Tyler Chatwood launches a fastball in his July 4th start at Cedar Rapids.
13) Tyler Chatwood 12/16/89 - RHSP, A-Ball
Ranking in a Nutshell: Headed to the California League at barely twenty years old, Tyler is further along than most of the other high-ceiling arms in the organization. He throws a 92-96 mph fastball with steeper downward plane than you'd expect from his sub-six foot frame, and a plus hook that gives new life to the knee-buckler cliché. While the quality of Chatwood's stuff has more than lived up to his second round pedigree, he has struggled with his control going on two seasons now. When I asked him what he was working on in July, he went straight to the point: "commanding my fastball." With his combination of youth, strong mechanics, good makeup and premium athleticism, I think he's a good bet to overcome that challenge and put it all together in the near future.
Track Record: Chatwood attracted a lot of attention at Redlands East Valley High School as a shortstop and centerfielder, and some teams even considered drafting him as a catcher. While his arm strength made him a candidate for the mound, scouts were skeptical about his height and the fact that he had undergone Tommy John surgery as a sophomore. A strong senior spring convinced the Halos that his future was on the mound, and they selected him with their first pick in the second round of the 2008 draft. His pro debut in rookie ball resulted in 11.4 K's per 9, a promising 2.35 groundout to flyout (GO/AO) ratio, and a jarring 8.5 BB/9, which together give a general idea of what he's about. Those ratios mellowed some in the Midwest League, where he ended his '09 campaign with a 7.7 K/9, a 1.52 GO/AO, and a 4.9 BB/9. His struggle to harness the fastball continued, but he was nothing short of dominant at times (or here for more), showing the ability to both miss bats and get ground balls. He'll join Will Smith and Ryan Chaffee in the Rancho Cucamonga rotation next year.
Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: A very good mid-rotation starter. I have this vision of him becoming a mini-John Lackey due to the lively fastball and a plus breaking ball good enough to work off of exclusively at times; but most publications use a Roy Oswalt comp because of their similar statures and the slower hook. Should Chatwood fail to develop sufficient command to start, his two plus pitches would play very well in the bullpen.
Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)
Chatwood is incredibly athletic -- remember that teams were considering him as an up-the-middle-position player -- and it shows in his well-coordinated delivery. He has an unusually high, over-the-top arm slot, which may explain why he looses his release point so frequently, but the arm extension he's able to achieve is responsible for the significant downward plane that induces all those groundballs.
Alex Eisenburg put together a very good breakdown of Chawood's mechanics for the Hardball Times, with footage, available here. If you'd like to see him buckle another pair of knees with his curveball, check this out (5th or 6th pitch). The latter link also serves as a good medley of his best qualities -- the curveball and an ability to induce weak contact off of his fastball -- and last year's weaknesses -- his control generally and difficulty in finishing off hitters.