Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2010 Top Prospect List: #23 Logan Ondrusek, rhp

Logan Ondrusek
Height 6-7, Weight 205, B/T: R/R, DOB: 2/13/1985
2009 Redlegs Baseball Prospect Ranking: Not Ranked

Logan Ondrusek fits a somewhat unexpected pitching profile, as in spite of his imposing height he's not a true power pitcher. Ondrusek is more of a high contact, heavy groundball pitcher. Generally speaking, there are three aspects of pitching within a pitcher's control: Walks, Strikeouts, and Groundballs. In order to maintain a consistently high level of performance at the major league level, pitchers generally need to perform at least two out of the three components of pitching rather well. Ondrusek has heavy groundball tendencies, which when coupled with marginal skill in the other two components could be enough to enable him to pitch a season or two in the majors. However, for him to be a true impact talent, he'll have to improve either or both of his strikeout or walk rate.

Draft Position and Stature

The Reds selected Ondrusek with the 392nd overall pick in the 13th round of the 2005 draft. He was drafted out of McLennan Community College, which has produced such big league luminaries as Pat Listach and Jay Buhner. Ondrusek is one of the taller pitchers in the professional game, but he's also very thin. He has a lanky body type that could allow for additional velocity if he were to add more muscle as he continues to fill out. The possibility for additional strength and velocity means that he has additional physical projection, which gives him a higher prospect ceiling.

Professional Career

Despite his massive height, Ondrusek somehow managed to fly under the radar throughout his professional career, but that all changed in 2009, as he forced his way into the collective baseball consciousness with his stellar performance.

Ondrusek started out the 2009 season in high-A Sarasota. In his 18.2 innings, he posted a 0.96 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 3.4 BB/9, and 5.8 K/9. His ERA was impressive, but was aided somewhat by a very low BABIP of .147. His FIP was much higher than his ERA, but still respectable at 3.36. Overall, his K/BB ratio was 1.71, which is solid, but nothing to really write home about. Still, his ground ball rate was robust, racking up 3.3 ground outs for every fly out, which helped earn him a promotion to double-A.

Upon his arrival, Ondrusek quickly picked up right where he left off. For Chattanooga, he posted a 1.65 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 3.3 BB/9, and 6.6 K/9. Once again, the to his success was keeping the ball on the ground, posting a 1.50 GB/FB ratio. He also benefited from some hit luck, as evidenced by his .236 BABIP, but his FIP was still very impressive at 2.83. In addition, he improved his K/BB ratio on up to 2.00. Even though it was only 32.2 innings, the Reds had seen enough to promote him on up to his third stop of 2009.

For triple-A Louisville, Ondrusek continued right on rolling. He worked in 20.2 innings, and again breaking the 2.00 ERA barrier with a mark of 1.74. His WHIP was a stellar 0.87, which was aided by a miniscule walk rate of 0.9 BB/9. His K/9 wasn't impressive at 4.8, but his K/BB ratio of 5.50 certainly was. Once again, he forced the opposition to pound the ball into the ground, as reflected in his 1.78 GB/FB ratio.

Perhaps the Reds hadn't seen quite enough of Ondrusek in 2009, so they sent him to the Arizona Fall League where he suffered through his worst performance of the year. If the Reds were pushing him until he struggled, then they certainly succeeded. Ondrusek performed poorly in the AFL, posting a 13.50 ERA in 10.0 innings with a 1.44 GB/FB mark and an 8/2 K/BB ratio. Overall, not bad numbers, but he was hit hard to the tune of 22 hits and a .415 batting average against. The AFL is typically a hitters league and Ondrusek had already spent time at three levels in 2009, so his struggles certainly aren't unexpected.

As a general rule, pitchers need to strike out at least 5.0 hitters per nine innings in order to maintain a consistent level of success at the MLB level. A few heavy groundballers like Carlos Silva, Joel Piniero, and even Kirk Saarloos have managed to find a season or two of success before the high contact rate caught up with them. In 2009, Piniero struck out 4.4 hitters per 9 innings and got groundballs at a 1.60 GB/FB rate, which enabled him to post a 3.49 ERA. He's a free agent now, but he strikes me as a very unwise long-term investment, as he likely will not be able to sustain his success going forward.

Obviously, this could have implications for Ondrusek, as his strikeout rate is around 5.5, but could fall even further against more advanced major league hitting. It something that bears watching as he continues to develop, but at the very least he could be aided by the Reds renewed emphasis on infield defense. If Ondrusek arrives at the MLB level soon, Scott Rolen and Paul Janish may prove to be his new best friends.

Pitching Mechanics and Repertoire

Ondrusek's pitching is defined by his height, as it enables him to throw on a downward plane and rack up significant groundballs. For taller pitchers, maintaining consistent mechanics can be problematic, as they have longer levers. It can take longer to get those levers started and be more difficult to keep them all in sync.

Ondrusek features a four-seam fastball that sits around 91-92 mph and touches 94. He also utilizes an 81-82 mph changeup with a bit of sink. In addition, Ondrusek throws a slider and a cutter, though the differential in velocity between the two pitches isn't significant (both are in the 87-91 range) and it may simply be slightly different variations on the same pitch. After all, the grip and the wrist action of the two pitches are very similar, so it could be a matter of mere degrees.

