|Courtesy: Mavericks Baseball|
HEIGHT 6-2, WEIGHT 215, B/T: R/R
When you are operating in a free market system (or, the Major League Baseball equivalent), knowledge is power. In order to consistently best your competition, you need the competitive advantage that only information can provide. The better the organization's information, the greater the probability that subsequent decisions will be sound.
The obvious example of gaining a competitive advantage through increased knowledge is statistical analysis, which was used to great effect by the early adopters, who gained a distinct competitive advantage over their less innovative competitors. The information generated by statistical analysis provided new and different insight into the "true" value of players. However, organizations lean heavily on information from other sources as well. A large part of a GM's job is to (1) build an organizational structure that generates valuable information, (2) establish proper distribution channels for that information, and (3) ensure that this information is both available and actionable for the relevant decision-makers.
The Reds, after years of operating with a dismantled and diminished scouting department (which struggled with both quality and volume of information), have become one of the very best organizations at drafting and developing talent. Part of their success comes from building a proper scouting network, which generates more and better information. This network, and the information it gathers, led directly to the decision to draft Nick Travieso.
The Reds selected Travieso out of Archbishop McCarthy High School in Florida with the 14th overall pick in the first round of the 2012 draft.
Travieso was a teammate of Nicholas Arias, who happens to be the son of Tony Arias, the Reds director of Latin America scouting. Travieso was also friends with Tony Fossas, who serves as the pitching coach with the Reds' Billings Mustangs affiliate. As Chris Buckley, senior director of amateur scouting, stated about the selection of Travieso: "Sometimes, you feel you have a little advantage. When you have that information, we were hoping we had some information the other scouts didn't. Travieso is a very impressive young guy. We've been following him for a couple years. He's been in everything. We saw him pitch at the end of the fall on the USA Team." Obviously, the organization had a very good, long look at him.
The Reds drafts in recent years have had a decidedly Floridian-flavor to them, having used first round selections on Yonder Alonso and Yasmani Grandal, both out of the University of Miami, and now Nick Travieso. They also selected Jesse Winker in the supplemental round out of Olympia High School in Florida. The likely reason for these selections is the impressive scouting coverage the organization has in the state, which is the home of Buckley, Arias, and assistant director of Latin America scouting Miguel Machado. Obviously, coverage is only as good as the quality of the information it generates, so time will tell whether the Reds had a better valuation of Travieso than the competition. Still, the recent track record is encouraging and the Reds clearly have high hopes for Travieso. In fact, Buckley tossed out Matt Cain as a comparison for Travieso (though, Travieso himself references Rogers Clemens), so if the Reds' valuation is correct, then it could pay big dividends for the organization.
The Matt Cain comparison is interesting, because while the parallels are obvious (high school righthanders, good fastballs, stocky builds), Cain has always been, at least for me, a pitcher who is somehow greater than the sum of his individual parts. Every time I look at Cain's individual parts, they never seem to add up to his MLB performance level. I can't quite put my finger on what makes him THAT good. Regardless, the comparison is likely used in reference to Cain's overall performance level, not whatever mystical quality enables Cain to be more than the sum of his parts. The comparison also imposes a set of expectations on Travieso, begging the question of whether he has the ability to meet or exceed them.
AMATEUR CAREER AND 2012 SEASON
|Courtesy: Mavericks Baseball|
Travieso signed with the Reds, less than two weeks after being drafted, for $2M, forgoing his commitment to the University of Miami. This enabled him to get in a limited amount of work at the professional level. He tossed 21.0 innings in the rookie Arizona League, which included a 4.71 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, .250 BAA, 0.77 GB/FB ratio, and a 14/3 K/BB ratio. Those 21.0 innings constitute 8 appearances, all of them starts. Obviously, that's far too limited of a sample size to draw any conclusions of value, but at least he got his feet wet at the professional level and will know what to expect heading into the 2013 season.
Travieso stands tall on the rubber, glove high in front of his face, legs shoulder-width apart, at the start of his delivery. He starts the delivery with a small step, rotating the left foot to parallel with the rubber. Once he weight shifts to his left foot, he rotates his right foot down onto the rubber before bringing his leg left up into the leg kick.
He utilizes a good leg kick, bring his knee up past parallel and incorporating body coil to create tension, and potential energy, in his spine. When his leg kick reaches apex, the foot doesn't point down towards the ground, which some believe can increase the rate of fatigue over the course of the game.
From apex, he unpacks his leg kick to begin his drive to the plate. He utilizes a long stride, which permits full and complete hip rotation. He also delays his upper body rotation long enough to create good separation between his hip rotation and shoulder rotation. The differential between the rotation of those two components operates to create substantial force, reducing the need to generate force with the arm. This differential also aids in the efficient transfer of the force generated in the windup to the baseball.
