Curveball, Split-Change Make 16th Rounder Darren Fischer More Interesting Off the Mound

By Robbie Knopf

A philosophical question: would you rather have an outfield prospect with promise at the plate and great speed or a lefty pitching prospect without an explosive fastball but a pair of secondary pitches with potential? Darren Fischer, the Rays’ 16th round pick as a sophomore out of Central Florida Community College, could be either of those things. However, while Fischer tried to juggle the two divergent pieces of his game, he dropped both and ended up nothing. Instead of looking excelling as a position player or pitcher, he wound up being among the worst position players and worst pitchers on the team performance-wise (if not in terms of prospect-wise). But now that Fischer is heading to pro ball, he will be a full-time pitcher, and the Rays are looking forward to seeing what he can do.

At 6’2″, 185, Fischer has exactly the right body type to impress as both a centerfielder and pitcher–but his draft slot could have been much higher and his development could have been expedited had he chosen one over the other. In any event, Fischer worked in relief for CFCC and showed a fastball in the 88-92 MPH range. His curveball features sharp 1-to-7 action just as it reaches the batter and he finishes off his arsenal with an Alex Cobb-esque split-change that drops off the map as it approaches the hitter when Fischer is at his best. Everything, though, is going to need plenty of work.

Fischer doesn’t get a very good downward plane on his pitches and has been prone to leaving them up in the zone. His fastball is straight and often very hittable. His curveball shows sharp break but not much depth, giving Fischer little margin for error when he misses his spots. And Fischer’s split-change either looks nothing like a strike or doesn’t have the movement he’s hoping for far too often. Despite the fact that he’ll be 21 years old in August, Fischer’s polish is almost negligible and he is going to have a rough time ahead of him making up for the lost time. But with the risk so small down in the 16th round and Fischer’s upside quite considerable if he can put it all together, the Rays selected him and are ready to get to work crafting him into a pitcher who could one day make an impact in the major leagues. The distraction of hitting is gone for Fischer. Now let’s see how good he can be when he’s entirely committed to being a pitcher.