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Chris Scholl Baffles Texas League: Top Prospect Performances of 2011

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6) Chris Scholl, 10/27/1987 -- rhrp/rhsp, AA

4 wins, 3 losses. 93.3 IP, 2.12 ERA, 63 hits, 71 K/23 BB. 26 runs saved, 3.6 WAR

As with Hellweg and Schugel, Chris Scholl is a 2011 top performer who began the year as a marginal bullpen arm, but worked his way into rotation anchor status by season's end. Even when turning over line-ups multiple times, he baffled the opposition with guile and consistent execution of his three-pitch arsenal, and capped the year with eight dominant, scoreless innings in the Texas League playoffs.

The Angels are always a little more ready to roll the dice with short righties than most clubs, and they scooped up the 5'11", 190 right-handed reliever out of Green River Community College in the 8th round of the 2008 draft. They ignored the lack of projection, and instead focused on his arm strength, athleticism, and ability to spin the curve ball.

On the surface, Scholl has been a remarkably consistent performer throughout his minor league career with the Angels, aggregating a 2.87 ERA across four seasons of work. Those consistent year-end ERA's mask his tendency to turn in some so-so early months, before coming on especially strong down the stretch of the season, when he becomes virtually unhittable. The trend held true in 2011, when, even after moving the to the rotation, Scholl held hitters to .133 batting average against (BAA) in August. Over the whole season, he yielded only a .196 BAA.

While no fireballer, Scholl isn't exactly a junk guy either, leaning heavily on his fastball. The pitch sits at 90-91, with a few 92's mixed in. As a starter, he was prone to losing velocity late in games, dropping to 88 or so by the 5th inning. He does a good job moving the FB around to all four quadrants of the zone, and induces more swing and miss up in the zone than you'd think a 90 mph heater could draw. To my eyes, the fastball looks a little flat, but I must be missing something, because the opposition has so rarely ever squared the pitch up: he yielded just seven homeruns this year. In fact, I'm mystified as to why hitters had such a hard time when he left the fastball over the plate: there must be some combination of deception in his delivery and late life that gives hitters fits, because they tend to pop the pitch up or foul it away so often.

His curveball has consistent 12 to 6 shape and he throws it with great deception. Hitters have a tough time identifying the pitch early enough to make good contact, and it's equally effective against both lefties and righties. A lot of scouts rate his spit-change as the better pitch right now, but every time I've seen him, the curve has been both consistently effective and his most frequent go-to out pitch.

You can see him throw his split finger fastball with the first warm-up pitch in the video below. It lacks the sharp diving action of a true splitter, but has fade and some lateral movement away from lefties, looking more like a good change-up than anything else.

Right now I'm optimistic about Scholl, despite the lack of knock-out stuff. He's gotten bashed around a bit in the high octane Arizona Fall League, coughing up four homeruns after yielding just seven over the course of the entire 2011 season, and he's been a little more hittable with a .280 BAA against. Nevertheless, his K/BB ratios have remained consistent, and the AFL sample size is still small. Besides, he's never pitched so many innings so quickly as he has in 2011, so must be gassed. I think he holds up well for the Bees next year, despite a gratuitous jump in HR rate, and he eventually sees some time in the majors as a long-relief/swing man type. He has back-of-the-rotation ceiling (and how could you not root for a guy like this?), but I think his value may be highest in giving hitters a different look in long relief.