Here is a very good look at Ondrusek in action during the Arizona Fall League courtesy of David Pratt, who has provided a tremendous amount of quality video on AFL prospects over on Vimeo.com:

Logan Ondrusek - Arizona Fall League - 2009 from David Pratt on Vimeo.

As you can see, Ondrusek starts his delivery with a step towards first base with his left foot, then rotating his right foot down on to the rubber. He brings his left knee up a bit past parallel with the ground, but doesn't incorporate much hip rotation and coil to create and store energy. In addition, whatever energy Ondrusek could generate from his leg kick seems to be lost by his limited lower body action. After breaking his hands, Ondrusek moves into a slight crouch and seems to fall off the rubber rather than really drive off with a good push. In some respects, his lower body action resembles that of Sam LeCure. As a result of his limited lower body drive towards the plate, Ondrusek seems to simply "unpack" his leg kick without generating any energy for his delivery. He utilizes a long stride towards the plate, but it's more the result of his height than an over-stride.

As a result of his limited leg drive, Ondrusek must generate most of his velocity with his arm, which can lead to increased stress and injury risk. Incorporating the lower body in the throwing motion is the best way to limit stress on the arm. Fortunately for Ondrusek, his height and longer arms may enable him to generate velocity easier than a shorter pitcher.

Ondrusek takes maximum advantage of his height by using essentially an over the top arm slot, which enables him to throw on a downward plane. Ondrusek also has another advantage over shorter pitchers, as his longer arms enables him to release the pitch closer to homeplate than shorter pitchers. The closer you can release the ball towards homeplate, the shorter the distance the ball has to travel.

After he releases the ball, Ondrusek finishes low and out over his lower body. He has a slight tendency to fall off to the first base side, but it's not significant and shouldn't be a hindrance to his ability to field his position.

Ondrusek doesn't have classic pitching mechanics, but his height may help offset any problems potentially generated by his delivery. He may not get significant push off the rubber, but his height could enable him to create additional momentum simply from falling off the mound. As a taller pitcher, he has a bit farther to fall, which should work to his advantage.


Ondrusek is an intriguing pitching prospect, but, at this point, one that may struggle to maintain the level of performance that landed him on the baseball radar. He had a breakout year in 2009, but real questions remain as to whether his performance was a sustainable level of performance for Ondrusek, especially in light of his high contact rate and less than inspiring walk rate. The ability to miss bats gives pitchers a more controllable level of performance and more consistency in production. Allowing hitters to consistently put the ball in play reduces a pitcher's control over the outcome. Ondrusek would benefit from improving his ability to avoid contact, which could come about as he continues to fill out his frame.

Ondrusek's height potentially gives him advantages over shorter pitchers, but can also create additional problems. In 2009, he seems to have tapped into the former and mastered the latter. Even so, to be able to maintain consistent success against advanced competition, Ondrusek will likely have to increase his strikeout rate. Even if he manages to do so, his massive groundball tendencies will continue to be his defining characteristic, which when combined with the additional projection created by his physical frame is enough to land him at #23 on the list.


  1. I am Will

    Well done as always Lark, great breakdown.

  2. his mechanichs really interest me, how hard does he throw lark? It seems to me if he worked with a good pitching coach about storing more energy from his body he could increase his velocity quite a bit. Especially if he adds some weight

  3. I dont belive you mention anything about his stuff? whats he throw? and how hard?

  4. Will,

    Thanks for the kind words.


  5. Smitty,

    Ondrusek's fastball sits in the 90-92 mph range and touches 94 at times.

    I'm a big believer in utilizing the lower body in the pitching motion, as throwing with the entire body should relieve stress on the arm. I do think he could do a better job of creating rotational energy and unleashing it with his leg kick. Even so, I do wonder if his height makes all these concerns largely moot, as his taller frame and longer arms allows him to generate additional velocity.

    It'll be interesting to see what Ondrusek does in 2010. I really would like to see him miss more bats, as I'm just not sure consistent success can be achieved without the ability to miss bats.

    Thanks for the comment.


  6. Anon,

    You're right, I forgot to mention his repertoire. I'll update the write up, but he's got a four-seam fastball that sits 90-92 and touches 94, a change-up that sits around 80-81 mph, a cutter that sits around 90 mph, and a slider in the 87-88 mph range.

    The differential in the velocity of his slider and cutter isn't significant, so it could be simply different versions of the same pitch. After all, there isn't a significant difference between the grip and wrist action of the two pitches.

    Thanks for the comment.


  7. whats up lark? its been a week.

  8. Well, I already had a new one up before you posted this comment. But, the slower rate of posts are driven by a lack of time and a longer research period. I don't have as much time as I did this time last year. In addition, the 8 write-ups I've done so far have all been first time write-ups.

    Guys like Tuttle, Joseph, Fellhauer, and Silva were drafted last year. Guys like Rojas, Klinker, and Ondrusek came largely out of nowhere. So, it's taken more and more research to get a good feel for their abilities.

