Spitzbarth Dominates California League, Earns Promotion
Shea Spitzbarth really impressive spring carried over into the first part of the season in Rancho. That led to his promotion to AA yesterday. The right handed closer from Staten Island was as near to untouchable as a closer in the minor leagues can be. He converted all six of his save opportunities for the Quakes, along with striking out 27 California League batters in 15.2 innings. In those innings, Spitzbarth surrendered just 9 hits and walked 5 batters. Only one runner scored versus the red headed, righty reliever while in Rancho Cucamonga. In Visalia (5/12/17), the former Molloy Lion struck out the side on 12 pitches in domineering fashion. The Rawhide batters were behind on his fastball, which in comparison to the curve, must have appeared 10 MPH faster. His promotion to Tulsa became official yesterday, and escalated quickly. He was pressed into action immediately for two shutout innings against Springfield. Spitzbarth has pitched all season in single A, as pitcher who did not belong there. Showing he was ready to move up. Congratulations to Shea Spitzbarth!
A Closer’s Mentality
To finish another team off in the 9th inning takes a certain personality, a mix of intensity, confidence and nasty stuff. Chatting with Shea regarding his curveball, he stated; “I think I’m one of those kids who started throwing it when you weren’t supposed to start in little league.”Full Interview with Spitzbarth Shea has the right DNA needed for the job. His role for the Drillers is undefined. The Dodgers AA affiliate have been a “closer by committee” bullpen this season. Whatever his role, however long his chance to pitch, you can be sure he will be locked in, focused and dropping hammers (curveballs, in baseball jargon) on Texas League batters while he has his occasion.
Stats are listed below for the recent college graduate. This season is young and he has only pitched in 12 games (1 in Tulsa 11 in Rancho) thus far. His career stats include a 2.22 ERA in 77 innings worked. He has 116 strike outs in those innings and has converted a perfect 15 of 15 save opportunities. Spitzbarth has been stingy in his career, allowing opposing hitters a .194 batting average against him. His career WHIP is an astonishingly low 0.91. Keep in mind, he has pitched 13 games (7 in ’15, 6 in ’16) for the Ogden Raptors of the hitter friendly Pioneer League in Rookie ball. These are impressive numbers for a potential future closer. Looking forward to seeing Shea rise through the system and into Los Angeles in the near future!
The Quakes took on the San Jose Giants in a morning weekday game at the Epicenter in Rancho. Starting for the Dodgers single A affiliate is Walker Buehler, the 1st round draft pick in 2015 from Vanderbilt. Buehler has made three starts so far this season, he has pitched 3 innings in each start. Entering todays game he had not allowed an earned run and had recorded 15 K’s in his 9 innings of work. The San Jose Giants will counter with RHP Jake McCasland who is 0-1 with a 4.85 ERA.
Drew Saylor’s club has a five game winning streak entering today and have been perfect so far at home. The Quakes are 8 – 0 (before game) at the Epicenter in Rancho Cucamonga. They look to continue that streak this afternoon against the Giants. Will Smith looks to extend his hot hitting. Will was the California League Player of the Week last week, as he hit safely in all seven games played.
Buehler and the Pen
Walker Buehler started off the morning looking sharp and throwing hard. Jalen Miller hit a lazy grounder to shortstop. Buehler then struck out the next Giants batter, Ryan Howard. Walker finished the inning easily enough by inducing a weak liner to Drew Jackson at short. The hard throwing right hander used only fastballs in the first frame. Walker Buehler struck out the first two batters in the second inning before getting Jose Vizcaino Jr. to ground out softly to Brandon Montgomery at 3B. The second was a breeze for the Quakes righty, he mixed in a couple of breaking balls in the top of the second. Walker worked quickly today, and for the most part, stayed ahead of Giants hitters. To leadoff the third inning, Giants catcher Matt Winn crushed a triple off the wall in right field. The next batter got sawed off on a sharp inside fastball, still the ball grounded past the mound and Buehler gave up his first run of 2017 as Winn came home. Buehler got a pitch in on leadoff hitter Jalen Miller’s hands and he lined softly to 2B to end the 3rd. Ryan Howard led off the 4th with a pop out to 1B. Then an uncharacteristic sequence from Buehler, as he walked the DH Bryan Reynolds on 4 pitches. Then Walker walked LF Gio Brusa. Then, the next batter, Buehler struck out Jonah Arenado the last batter he would face. That would be the day for Walker Buehler as Manager Drew Saylor went to Wes Helsabeck to get out of the situation. Walker Buehler exits with runners at 1st and 2nd and two out in the top of the 4th. He had thrown 53 pitches and 35 strikes.
