Saturday, April 27, 2013

2013 Top Prospect List: #11 Dan Langfield, rhp

Courtesy: MILB.com

DAN LANGFIELD
DOB: 1/21/1991
HEIGHT: 6-2 WEIGHT: 196 B/T: R/R

If you need yet another example of just how far the Reds organization has come in drafting and developing talent, look no further than Dan Langfield. Like Tony Cingrani, many projected Langfield to be a reliever at the professional level, but the Reds drafted both with the idea that each could end up in the rotation.

This philosophy stands in stark contrast to the bad old Jim Bowden days, when the Reds burned the 14th overall pick of the 2003 draft on Ryan Wagner, a college closer, with the intention of advancing him quickly up the ladder and into the MLB bullpen.

Obviously, the current front office has the advantage in both philosophy (i.e. understanding the value of SP over RP) and execution (i.e. identifying specific players). Cingrani and Langfield are looking like legitimate MLB starting pitcher prospects, while Wagner flamed out before even becoming a competent MLB reliever.


Courtesy: AP/Rogelio V. Solis


DRAFT POSITION, AMATEUR CAREER, AND 2012 SEASON

The Reds selected Langfield with the 109th overall pick in the 3rd round of the 2012 MLB draft out of the University of Memphis. At Memphis, Langfield worked primarily as a starter and blossomed as a junior, posting a 2.71 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 4.5 BB/9, and 10.8 K/9 in 93.2 innings in 15 starts. He also has athletic bloodlines, as his dad was drafted in the 10th round by the Blue Jays in 1980.

In 2012, Langfield got his first taste of pro-ball with the Billings Mustangs of the rookie-level Pioneer League. For the Mustangs, Langfield posted a 2.68 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, with a 54/17 K/BB ratio over 37.0 innings and 15 games, including 5 starts. A robust start to his career, even if he did have an age vs. level advantage.

Pat Kelly, his manager, said the following:
"Dan has done a great job for us this season," Billings Manager Pat Kelly said. "We used him in a tandem role and limited his innings because of how much he threw in college. Dan has four quality pitches and can be overpowering. He flourished in the month of August."



PITCHING MECHANICS

The Reds have already reportedly made refinements to Langfield's mechanics, including reducing the effort in the delivery and reducing the arm recoil, so this will be a more general overview until his mechanics solidify. As Langfield himself stated about his work on his mechanics in Billings:

"I'm really excited," Langfield said. "I've been working hard this season to fix some things. Coach Tony (Fossas) has been helping out a lot, and when (Mark) Riggins came down he gave me a few pointers to work on. Everything is starting to feel a lot better mechanics-wise, and while I'm out on the mound - just being a lot more comfortable. It seems like it's falling into place right now, I just still have to keep working to get better."

Langfield stands with his hands in front of his chest and begins his windup with a small rocker step towards first base, which allows him to rotate his right foot down onto the rubber. He then brings his front leg up into a leg kick, getting good height, up past parallel, and incorporating some body coil. Up to the apex of the leg kick, he has maintained good balance and body control, generating acceptable force with his lower half.

Courtesy: Paul Ruhter, Billings Gazette
At apex, he gathers himself to drive towards the plate. He unpacks his leg kick and drives strongly to the plate. His stride length is acceptable, long enough to allow his hips to clear, though not as aggressive as it might be. While the stride allows for enough time and space to effectively clear the hips, Langfield's hip rotation isn't overly strong. In fact, like Robert Stephenson, the release of Langfield's right hip coming off the rotation seems slightly delayed and, consequently, in comparison, the shoulder rotation seems a tick early. That, coupled with his three-quarter arm slot, gives his delivery a slight rotational look, as the upper body appears to work around the body.

Further, this shoulder rotation pulls his upper body slightly to the first base side when releasing the pitch, resulting in a follow-through that frequently falls off to the first base side. This position can lead to inconsistent command and a reduced ability to field the position.

As mentioned above, the Reds have already worked to refine his mechanics and have reportedly seen his performance improve. One of the issues they addressed was the recoil in the deceleration phase. Generally speaking, the deceleration phase consists of the following:

1. Glove side remains firm out front.
2. The throwing shoulder must be closer to the plate than the glove side shoulder.
3. The arm must pronate and the earlier the better.
4. The pitcher needs to continue rotating around the front hip after release.


As can be seen in the video, Langfield has some recoil to his deceleration phase, as his arm frequently bounces back up after releasing the pitch, rather than finishing down by his front hip. However, the Reds have reportedly eliminated or reduced the recoil, which has led to some immediate performance benefits and should reduce stress on the arm. A proper deceleration is necessary to ensure that (1) a pitch is properly finished and (2) the momentum of the arm is effectively dissipated.

Here's a look at Langfield during his college days, courtesy of capeprospectvids on YouTube:







Overall, Langfield has solid mechanics, though the shoulder-rotation action and arm recoil have contributed to control problems. It'll be interesting to see what type of refinements he's made to his mechanics when he gets underway in 2013. There is/was some effort to his delivery and some recoil in his follow-through, but he may have polished up those components. However, he doesn't utilize his body as much as ideal and has to generate the force with his arm a bit more than is desirable, but those are more about efficiency and injury risk than performance level.

If Langfield can refine his mechanics, then his command may improve and his chances of sticking in the rotation increase.


REPERTOIRE

Langfield features a four-pitch mix. He works with a 93-97 mph fastball, a hard biting slider, a changeup, and curveball. The fastball and the slider, though inconsistent, are plus offerings at times and are the primary weapons in his arsenal. The changeup and curveball both have potential and could become solid offerings, especially since he has the ability to throw them for strikes. His slider has better bite, but he more effectively commands the curveball.

Ultimately, most pitchers choose one type of breaking ball, either the slider or curve, not both. Effectively utilizing both is difficult because of their similarities. The difference between throwing a slider and curve is more a matter of degree than a completely different technique, so attempting to throw both can water down the effectiveness of each.

Most power pitchers rely on a fastball and slider combination, which plays in both the rotation and the bullpen. Obviously, the former will be the primary development path for Langfield, while the latter will be the fallback option.


FINAL THOUGHTS

Langfield was a good value in the 3rd round of the draft. Not only are the Reds to the point that they don't miss on first round picks, but they have also demonstrated the ability to find potential impact talent in the third and later rounds. The organization's ability to find talent is a large part of the reason why they are enjoying consistent, sustainable success at the MLB.

Langfield's combination of solid stuff and solid mechanics are enough to land him at #11 on the list. However, it's so early in his career that he has a long development road ahead of him. I'll need to see more refinement in mechanics and repertoire before he'll move up the list, as he currently seems more "solid-average" than "impact-elite". However, the upside is evident and he has a chance to develop into a valuable prospect.

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