Watching the Hudson Valley Renegades face off against the Brooklyn Cyclones from the press box yesterday, I had a great view to scout Renegades starter Matthew Spann and several other players in the game. Right now, we’ll discuss Spann.
Spann is an imposing figure on the mound- or at least he will be. The lefty is 6’7″- but just 185 pounds at this point. He’s lean if not a toothpick and that’s a good thing as he looks to add velocity moving forward. Spann was a 25th round pick by the Rays in the 2010 draft out of Central High School in Tennessee. Spann, now 21, was a big lefty with potential but unimpressive pitches, causing him to drop so far in the draft. In this game, I saw the Spann that made everyone want to pass on him in the draft, but we also saw flashes of the pitcher the Rays hope Spann can someday become.
Spann allowed a solo homer in the second inning in this game and allowed 2 runs in the third inning on a walk and a couple huge errors. But he didn’t allow a single hit after the second inning and got into a groove retiring the last 10 men he faced. Spann became the first Renegades pitcher to go 6 innings all season. He allowed 3 runs, 1 earned, on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking 1.
Spann sits in high-80′s with his fastball at this point, topping out at 90 MPH. Spann doesn’t get great sink on it most of the time, surprising given his height, but his fastball does feature late bite, which led to a lot of weak contact, although too much of it was in the air. He got into trouble early in the game when he left it up in the zone, but was very good when he kept it down. Spann featured some horizontal run towards right-handed batters when he was throwing his fastballl well, but it really flattened out at times, something he has to work on.
Spann’s changeup was an interesting pitch at times as he threw it out of the same arm slot as his fastball with better sink and a couple of times it featured great armside run, befuddling hitters who were looking for Spann’s mostly straight fastball. Spann has good arm action on it but had some trouble making it look like a strike, starting it too low in the zone. Part of that was a couple of times, Spann didn’t slow down his arm action but had a little pause in his delivery that may have tipped batters off that he was throwing an offspeed pitch. Spann shows potential with his changeup, but it’s not a pitch that he can consistently rely on right now.
What may have been the nastiest pitch of the night by any pitcher on either team was a curveball that Spann threw. Coming out of his hand, it looked like a fastball left over the outer part of the plate, and then it disappeared down and away with big break and the hitter missed by two feet on his swing. Unfortunately, Spann threw just a couple curveballs that even remotely resembled his best one. Spann’s curveballl featured 1-to-7 action down and away from right-handed batters but he had tons of trouble making it look like a strike, starting it off the plate and the hitters watch as it ended up considerably down and away. Spann also had the same problem with the hitch in his delivery at times. Spann’s curveball has clear plus potential, but he’s a long way from achieving that.
The wild card fourth pitch for Spann was a pitch that looked exactly like his fastball until it featured devastating cutting action at the last second, leading to a high rate of swings-and-misses. It looked so much like a fastball, I would call it a cutter, but it could very well have been a slider. It was just a couple ticks slower than his fastball coming in at 84-87 MPH. Spann threw it every single time way down in the zone and couldn’t dream of getting it for a called strike, but its contrast with his fastball was pretty dramatic and that fooled hitters a bunch of times.
Right now, Spann lives and dies off the late movement on his fastball, with the remainder of his pitches showing flashes but no consistency. Spann throws from a high three-quarters arm slot and has trouble at times getting the finish on his pitches to keep them down in the zone, but when he does, he can be effective even though his arsenal is a long ways away. If Spann’s four pitch arsenal all comes together, he has number two or number three starter upside. He’s a pitcher to watch as he fills out and hopefully gains velocity in addition to refining his secondary pitches, and we’ll have to see whether he will ever be able to do that in coming seasons. He’s a project, but one worth undertaking as his upside is nothing to scoff at. It was great seeing him succeed on Sunday, but he has the potential to be so much better.