Down years happen in baseball. As a player, you just have to hope that they don’t occur in a big year like your free agent year or your draft year. Unfortunately for Tomas Michelson, a senior right-hander out of Illinois-Chicago, that is precisely what occurred. The good news for him, though, is that the Rays liked his overall body of work in college enough to take him in the 29th round nonetheless.
In his junior season at UIC in 2013, lean 6’4″, 185 right-hander Tomas Michelson had himself quite a season. He went 6-6 with a 3.08 ERA in 15 starts and 102.1 innings pitched–just under seven innings per start. The reason he worked so deep into games was his incredible ability to force groundballs. Michelson did not strike out many batters, just 5.7 per 9 innings, but he forced a multiplicity of groundballs and allowed only 2.3 walks and 0.2 home runs per 9 innings. With a sinker touching 93 MPH, a slider that showed sharp downward break, and a changeup that was quickly becoming a dependable third pitch, Michelson entered his senior year with a big expectations. With a strong season, he had a chance to be selected in the top 10 rounds of the draft thanks to his combination of stuff and the fact that he would not take much money to sign. Then the year started, and his results were inconsistent.
In 2014, Michelson slipped to a 6-5 record with a 4.82 ERA in 14 starts and 93.1 innings pitched. His strikeout to walk ratio was still strong at 61-20, but he allowed harder and was unable to generate the same type of results. That being said, Michelson’s struggles could have been because his style of pitching is more conducive to pro ball than to its collegiate equivalent. The defense behind him was unable to convert his groundballs into outs, and that will be different moving forward. Michelson would have loved to end his UIC career with a bang, but he is the same exact pitcher who was interesting entering the season. Tomas Michelson will enter pro ball with something to prove, but he has the ability to be quite a bit more than your average senior sign.