scout Jason Cole of Severino pitching in Lakewood against the Ranger’s Lo-A affiliate.

The Physical Profile:

Baseball Reference has Severino listed at 6′ 1″ and 153lbs, additionally he turned 21 this past September.  The height is a small knock against him, in that taller pitchers generate more downward plane on the ball and consequently can be less homer prone.  Severino does not hurt or help this angle in his delivery.  This is not the end all be all and this part of the height bias can be a bit overrated.

As for the frame, Severino is built rail thin, the shoulders and hips are not very wide.  Muscle wise the bottom half is rather filled out which should help him to maintain velocity and strength, but it does limit the amount of projection left in the body.  The top half could fill out some but there is not a lot of room to add without making it more stiff on top.

Overall the frame has scouts worried that he isn’t going to hold up to starter’s workload long term.  His career high in innings was the 103.2 that he threw in 2013 and part of that was spent in the bullpen.  The history of slight starters holding up in major league rotations is limited so for Severino to stick there would be a break in the trend.

Summary:

The name that keeps coming up with Severino is former Phillies prospect Julio Rodriguez.   They are two different players, Rodriguez was more physical 6′ 4″ 195, Severino has a grade better fastball, and Severino’s control is a lot better than Rodriguez.  Take the opportunity and clear that comp away, as well as any other preconceived notions you had of Severino and put it all into context and determine what you think the overall profile looks like.  I will hold off on my full judgement until my Top 30 comes out.

About Matt Winkelman

Matt is originally from Mt. Holly, NJ, but after a 4 year side track to Cleveland for college he now resides in Madison, WI. His work has previously appeared on Phuture Phillies and The Good Phight. You can read his work at Phillies Minor Thoughts

18 thoughts on “Breaking Down Severino Gonzalez

  1. I don’t know that there’s really any point in breaking out starting vs. relieving when you’re talking about 23 IP. There’s just no significance to those numbers. You’re talking about a difference of two or three walks that make the difference there. I know you acknowledge that the sample is small, but it’s best in this case to leave it at since there’s not enough data to possibly identify something as a trend.

  2. Sev is an interesting case. He pitched terrific last year and was out of this world the previous year pitching out of the country. However, its obvious that the Phils were totally caught off guard with his success despite his off shore success previously. I’m not sure if that says more about him or the Phils’ ability to judge talent. The real test for Sev will be this year in AA. The hitters there are much better and make the pitchers throw strikes. That has caused the downfall of many borderline pitchers. Let’s hope

      1. Seriously? He added 10 mph??? That seems a bit unheard of.

        A RHP that relies mainly on great control and not a lot of movement sounds like a guy that will get pummeled against advanced hitters. Hopefully he really improves his secondary offerings to make up for that pedestrian fastball.

  3. I realize they are totally different but I can’t help but think of Tyler Cloyd who I was really excited about a few years ago. Pitchers who rely on pinpoint control can’t make a mistake in the big leagues. I hope this kid is the real thing but have to see him continue to impress this year at Reading. It would be great to see him develop further – this organization could use a pleasant surprise.

    1. I thought about a Cloyd comp too but the gap in velocity was just too much for me to make it given that Cloyd topped out at 85/86 and you simply cant do that and be a RHP in the majors. Even as a LHP, that’s very marginal/rare to succeed.

  4. I think the JRod comparison, which I made the other day, was more a commentary on the folly of placing too much emphasis on gaudy statistics at the lower levels of the minors, than it was an explicit comparison of their skills and repertoire. I usually try to stay away from Prospect X reminds me of Prospect Y comparisons because, well, every prospect is different. But it seems like certain *conversations* happen on this board over and over again, with only the names changing, and that is what I think I was remarking on when I said he looked like the next JRod. Case in point, see the comments on this post about JRod from 2011–you could swap out his name for Gonzalez’s (in the comments, I mean) and basically it would be the exact same argument we are having now.

    https://phuturephillies.com/2011/12/18/what-to-expect-in-2012-julio-rodriguez/

    (Not naming any names, but one of us said that the optimist in him saw JRod as a future ace and started a discussion in which he was favorably compared to Greg Maddux and Mike Mussina!)

    So anyway, all I’m saying is: deep breaths, people.

