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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
|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 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.
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.