Minor League Review: Facing Scrutiny from the Start, Grayson Garvin Trudges On

By Robbie Knopf

Some of the Rays top prospects come from their picks in the first round and supplemental round of the 2011 MLB Draft. Grayson Garvin is not one of them. A player that I once called a “cupcake pick,” Garvin will continually be compared to the other players from the Rays’ 2011 Draft Class. Garvin is clearly a player with considerably less upside. But don’t discount him yet.

Garvin, now 22, is a big 6’6″, 225 left-hander drafted out of Vanderbilt. He throws three pitches, a fastball that mostly hits the low 90’s with some movement in to right-handed batters, a nice changeup, and a slurvy breaking ball. Garvin was used primarily in relief as a freshman and sophomore at Vandy before moving into the rotation as a junior and pitched extremely well, going 13-2 with a 2.48 ERA, 101 strikeouts, just 25 walks, and 10 homers allowed in 112.2 IP. His FIP was a nice 3.23. Garvin has good control, but something worrying about him is his flyball tendencies because his fastball is more known for its horizontal movement than its sink.

In 2012, Garvin has made his professional debut as a member of the Low-A Bowling Green Hot Rods. He has gone 0-2 with a 3.95 ERA, 25 strikeouts, 10 walks, and not a single homer allowed in 6 starts and 27.1 IP. His flyball tendencies have persisted as he’s gotten more flyballs than groundouts. However, at times he has looked dominant. Take yesterday. Garvin went 5.1 innings, allowing just 1 run while striking 10 and walking just 2. But can Garvin flash dominance like that more often?

The key for Garvin is going to be to get a better downward plane on his fastball. He is 6’6″ and he has to take advantage of that. Garvin’s fastball is already a plus pitch thanks to late movement in to righty batters but if he can get better sink on it, it could help him be more successful overall. He gets good arm action on his changeup, but it has functioned as more of a strikeout pitch that a groundball pitch for him, not a bad thing, but when he misses with it, it doesn’t have the downward movement to avoid being hit in the air. His breaking ball’s movement varies but looks like a tight slider at its best. Garvin ties together his repertoire with a deceptive delivery and good command.

Garvin’s upside right now looks like an innings-eating 4th starter. But he’s an interesting guy for the Rays to tinker with. You turn his fastball into a sinker and clean up his breaking ball and maybe he becomes a much better pitcher than people thought. Garvin is not about to become a top pitching prospect. But he has the ability to zoom through the minors if the Rays need him to and contribute at the big league level. Look for Garvin to get promoted to High-A Charlotte before the season ends. Garvin isn’t going to captivate you like a bunch of the guys drafted in the same round as him. But he could be a guy that in two or three years that makes you ask yourself “Where did this guy come from?”