Travieso uses a high three-quarter, rather close to straight over-the-top arm slot. While his elbow does get slightly higher than his shoulder at one point in the delivery, by-and-large his elbow maintains good position relative to his shoulder. He also gets his arm up into proper throwing position in time, maintaining good sync between his lower and upper body.
Overall, Travieso does a nice job in both phases (creating and unleashing force) of the delivery, which explains how he manages to touch the upper 90s with his fastball. There is, however, some effort to his delivery that could increase the stress on his arm. He also might already be maxed out in terms of the force that his delivery can generate and impart to the baseball, which may leave less room for improvement on his current arsenal than would normally be expected. As for his delivery, the one unusual aspect pertains to his stride and the plant foot of his stride.
Travieso's delivery has a cross-fire action. Not that unusual in and of itself, but notable because it is not driven by the typical causes. The usual cause of a cross-fire delivery is a combination of a closed off landing position of the stride and a lower arm slot. Travieso's delivery, however, contains neither. His arm slot is very close to over the top, while his stride foot doesn't land in a closed off position. In Travieso's case, the cross-fire action seems to be caused by the length of his stride.
I'm a big advocate of a long stride, as it ensures strong lower body drive and effective hip rotation. However, there are limits on the length of stride that can be effectively used. Ideally, the stride isn't so long that the pitcher is unable to get out over the stride leg, which appears to be the case with Travieso.
After Travieso strides and delivers the pitch, his momentum doesn't consistently finish out over his stride leg. Instead of getting his upper body out over his long stride, the body frequently comes up short and the extension of the stride leg checks the momentum, causing his body to recoil. After he releases the pitch, Travieso's left knee flexes/shudders slightly, appearing slightly unstable, as it pushes back against the momentum generated by the delivery. The stride is so long that his body can't get out over the knee, which causes the knee to check the momentum. As a result, the momentum of the delivery works around the knee, finishing towards first base and causing his body to fall in that direction on the follow-through.
A pitcher like Tim Lincecum uses a very long stride, but Lincecum is also highly athletic (even having the unusual ability of walking on his hands) and flexible which enables him to finish out over his very long stride. To date, Travieso has been effective with this stride, but it'll be interesting to see if it poses any problem going forward. If it impacts his consistency or durability, then, unless Travieso can find the athleticism to finish out over the stride leg, he may have to shorten up his stride. As it stands, both his body type and athleticism may work against his ability to effectively utilize and maintain his current mechanics. So, that is of slight concern, as shortening the stride could lead to a reduction in the force generated and imparted to the baseball.
Here's a look at Travieso's draft video courtesy of MLB.com:
Here's a good look at Travieso courtesy DiamondScapeBaseball on YouTube:
At this point, it's too early in Travieso's development to draw any real conclusions, especially since any potential red flags are of the correctable variety. Still, all the fundamentals you want to see are present, which is impressive considering how little he experience he has pitching from the windup. At the same time, there is some effort to his delivery and I do wonder if there is actually less projection to his game than we might expect, especially given his body type and already maxed out delivery. There may just not be that much more ceiling left to his projection. While more experience and professional coaching could lead to further refinement and polish, he already has a solid foundation for his mechanics.
Travieso features a 3-pitch mix, headlined by a fastball that sits 92-95 mph and has, on several occasions, touched 99 mph. As Travieso said, "I've hit it a few times, not just once. I've been blessed by God with the ability to throw that hard. I'm usually sitting in the 93-95 mph range." In addition to the good fastball, he throws a two-plane, low 80s slider with good late break that he utilizes effectively down in the zone. He also has a changeup that shows promise, but needs to be more consistently located. Finally, Travieso has experimented with a cutter that may become a more integral part of his arsenal at the professional level.
As it stands, Travieso's power fastball/slider combination would serve him well out of the bullpen, but he'll be developed as a starter and work on any additional offerings needed to be effective in that role.
The Reds selected Nick Travieso higher than he was projected to go in most mock drafts (and, higher than I would have taken him, as there were other pitchers I preferred), another indication that they value him higher than the market. If Travieso pans out, then it becomes increasingly likely that the Reds have successfully built a competitive scouting advantage in Florida.
Travieso is an interesting combination of inexperience and a high current baseline of performance. It's so early in his professional career that it's difficult to say whether his limited pitching workload in high school will be a benefit or a hindrance. It might be the former in that it reduces wear and tear on the arm. It might be the latter if his inexperience drags down his performance level and significantly lengthens his development path.
As it stands, I'm somewhat skeptical about his ceiling due to questions about his body type and potentially maxed out pitching mechanics, but he has a lot of career ahead of him to alleviate those concerns. Of course, if he can't improve or sustain his repertoire as a starter, then a shift to a high-leverage reliever role is a legitimate fallback plan.
For now, Travieso's blend of attributes and risks lands him at #6 on the list. His first full professional season will reveal much more about his likely career trajectory.