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The (Maybe) Newest Texas Ranger, Connor Sadzeck

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The impressive path of a young hurler who could be breaking into the MLB today

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With Yu Darvish injured and Cesar Ramos getting a spot start today, it is anticipated that Texas may need an extra arm in the pen today.  To fill that role, the Rangers very well might call up one of the very few people in the world who have thrown a ball 100 miles per hour. Connor Sadzeck has had an intriguing path through the minor leagues. Connor was drafted in the 11th round of the 2011 MLB draft out of Howard College. At 6'7" with the ability to throw overbearingly hard it is easy to see why the Rangers liked his projection. Predictably he had trouble keeping the ball in the zone his first season, but had something of a break out with Hickory in 2013 where he posted a 2.25 ERA in 24 starts and 132 innings. Unfortunately Sadzeck tore his UCL and missed the next two seasons recovering from Tommy John's.  2015 was about what you would expect from a young kid working his way back, but with a lot of good signs that his arm would return to strength. Sadzeck posted a 5.82 ERA with a 9.5 K/9 to go along with a 6.1 BB/9 while splitting time between advanced A and AA. Come 2016 many expected Connor would be relegated to the pen, but he remained a starter and he has excelled. This season with the Roughriders Sadzeck has maintained a 3.24 ERA and a 7.83 K/9 rate. In another great development his extreme control problems seem to be mostly a thing of the past as he is walking a career low 2.7/9. For the first time since 2013 Sadz is showing that he can be a valuable starter and he might just get his first taste of the MLB soon due to his recent success and being on the 40-man roster.

The Tools

Connor Sadzeck is now 24 years old and he is listed at 240 pounds though it does look like he is mostly lean this season. Connor's arm winds up starts low and gets to an inverted-W. From there he delivers the pitch from a 3 quarters arm slot, which coming from someone as tall as he is makes it hard for righties to see the ball out of the hand. His delivery is low effort and he generates a great deal of power from his wide legs and fast arm speed. Connor's motion with runners on is fairly quick and he does an admirable job keeping runners honest although the pick-off moves that I have seen were nothing too special.

Sadzeck's real fun tool is the velocity on his fastball, which can sit between 93 and 96 from inning to inning and periodically hit 98-99. The command does seem to waiver when he adds on the extra speed, but the extra fuel is good to have when in trouble. Connor's second natural offering is the 12/6 curve ball that drops in around 74 MPH. His curve has some a fairly sharp break and sometimes he likes to drop it in for a strike to get ahead of hitters early in the count. The two pitches that will decide if Connor can stick as a major league starter are the slider and changeup. The former is a tale of two sliders; one of which is a sharp breaking out-pitch that drops off the face of the planet at 85-87. Unfortunately sometimes it straightens out and looks like the fairly new pitch it is. If he can throw the slider more consistently it will become a dangerous weapon. His changeup is already fairly good as his arm speed is consistent with his fastball and there is a ~9 MPH velocity separation. When he gets it down or commands the location his changeup can be a solid offering, but he does have a tendency to leave it up and it can get him in trouble. All in all Connor Sadzeck has one great pitch and a supporting cast that needs some work before he is an every-day starter in the MLB

Final Thoughts

Sadz has accomplished a lot in a relatively small amount of experience in the minor leagues with only 321 innings pitched over 4 years. When talking to him you can see why; he's a smart guy who really seems to breathe in baseball as he's taking stats for his fellow rotation members in Frisco. If Sadzeck continues to improve it is not hard to envision a path to being a 4/5 starter or slightly better if he can improve the consistency and command. If he can't freshen up the final touches he should still be a big leaguer one day due to his current arsenal being perfect for a late inning reliever. Either way if he gets the call-up today it's a great story about a great guy who could one day be a valuable member of the Texas Rangers.