So the big dude from the midwest damn near threw a no-no in his first AAA game. Yeah, so? So, THAT'S AWESOME! Since he's on the 40-man and after his thunderous introduction to the top level of the upper levels, let's take a brief moment to discuss the large and in charge, 24 year-old righty.
Texas popped Eick with the 23rd pick of the 15th round in 2011 from Olney Central College, a JUCO in lovely Olney, Illinois, a town so proud of their population of white squirrels that you're actually fined $750 if you (accidentally) run one over. True story. Anyway, Eick (pronounced like "mike" or "mic" or "like" but not "ick") had been drafted by the Cubs after his freshman year at Olney, but for a kid who grew up a Cardinals fan, there was no way in hell he was gonna sign with the Chicago Red C's. Nah, actually it was just that he was a 46th round choice by the Cubs and had a good hunch about his sophomore year at the Illinois JUCO. That hunch paid off as the 6'4" 195lb-er added velocity to his fastball and was able to run it up into the mid-90s enough times to catch the eye of former Rangers scout, Derek Lee. In his time with Texas, Derek signed Tanner Scheppers and Tanner Roark so I'm thankful he was able to look past the juxtaposed "e" and "a" in Eickhoff's first name and recommend him anyways. Jerad began his march with 4 games for the Rookies, followed quickly by 10 bullpen appearances for short-season Spokane. Transitioning to full-time starter in 2012, Eick has essentially pitched a full season at each level. And the progression has been very legit. We're talking about a kid who quietly led the entire Rangers farm system in Ks last year. In 2014, he was 3rd in the league in innings pitched (154.1), 4th in WHIP (1.17) and held opponents to a salty .226 average. He had 7 starts of 7 or more innings (rare birds in the minors). He ain't anywhere near 195lbs anymore, tipping the scales around 240 and the dude is built like a midwest grain silo. If power pitching comes from the lower-half, Jerad Eickhoff is most certainly a power pitcher.
Jerad was bumped to AAA last week when Wandy was called up to the big leagues. Truth be told, both Eick and Alec Asher probably earned 2015 promotions to AAA based on their work from last year alone, but the bottom line is there just wasn't/isn't enough room up there. Obviously, Jerad completely shoved in his debut. The long-ball got him in the 9th, something that happened to him more frequently than he would've liked last season, but whatever, he throws the ball hard and if guys sit FB, they can turn it around. Sitting FB is going to be common against Jerad because he's a FB dominant guy. Routinely gunning the pitch in the 91-95 range, I've seen him comfortably reach back for 97 late in starts on more than one occasion. It's a good pitch that he controls, but doesn't always command. You dig? He throws it for strikes, but still has a bit of tweaking to throw it for strikes exactly where he wants to. Offspeed-wise, the curveball is his money maker. It's a really good pitch and he made big strides with it in the second half of last year and the first few starts of this year. It's breaking later and coming out of his hand from the same spot and arm speed as his FB and that has added to its increased effectiveness. I love Jerad's CB. Big man, big hand, small ball= Jerad throws a CH and he works hard at it. For me, the CH is the key to the puzzle. If it continues to develop this year in AAA, you damn sure keep him in a rotation. If the CH continues to lag, and the club feels like it wants to see Jerad in a bullpen role, that bullpen might be the one at Globe Life Park before the end of the season. He also throws a SL and has a nice, clean repeatable delivery with all his stuff. He's got the goods to remain a starter and could be a big-time innings eater at the big league level with a little more development of another offspeed pitch. I've mentioned it on Twitter a few times, but he really reminds me of Trevor Rosenthal. I saw Trevor as a starter a few times in AA and he was very similar to Jerad. Big bodied kid who sat 92-95 with a good breaking ball and a suspect CH. Everyone hates comps because it sets the bar too high for most prospects, but I fully expect Jerad to be closing World Series games for Texas this fall. Just kidding. He'll be starting Game 3 of next year's World Series. That's much more realistic.
Put succinctly, I think he makes a boatload more starts this season for Round Rock and if he's gotten in enough innings or if Texas wants to see how he'll respond, a late season callup wouldn't surprise me. Whether or not that callup involves him toeing the rubber in the 1st inning or the 7th, Jerad will be ready. An incredibly likeable, polite, upbeat kid, he's been at his best lately when he pitches aggressively. Believe it or not, even for a dude his size, armed with his stuff, it's not always easy to have utter disdain for each and every hitter. I've noticed a bit of a change in Jerad's mound demeanor this season and it's for the better. Aggressive Eick is often effective Eick. Kid has a big league arm. He'll help the team win games in some shape or form and when he does, there will be white squirrels dancing in the streets.
As Always, Enjoy Baseball! Love Ya!