    1. Off-target a bit, but looking through the 2011 comments and this stuck out:
      Boy were we all wrong about the Doc just two year ago! Oh well.
      ——————————————————————————————————————

      Catch 22 says:
      December 20, 2011 at 5:43 PM
      Just you watch – Doc will pitch for the Phillies until he’s 40 and, get this, he’s still going to be really good as he gets to that point. He’s a unique player with a unique skill set (gigantic, hard-throwing, control pitcher) and a unique devotion to conditioning. Just amazing.

      anon1 says:
      December 20, 2011 at 7:37 PM
      And also right there with Doc at 40, will be his sidekick, stuck at his hip, 34-year old Kyle Kendrick.

      Phillies_Aces35 says:
      December 20, 2011 at 9:16 PM
      Yeah, I don’t see him going anywhere. He’s got the type of arsenal that doesn’t fade away. Just a matter of when all the innings he’s thrown are going to catch up to him.

      derekcarstairs says:
      December 21, 2011 at 12:01 AM
      Good point, Catch.
      The Phils should ride Doc until, inevitably, he hits the wall. I think that after the 2014 season he will still be very good and entitled to a two-year deal with a vesting option for a third year that will keep him with the Phils until age 40.
      ———————————————————————————————————

      1. Yeah, that’s sobering in retrospect, but I don’t think anyone at the time would have thought those comments were unreasonable. That’s more a testament to our overestimating any player’s chances to thwart mortality past his mid-30s. Overrating JRod was … well, um, errrr, I’m trying to be kind here … a foreseeable error.

  5. I certainly do not expect Severino to be anything more than a back of the rotation piece. But I could see him being a cheap option in that role for 5 years. AA will be a good test.

    Of course I said the same of one of my favorite prospects in Austin Hyatt. He was too old for sure but was excellent at AA in 2011 where I figured he’d fall apart. I had him as a possible MLB callup midseason for 2012. Oops. He was bad in 2012 and out of baseball. Not sure what caused the rapid failure but I usually think hitters are similar in AA and AAA.

  6. I know it’s difficult to tell from the front, but he looks like he doesn’t get much extension from his lower half and he breaks off his pitches a bit early, finishing as he falls off toward the glove side. I know the Phillies are awful at coaching pitchers in the minors, but from just a cursory glance, it appears these are two areas that could easily be improved upon.

    1. ive said this before. Matt mentioned above that his lower half seems to be filled in already, and I will agree with that with the caveat that we don’t know if the size is correlating to strength in the weightroom. However, in this particular case its not about the strength he has in his legs, its about the fact that he isn’t using it to its full potential. The quadriceps muscle group is the strongest part of the human body, it generates power across 3 different segments. To short change yourself of that power will generate disappointing results. Watch the video above and concentrate solely on his back leg and foot. Watch the bend in his leg, the extension through the motion and the push off the rubber. It isn’t using the full potential of the muscle. By starting with more bend in the legs, he could engage a greater amount of the muscle. By developing the muscles using plyometric exercises instead of just weights, he would be concentrating less on the muscle mass and more on the explosion he gets, which if anyone knows their high school physics, is where the velocity of the ball will come from. After watching that, I want you to go google a video of Tim Lincecum from his first few years in the league. Now im not trying to make a comparison between the two because obviously they are in a different class all together, but just watch the video of ole long hair timmy ( his motion has slowed with the hair cut and injuries) but concentrate again on just his back leg and the push he generates off the rubber. Im sure there are other examples out there, but that was the first one that came to my head. For such a small pitcher, his power came from the explosion he got. Not only was the pitch faster, but the quick explosion gives the batter an optical illusion that he jumps closer the plate. The importance of this obviously changes with different body types. Taller pitchers can create a greater motional force through their delivery due to their increased length and therefore can afford to use a quiet compact motion. Smaller pitchers need to make up for this deficit by finding power in other areas of their body. As im typing this I can think of two other major league examples that show smaller guys with great leg explosion and they are old school billy wagner, and craig kimbrel. If you get the chance, just watch their back leg and the power it generates in their delivery.

      1. The problem of course is that messing with the delivery could change the command profile or a host of other inconsistencies.

        In my mind things like delivery changes are fundamental changes, if it happens we can reexamine the ceiling and profile.

      2. I’m not even going to touch this but there are a ton of misconceptions in what you wrote. Velocity is not gained from pushing off with your back foot . . . ahh too much to type. I’m a strength and conditioning coach who specializes in working with pitchers (HS, College and a few professional players). You aren’t 100% incorrect but again just a lot of misconceptions, a lot of old school thinking. When I get a min i’ll explain more.

        1. I’d love to hear it. I dont pretend to be a coach or an expert on pitching mechanics. Im a doctor so i tend to approach it from a medical and biomechanical aspect.

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