Wes Helsabeck comes in with 1st and 2nd, two out to face Jose Vizcaino Jr. and he struck him out of three pitches to escape the jam. Vizcaino Jr. had to have been looking for something other than the 0 – 2 fastball. He watched strike three go by and Helsabeck did his job. The entire bullpen did for that matter. Helsabeck threw two more effective innings to pick up the victory today. Alex Hermeling came in and worked a perfect frame and had a strike out along the way. Hermeling with the hold, and passed the ball to Shea Spitzbarth. Shea worked two innings to earn his 5th save of the young season. The Giants did not go without a fight in the 9th. Spitzbarth was tough as nails, and although one run did score, he shut the door with a strikeout of Jalen Miller for a final score of 3 – 2. Quakes win!
Luke Raley got the Quakes offense started early. He led off the 2nd inning with a stand up double. Ibandel Isabel moved Raley over to 3B with a deep fly to center, that was nearly misplayed by Fargas. Zach McKinstry with ground ball for an RBI, scoring Raley to make it 1 – 0 Quakes. Third inning, Drew Jackson draws a lead off walk. Jackson got caught stealing in what appeared to be a busted hit and run. Will Smith eventually struck out swinging. Then with two out D.J.Peters crushed a HR over the left center 432′ wall. It was a bomb on a 1-2 pitch, a fastball. 2 – 1 Quakes. Bottom 6th, Garrett Kennedy with, what turned out to be the game winning RBI, on a double that scored Ibandel Isabel and made the game 3 – 1 at that time. This was a team victory, offense, defensive and pitching. One more at home, then the Quakes go back on the road and head out to Lancaster to face the Jethawks for a three game set.
Fans, do not wait to watch Walker Buehler pitch in Rancho Cucamonga, if you do, you may regret it later. Not attempted to stoke any trade rumors, just trying to warn fans. The warning is this: Watch your stars before they are gone. Again, not a trade rumor, no insider information, just a plea to anyone reading. Go watch Walker Buehler pitch before he is moved up to Tulsa. Fans may have a few more starts with Buehler at the Dodgers Class High A affiliate in Rancho, but after that, he may just move along towards to big leagues. Tonight Walker Buehler threw only three innings, but they were three electrifying innings.
There was much more to the story on this night for the Quakes, but pitching still the prime topic as the bullpen was fantastic. Shea Spitzbarth came in to prolong the Lake Elsinore team’s strike out streak, that Buehler had started, by ringing up the first batter of the top of the fourth. Spitzbarth, already with 2 saves on the year finished the Padres minor league affiliate in order to conclude his work for the night. Dean Kremer came in for the next three innings for the Quakes. Although Kremer did surrender the three runs the Storm scored on the night, his stuff looked great and he did strike out five batters in his three innings of work. Wes Helsabeck came on in relief in the 8th inning. He worked both the 8th and the 9th, the lefty from North Carolina was certainly on his game tonight. He struck out the side in both innings to earn his first save of the season. The Quakes pitching staff ended up striking out 20 Storm batters on Saturday night.
Quakes Offense Keeps Rumbling
Drew Jackson drove in the games first run in the bottom of the second when he singled to left field, Ibandel Isabel scored on the play. Luke Raley was thrown out at third on Jackson’s RBI base knock. The Quakes offense went back on the attack in the next inning as Will Smith smacked a triple off the wall in center field, scoring both DJ Peters and Yusniel Diaz. The Dodgers farm hands were now up 3-0. Next batter, Ibandel Isabel got a chance with Smith at third base and he capitalized, plating the young catching prospect with a fairly deep fly to left field. 4-0 Quakes until the next frame for Rancho, that’s when Drew Jackson came up and had Logan Landon in scoring position. Landon came around to score after Jackson singled sharply to left field. Drew Jackson, one of the newest prospects in the Dodgers organization ended up a great night. 2-4 2RBI’s and 2 clutch singles when his team needed them the most.
