Cinco de Mayo was a varied day for the affiliates, with Buffalo and New Hampshire being washed out, Dunedin being completely shutdown, while Lansing cruised to a pretty easy win behind Justin Maese. Cavan Biggio took a golden sombrero, which one never wants to see, but was at least fitting coming last night. On the other hand, Bo Bichette continued his assault on Midwest League pitching with a double and triple (both hard line drives) as part of a 2/4 evening.
Angel Perdomo had one of his not infrequent wild outings where he struggled to simply throw strikes, lasting just 4 innings while allowing 3 runs (2 earned) on 4 hits with 4 walks and 6 strikeouts. Which actually isn't so bad considering he amost didn't make it out of the 1st, as the bullpen started warming after he walked the bases loaded four batters in and having thrown 25 pitches. But he got out of it, and walked a tightrope for most of the outing (assisted by a couple pickoffs) until being tagged for a two run home run in the 4th inning.
Only 9 of 19 batters put the ball in play, with the vast majority of contact in the air. Perdomo needed 98 pitches to get through the 4 innings, with just 58 strikes, but despite the wildness was able to pile up the strikeouts thanks to timely missed bats (10 whiffs on 38 swings).
Justin Maese turned in one of those outings that was a lot better than a glance at the pitching line indicates. He allowed 2 runs on 3 hits, with 4 walks and 5 strikeouts. Maese induced a lot of weak contact, with just a couple hard hit balls of the 18 put in play, of which 67% were on the ground with a couple popups to boot. His command was not as good the second half of the outing, when he yielded all the walks and lost the strike zone at various times. But he was still broadly effective even at all.
Maese was able to miss some bats with his slider, a total of 10 swinging strikes on 42 swings for a decent 76% contact rate. While he was efficient, the one deficiency was a lack of first pitch strikes, as he fell behind a majority of the opposing hitters, even early when he didn't have lapses in finding the strike zone.
After the Jays game ended last night, I switched over to some PAC-12 college baseball, the opener of a series between Cal and #1 ranked Oregon State featuring a pitching matchup between RHP Jared Horn and LHP Luke Heimlich.
Horn was a highly ranked draft prospect last year, ended up at Cal and has had a decent if uneven freshman season with a 3-4 record, 3.77 ERA but 35 walks against 42 strikeouts in 59.2 innings. I tuned in during the 3rd inning, Horn having already given up 2 runs, and he didn't make it out of the inning as Oregon State batted around to make it 6-0. He made some good pitches, but his fastball command was not consistent. It was his curveball that was the bigger problem, as it hung in the zone and he gave up hard contact and it was wild when he tried to used it as a chase pitch outside the zone. Nonetheless, it will be interesting to follow his progress over the next two years leading up to the 2019 draft.
Heimlich, a junior who is draft eligible next month, was outstanding on the other hand, as he went 8 shutout innings allowing just 7 hits while striking out 12. And at least half the hits were ground balls on the infield or that snuck up the middle, very little solid contact. He's not an overpowering power pitcher, generally working in the low-90s, but was hitting his spots all night and mixed in very good secondaries, piling up swings and misses on both his changeup and slider. Heimlich figures to drafted somewhere in the second half of the top 100 picks, but polished lefties have a way of shooting up draft boards so it wouldn't be surprising to see him go higher. Especially as he continues to have a sub-1.00 ERA pitching on Fridays for the best college team in the country.