Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Top Prospect List: #16 Kyle Lotzkar, RHP

Kyle Lotzkar is one of two promising, very young arms in the Cincinnati farm system, with the other being Josh Ravin. Lotzkar was nabbed with the 53rd overall pick in the supplemental 1st round of the 2007 draft. The Reds received the 53rd overall pick as compensation for losing free agent Scott Schoeneweis. Lotzkar was drafted out of South Delta High School in British Columbia. He's 6'4, tips the scales at 200 lbs, and throws right-handed. Lotzkar is only 18 years old, but managed to have good success at the rookie league level at the age of 17. His height and age means he has room for growth and additional projection.

REPERTOIRE

Lotzkar is right-handed pitcher featuring a fastball that can touch 94 mph and a slurve that he throws around 82 mph. His fastball is fairly straight, but does have a little run and tail to it. In the past, Lotzkar has utilized a changeup, but did not feature it much at the high school level. He'll need to refine his fastball and slurve, but also add another pitch or two if he's going to have success as a starting pitcher.

PROFESSIONAL DEBUT

Lotzkar started off with the Gulf Coast League Reds. In 21.0 innings pitched, he posted a 24/7 K/BB ratio, a 3.86 ERA, and a 1.33 WHIP.

Obviously, those are impressive numbers for anyone and are even more so for a 17 year old. In fact, they earned him a late season promotion to the Billings Mustangs of the Pioneer League.

At Billings, Lotzkar pitched 8.0 innings in which he posted a 1.13 ERA, 12/3 K/BB ratio, and a 0.50 WHIP. Once again, that's an impressive performance for anyone, but especially for someone who had yet to reach his 18th birthday.

PITCHING MECHANICS

In terms of mechanics, Lotzkar has two (potentially) disconcerting elements to his delivery. These two elements of his delivery may both prove to be problematic, but for different reasons.

1) In his delivery, after Lotzkar breaks his hands, he actually raises his "pitching arm side" (PAS) elbow above his shoulder before bringing the ball up into throwing position.

Raising the PAS elbow above the shoulder may increase the risk of a rotator cuff injury. As the shoulders rotate during the throwing motion, the PAS arm has to catch up to the rest of the body to keep the windup in sync, which can increase the strain on the pitching shoulder and rotator cuff.

The move is similar to that of Joel Zumaya, Anthony Reyes, and Aaron Heilman, each of whom raises his PAS elbow above shoulder level.















Chris O'Leary writes more about this specific arm action (which he terms "hyperabduction") and the potential increased injury risk on his website.



2) In addition, Lotzkar has a rather unorthodox follow through. After pushing off the rubber, Lotzkar takes a rather long stride. Most pitchers end up with their PAS leg landing next to their "glove side" (GS) leg on the follow through, but Lotzkar's PAS leg frequently extends well past the GS leg. In fact, after releasing the ball, Lotzkar's momentum actually carries his right leg well past his plant foot, so much so that he essentially walks a step or two off the mound towards home plate after each pitch.

Such an unusual, erratic stride and follow-through puts him in a poor fielding position and might lead to problems with consistency. It's difficult to maintain control of your pitches if you are pitching off an unstable, inconsistent foundation.

You can access the link to Lotzkar's MLB Scouting video here.

FUTURE

Lotzkar had a strong professional debut, in fact, it's difficult to envision a better one. However, it's important to keep in mind that it was only 29.0 innings, which is an undeniably small sample size. In addition, despite his fast start and good upside, the upside is tempered by the inherent uncertainty in young pitchers. Like all young pitchers, Lotzkar needs to polish up his pitches, but he also needs to find an additional secondary pitch. However, the bigger concern may turn out to be his mechanics.

Lotzkar's mechanics aren't clean and he puts quite a bit of effort into his throwing motion, which can be harder on a pitcher's arm. Any increase in stress and strain on a young arm is of concern, so it'll be interesting to see just how durable Lotzkar can be. Pitching mechanics and physiology are unpredictable, so ultimately Lotzkar may end up being very durable over the course of his career, but it does bear watching.

The future is bright, but for now Kyle Lotzkar tops out at #16.

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