Back to Walker
Walker Buehler began the game by surrendering two singles. The first was a squib just past the pitchers mound to the right of Buehler. Omar Estevez, at shortstop, charged hard and attempted the bare-hand, but was unsuccessful. The next batter, Chris Baker singled to left field sharply and the Quakes found themselves in a jam early. Or so it seemed. You could see no emotion from the Quakes right handed pitcher, but you got the feeling he was none too happy. The Vanderbilt alum went to work. He got the next batter for the Storm, Josh Naylor, to fly out to left field. After that, no other pitch by Walker Buehler was put into play. Buehler went on to strike out the next two batters to complete the first inning and to get out of the first inning “situation.”
Walker Buehler did not stop there. He went on to strike out the side in not only the second inning, but also in the 3rd inning. Walker was dominate as he disposed of would-be hitters one by one. He had 8 strike outs, five looking, three swinging. Walker threw 53 total pitches and 37 of those were strikes.
Not sure how accurate the stadium radar gun reading is, but according to that, (besides breaking balls) Walker did not throw a fastball slower than 94 MPH. He was consistently in the 97-98 MPH range. It even registered 99 MPH once.
The Dodgers organization is being very careful with young prospect pitchers such as Mitch White and Walker Buehler. Walker was not allowed to continue his strike out streak in the fourth inning. Quakes Manager Drew Saylor took him out after his 53 pitches.
Here are a few of the top pitching performances in the early spring. I know what you may be thinking, “already? We just started spring, too early to tell because the hitters do not have their timing down yet.” While I totally understand that viewpoint, I am of the opinion that these pitchers came to camp ready to roll and it has translated into quality outings immediately. This is by no means an extensive list, many Dodgers and their prospects have looked fantastic already, so no disrespect or neglect intended.
Especially since Kershaw is not on this list despite not allowing so much as a hit thus far in 6 innings of work.
G IP H R ER BB SO AVG WHIP
4 4 1 0 0 0 5 .077 0.25
Istler had a microscopic ERA last season, in 18 games (11 Great Lakes, 7 Ogden)he had an ERA of 0.99. In 27.1 innings the right hander from Duke had 29 K’s compared to only 5 BB’s. The 24 year old, Istler held opponents batting average to .173. Even with these stellar numbers from last season, few Dodger fans had heard of the hurler before his emergence this spring. Only allowing one hit over your first four appearances of spring will help get you noticed quickly. It will be interesting to see his 2017 play out and how far up the ladder he climbs in the organization.
G IP H R ER BB SO AVG WHIP
4 4 4 0 0 1 5 .267 1.25
Shea Spitzbarth had a solid 2016 as well. The right handed, red headed pitcher from Staten Island, New York had only one bad outing all year. That outing came in his only appearance above Rookie ball in (AAA) OKC. Besides that game, he pitched between Great Lakes and Ogden only allowing 7 earned runs in 37.1 innings. Spitzbarth had 6 saves and an overall ERA of 2.72 in 24 games. This spring the 22 year old has enjoyed success both on and off the field. I want to congratulate Mr. Spitzbarth in his recent graduation from Molloy College with a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management. He graduated in December, but was very excited that his degree arrived today! With Shea Spitzbarth, the Dodgers front office enjoys even more organizational depth.
G IP H R ER BB SO AVG WHIP
3 6 6 1 0 1 6 .261 1.17
Trevor Oaks is efficiency in motion. In his first inning of work today, he threw 8 pitches, zero balls. His aggressive style of attacking the low portion of the strike zone gets hitters into early holes. I understand, looking at the .261 average against by batters, that you may think that number is too high. A sinker ball, control pitcher like Trevor will give up some base hits, he will keep most of those batted balls on the ground, causing his defense to work and his double play numbers to increase. Oaks has already shown the poise to play piano in front of his teammates and coaches, and to get the ground ball when he needs out of a jam. If inconsistencies and injuries play a major role in the unfolding story of spring, look for this young man to make the Dodgers roster.
It is certainly exciting to see pitchers ready and in good form as soon as action begins. Every bit as exciting, is the prospects of plenty of organizational depth with so many young arms developing, it is a bright future for years to come.