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Scouting Notebook: Steep learning curve for Tyler Chatwood

Chatwood_250 Tyler Chatwood would be a junior in college baseball right now had he not signed with the Angels as a second-round pick out of Redlands High School in 2008. Right now, he’s clearly more advanced than he would be if he were in college, where he would be a flavor of the month in mock drafts. Instead, he’s learning at the most advanced level there is, and based on this look, the best way to describe it is that Manager Mike Scioscia is training Chatwood to pitch, especially with his fastball, multiple times through a major league order.

The first thing you’d notice is the arm speed and the arm action. The arms works, and the short motion allows for enough power and torque to compete, with a compact, max-effort delivery.  These are the reasons nobody cares that Chatwood is generously listed at 6-0 and not 6-foot-5. Chatwood doesn’t necessarily have a problem other than inexperience -- a guy with a good arm whose velocity got him there in front of every high school pitcher in his draft class and is now learning how to pitch where it counts.

You can’t give a kid a live arm, but you can give him the ability to locate better and throw better-quality fastball strikes more consistently. That’s where we are with Chatwood. I felt he had better fastball life early in this look at around 90-92, particularly against right-handers, where the fastball flashed late tail. When he bumped up to 93-94, he tended to flatten out as he elevated, missing middle and up. He did begin to throw better-quality, harder strikes in the middle innings, a tantalizing sign of things to come. He is still learning how to consistently get ahead of the count at this level. You look at Chatwood and it’s easy to see a solid middle-rotation starter in the coming years, yet the Angels must now use caution. They have rushed him, for better or worse. 310 pro innings between high school and the big leagues is a very short path, no matter the arm, stuff and makeup. 

In the time between what he is and what he wants to be, we see the tightrope Chatwood is going to have to walk as a young major leaguer -- he doesn’t throw hard enough to dominate and doesn’t command enough to be consistent. Scioscia will go old-school catcher with this guy and take his chances. He showed signs of having weapons that can put a batter away. I felt the best breaking ball he threw in the look I had at him Wednesday against the White Sox was a 77-mph slider with late definition that Carlos Quentin skied out against in the fifth inning. That kind of a weapon is made to miss bats. As he ages, he has the arm to become another innings-eating workhorse with quality stuff, which all in all is a good use of a draft pick, regardless of age.

ALSO:

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-- John Klima

John Klima is a product of the Major League Baseball Scout Development Program and the founder of BaseballBeginnings.com. Catch his scouting take every Monday at latimes.com.

Photo: Tyler Chatwood. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

 
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