Last weekend I saw two of the best low-level pitching prospects in the Cubs organization - Duane Underwood and Jen-Ho Tseng.
It was cold and windy in Chicago, which made for less-than-ideal weather for young pitchers, but I got decent outings from both pitchers. Both pitchers struggled with their breaking balls and command, but that is largely to be expected from Class A pitchers.
Underwood's delivery starts with a high leg kick in which he brings his knee up to his chest before transitioning into the stride. There's a lot of the old "tall and fall" style to his delivery. During the stride Underwood's arms almost get into the dreaded "inverted-W" position, but I don't think his elbow gets above his shoulder at any point. Regardless, the "inverted-W" is scary because it places utmost importance on timing in the delivery, and I saw no timing issues with Underwood's delivery. His arm is in a good position at foot strike, and his shoulders (usually) closed.
The only complaint I'd have with Underwood's delivery, from what I've seen, is that he's usually not very balanced at foot strike. His chest is out more to the first-base side of his knee, and he often falls off towards first as a result, affecting his command.
Underwood's fastball sat around 92mph for most of the game, but had much more zip in the first inning, hitting 94/95 mph once or twice. Unfortunately, I didn't love his fastball, despite the velocity. For me, it was straight - there's good plane on it, but not a whole lot of lateral or vertical movement. It's a pitch that can be squared up hard if not located well.
Easily the most disappointing thing about Underwood's outing was his curveball. It had no bite, and just listlessly rolled into the zone. I only saw one (around 2:00 in the video) that looked sharp.
He only threw a couple of pitches that were for-sure changeups (around 2:37), but I was impressed with them nonetheless. The pitch has nice life, and he commanded it well to the lower, arm-side part of the zone. It has the makings of a very useful pitch down the road.
Underwood didn't have great command that day, but he showed enough in this start that I'm not worried about it yet. He had trouble working on the glove-side (often missing way low and out of the zone), but he was fairly consistent throwing to the arm-side third of the plate.
Out of the windup, Tseng takes a very leisurely approach to pitching, side stepping and holding that position for a full second or two before transitioning to the kick. Out of a normal leg kick, Tseng utilizes a pronounced drop-and-drive style of stride, where his back leg collapses underneath him before powering him forward.
I'm not in love with Tseng's posture at foot strike - his head is looking towards the first base dugout when he releases the ball. It's not pronounced like it is with Yovanni Gallardo, but it's there. Despite this, Tseng is very balanced at release, which helps make up for some of the issues with his upper body.
Tseng sat at 92mph on Sunday, though he did hit 94 a few times (much to the delight of the scout sitting a few rows in front of me). He's got good plane on the fastball, and enough life to help him miss barrels. It's not a great pitch, but as he grows into his body, I think it has a shot to be an above-average to plus offering.
I can't comment on Tseng's curveball (which is supposed to be quite good) because he clear did not have the grip for it on Sunday. He couldn't execute the pitch at all.
I love Jen-Ho Tseng's changeup. An MLB source has told me in the past that Tseng's best pitch, and I wholeheartedly agree. It's filthy, sits around 81-82mph, and drops off the table with really good fade. It's totally unfair to throw this thing to MWL hitters.
The video above only has a few changeups in it (I ran out of battery.....), but he really relied on his changeup late in the game. The fastball-change combo cut through the Wisconsin lineup with ease. Some changeups can be seen around the 2:40 mark in the video above.
Tseng's command really tightened up after the first inning, and he used both sides of the zone effectively. His command of both the fastball and changeup was quite strong for a 19 year old in the MWL. If the umpire had been calling a good zone, or even a consistent zone, I think Tseng would've ended the game with an even more impressive line than he did (5 innings, 7 k, 4 bb, 1 H).
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Filed under: Minor League News