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What’s He Up To? Thomas Hatch Edition

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With the Cowboy Baseball atop the minds of many OSU fans after last weekend’s improbable title run, I thought it’d be interesting to check in on some former Pokes who are chasing their dreams in professional baseball. This week, let’s take a look at pitcher Thomas Hatch.

Listed as the 209th-ranked prospect out of high school according to Perfect Game, Thomas Hatch blossomed into a vital component in the Oklahoma State Cowboy rotation. Following an elbow injury that sidelined him for the 2015 season, the Cowboy coaching squad elected to change his arm slot to more a of three-quarters slot delivery.

The tweak in his delivery not only increased the velocity on Hatch’s fastball, but also gave his new slider and fastball increased sink and movement.“His stuff went from very good to nasty. “The ball darts down and away on a lefty, and in on the hands on a righty. He makes the plate pretty active from both sides,” Coach Holliday said.

In 2014, Hatch logged only 46 innings with a 5.28 ERA. After changing his delivery, Hatch logged 130 innings, a 2.14 ERA, and 112 strikeouts. His hard work and practice did not go unnoticed as he was rewarded with an early selection in the MLB Draft.

Hatch ended up being drafted by the eventual World Champion Chicago Cubs in Round 3 of the 2016 MLB Draft with the 104th overall pick. Several projections had him going as high as the second round with Coach Holliday saying, “He was an absolute steal in the third round.” The Cubs allowed Hatch to take the rest of the 2016 campaign due to the additional workload associated with the incredible OSU run to the College World Series.

It’s been a rough transition to professional level baseball for the Cub’s 11th-ranked prospect, who after 10 starts has compiled a 5.19 ERA and a 1.59 WHIP. Not ideal. However, Hatch just notched easily his best professional start for the High-A Myrtle Beach Pelicans with a 13-strikeout game on May 28th.

Jonathon Mayo of MLB Baseball has given the following scout grades to Hatch’s repertoire:

Fastball – 60
Slider – 55
Changeup – 50
Control – 50
Overall – 45

In scouting terms for a pitcher, any grade that is a 60 or higher is considered a “plus” pitch. Grades from 50-60 are considered “average” or “above average” and anything below 50 is considered “below average.” For overall grades, there is a separate scale, and it essentially projects what the player will be at the next level aka The Show. With a 45-overall grade, Thomas is projected to be at best an MLB club’s No. 5 pitcher and at worst a setup relief pitcher.

One sabermetric stat that Thomas Hatch does have going for him thus far in the season is a metric baseball analytics use called FIP. FIP, which stands for Fielding Independent Pitching, is a stat used to measure the efficiency and run allowed average of a pitcher independent of the defense behind him.

This metric is even more important in assessing minor league talent because many players in these lower levels are still developing defensively or even trying out new positions. Thomas Hatch currently has a 3.05 FIP which according to Fangraphs registers as excellent.

Although not a power pitcher, Hatch’s command and polish on his off-speed pitches could allow him to move quick through the Cubs’ rather thin starting pitching system.

“I’m starting to hit my stride as far as confidence,” he told reporters after the 13-strikeout game. “I was coming off a pretty good start in Salem. I’ve been striking out quite a few guys, but I think now coming into about my 10th start, I’m starting to feel more confident with how this life is like. It’s allowing me to execute pitches at a higher level. My fastball command has been good the last two starts, as opposed to being fringy in the other ones before this. And I’ve got my other pitches and it’s allowed me to strike out more hitters.”

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