Commentary

Grey's Clipboard: Zack Greinke refining his changeup

Updated: March 19, 2009, 3:41 PM ET
By Jason Grey | ESPN.com

Zack Greinke is ranked No. 20 among starting pitchers in average draft position (ADP) in ESPN leagues this year, but has been getting roughed up this spring. Should his owners be worried that he won't be able to repeat his 2008 season?

Not a bit.

Although Greinke has given up 15 runs and 27 hits in 16 innings of work this spring, I'm not concerned.

Zack Greinke
AP Photo/Tony GutierrezZack Greinke is more concerned with building up his repertoire this spring than with piling up great stats.
One of the reasons we constantly preach not to read too much into spring stats is that starting pitchers are often working on new things or tinkering with stuff during camp, to see how well they work in game situations.

For Greinke, these spring games are all about working on his changeup. "That pitch is the only thing I'm thinking about in spring training," he told the Kansas City Star.

Greinke has always had a changeup in his repertoire. However, he has used it a lot less in the past two seasons, maybe throwing one every 20 pitches or so, and it's something he'd like to incorporate in his repertoire a bit more again for left-handed hitters.

I saw a rough outing against Milwaukee, where both Prince Fielder and Rickie Weeks (who have both looked very good this spring), took him deep, and he was throwing a ton of changeups that ranged anywhere from 77-82 mph, many more than he would throw if it was a game during the season.

Both the sink and fade on the change were inconsistent, but he did throw a couple of good ones, including one to Fielder in his second at-bat that came in at 82 mph and just tumbled off the table.

He touched 93 mph multiple times, so the velocity is fine, and he threw some 84-87 mph sliders with good bite, as well as mixing in a few of his patented low-70s slow curves, though he was having trouble throwing the curve for strikes.

Chalk his spring struggles up to throwing an inordinate amount of changeups as he works on the pitch, as well as some minor mechanical issues. He had trouble with fastball location, overthrowing quite a bit. His arm was very early, and he started having to take something off to hit his spots. It's just some minor mechanical issues, and I expect him to be fine when the bell rings, as he still has three more starts to get in sync before the season opener. He's going to be just what you expect this season, if not slightly better.

• I picked a good matchup when I went to see Greinke, as he was facing Yovani Gallardo. In his previous start, also against the Royals, Gallardo was roughed up early, but he bounced back well and made some adjustments in this game.

The 23-year-old righty had his whole four-pitch mix working, topping out at his normal 92 mph with late movement, and spotting his pitches in the corners of the zone. His money pitch has been his 76-78 mph curveball -- a pitch he threw 30 percent of the time last year, according to data from Baseball Info Solutions -- and it was in midseason form; very sharp with good depth. He's also been working on incorporating a changeup a bit more into his repertoire, though not extensively as Greinke, and he managed to pull the string on a couple. His slider wasn't as sharp as I've seen it, with less tilt, but overall he was very impressive.

Gallardo is ranked just above Greinke on our ADP list for starting pitchers, which means a lot of owners are buying him on the come, so he's not going to be cheap. However, he could be worth every penny.

• One other scout I talked with who has been following the Rockies all spring is betting on Manny Corpas eventually to be the closer there.

One reason is that Corpas is having a good spring, as he appears to have found the movement and command again that made him such an effective pitcher a couple of seasons ago.

The other reason is that Huston Street hasn't looked that great in camp. His velocity has been gradually ticking downward since his rookie year in 2005, and he's sitting at 88-89 most of the time this spring, with his slider at 82-83 and a bit flatter than it used to be. It caused this scout to conclude that even if Street wins the job at the end of camp, he may not hang on to it during the season.

"I think the A's used him up, and spit him out," said the scout.

It seems like a clear handcuff situation, if it wasn't already, and Corpas appears to be getting overlooked a bit too much in the endgames of both mixed and NL-only leagues.

• Speaking of the Rockies, Franklin Morales appears to have bounced back enough that he could be a factor in NL formats again this season, especially when he's likely going to be available in the reserve rounds. Part of Morales' blowup last year was due to a back problem that he didn't disclose to the team and tried to pitch through. That took a lot of the life off his pitches.

He's looked more like the Morales of 2007 this spring, even if his velocity has settled into the 90-91 mph range, rather than the 92-94 of the past. His low-70s curve has good depth again (though he needs to get on top of it more consistently), and he's not tipping it anymore with his arm action. He didn't throw many changeups in the outing I saw, but has incorporated into his arsenal what appears to be a new cutter in the 84-86 mph range that shows some promise. He's repeating his delivery much better and is back to his old aggressiveness in attacking hitters. He's the leading candidate to fill out the back of the Colorado rotation, and there could be some quiet value here.

More from Grey

Jason Grey is on location at spring training in Arizona. To see his scouting reports on Chris Young, Jason Schmidt and two top Giants pitching prospects, log in to ESPN Insider. Insider

• A sleeper who should be available in the endgame of AL leagues is A's starter Sean Gallagher. He has a lock on a rotation slot, and his 5.15 ERA last year should come down significantly.

Gallagher threw four scoreless innings against a D-backs split squad this week, throwing 88-91 with good sink and hitting his spots. Though he's capable of dialing it up on occasion, he'll settle into the 90-91 mph level and still be effective given the quality of his secondary stuff. His mid-70s curveball flashes plus, and his mid-80s slider (which is really more of a cut fastball) is a pitch he put back into his repertoire last season with promising results. He also has a changeup, which he predominantly throws to lefties, that is useable in a four-pitch mix.

Gallagher's raw ability was good enough to strike out eight batters per nine innings last season. As he settles more into the big leagues, he should cut down on the walks a bit, especially as his walk rate trended down in each of his past four seasons in the minors, and his delivery is relatively clean.

Gallagher has a chance to be a bit better than most people expect this season.


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

ALSO SEE