    So, there you have it.

  9. I am Will,

    Lark, it seems I have found further information that you may have not been aware of on Ondrusek. Apparently he can actually get it up to 97 on the gun which I have heard from 2 different sources, (both posters on forums but "posters in the know" allegedly) one of which does admit he throws it that high but a bit flat.

    Also i'm getting the argument that although he is a pitch to contact type his cutter may be a reason for optimism. Most who throw a quality cutter in the pros (Rivera, Burton etc.) tend to get above average results with it so that may well be an equalizer for him. He just started throwing this past season apparently which may explain his rise.

    What do you think? BTW both of our favorites; Larkin should have gotten in and so should the Larkin of 2B Alomar. Those decrepid HOF's/Idiotic writers need to get with it!

  10. Will,

    Thanks for relaying the info. I wouldn't be surprised if he can touch 97 from time to time. Even so, I really don't think he sits much higher than 91/92. I've seen some pitchfx data on Ondrusek and the highest velocity he reached was 94.9.

    Even so, I tend to take radar gun readings with a bit of a grain of salt. There can be some fluctuation from gun to gun, so I tend to focus a bit more on the velocity range than a specific number. Even if Logan can hit 97, I'm not sure it's an effective velocity for him.

    I know he throws a cutter/slider, but I'm not sure if he started relying on it more heavily in 2009. If so, it could help explain his better performance level last year. Still, I'd like to see a few more swings-and-misses. Contact is rarely a friend of the pitcher.

    As for Mariano, he's not a "pitch to contact" type, so he'd be something of a poor comparison in this case. He piles up strikeouts at an 8.31 K/9 rate. Still, the splintered bats on Mariano's wood pile clearly attest to his ability to induce poor contact, which can only help.

    At this point, I'm not sure what to make of Burton, but he also racks up strikeouts at a good clip. His trouble seems to stem more from his walk rate than the type of contact.

    I'm sure there is a good comp or two out there for Ondrusek, but I can't really think of a high contact, low strikeout relief pitcher who has sustainable success at the MLB level. Of course, sustainable success is something of a rarity for relievers anyway. Even so, I'd have to imagine a high contact rate doesn't help.

    As for Larkin, I wish I could say I'm amazed he didn't get in, but I'm not. He's clearly deserving. In fact, if he DOESN'T get in, then they may as well not even have a Hall of Fame. He was truly that good. Still, I'm actually rather encouraged that he got such a high percentage on the first ballot. Obviously, some writers are aware of just how good he really was. In addition, some of the ESPN guys have written things heavily in his favor, which can only help sway public opinion.

    At this point, his election seems like an inevitability, even if it takes a few more years. Personally, I'd have a hard time listing 5 shortstops in the history of the game who were better than he was. And, I don't think anyone can name 10 shortstops who were better.

    He belongs.

    Anyway, thanks for the comment and the info.


  11. I am Will,

    Thanks for addressing that Lark. I guess I'd say I fall somewhere between the 2 camps here on Ondrusek. I'm not so sure he can get 97 and even if he can he's not likely to work at it anyway so I don't know it's much of a big deal. But I do think the Cutter issue I fall more on the other side of it a bit. Sure Rivera and even Burton get a goodly amount of K's when they are on their game. But they also seem to produce alot of poorly hit balls as well or if you prefer they don't get hit with authority as often as others seemingly do. I could be wrong about that but I seem to both remember seeing it and hearing it and it has some logic too it with the type of pitch it is and the respective quality of those 2 particular cutters. That said I can see your point as Burton when not on is a mess as we know and he has the ability to K guys with greater regularity to save himself some grief.

    I agree on Larkin there are not 10 better SS's in the history of the game Ozzie SMith included. I just wish these so called experts who vote would learn how to view the game in the right way. But we can't even get the fans themselves to do it, not to mention the players and coaches just look at the All-Star voting. Anyway yeah I was also encouraged by his vote total, guys who have little chance to ever get in rarely total more than 20-25% of the vote the 1st year. I think he gets in as the class of '12. Blyleven and Alomar being the class of '11. Maybe I'll get a chance to go up to the ceremonies that year which I wouldn't do for many others.

  12. Will,

    You may be right, we shall see. Clearly, we are looking at two of the main determinants of pitching success. Strikeouts limit contact, which results in fewer hits. You can't get a hit if you can't put the ball in play. Ideally, the cutter reduces the quality of the contact that the hitter can make.

    So, if you can induce more poor contact by consistently running the ball up the handle of the bat, then it could lead to better results even despite a lower strikeout rate. If that is what's happening, then maybe his success is sustainable. Still, I have my doubts and would like to see less contact from Logan.

    As for the Hall, I agree. I'd take Larkin over Ozzie every day of the week. I suppose I understand Roberto getting more support than Larkin in their first year of eligibility. Alomar was highly productive and durable. The only thing Larkin couldn't do on a baseball field was stay healthy. Even so, I'm now fairly optimistic that he'll get in at some point. At least, we can hope.

    Thanks for the comment. I hope you're right on Logan.