One subset of pitchers that can be so valuable for teams is power lefties. With so many left-handers being soft-tossers, if you can find a player who throws harder, it can be extremely difficult for opposing teams to deal with. In addition, if you see someone with the chance to become that type of pitcher, it may be worth taking a little more of a risk to receive that opportunity. Ryan Pennell had a trying time in his four years at Elon University, but after seeing how good he looked as a senior, the Rays decided to give him a chance.
After three seasons as an inconsistent reliever in the Elon bullpen, Ryan Pennell finally came through in his senior year. A 6’4″, 225 left-hander, Pennell went 1-3 with a 3.52 ERA, a 32-19 strikeout to walk ratio, and 12 saves in 21 appearances and 30.2 innings pitched. The obvious concern in his control–he walked 5.6 batters per 9 inning–but he is a big lefty with the stuff to match. His fastball reaches the low-90’s with good late run and sink, and he also gets good depth and occasional sharp break on his curveball. Pennell is a pitcher whose command is better than his control at this point as he does a solid job keeping the ball down, but does not always make his offerings in that area look like strikes. However, the Rays see a lefty with a chance to force groundballs and miss a few bats, and that pitcher has a chance at a solid future.
As a senior sign, Ryan Pennell will not get a large signing bonus and will enter pro ball needing to prove himself at every level. However, it has to be a confidence boost for him that the Rays were sufficiently impressed to draft him, and we will have to see how he does.