Written by: Danny Hacker
Follow him on Twitter:@theGREATdanny94
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The Mariners had gotten off to a pretty surprising start by most standards but have since struggled after losing so much of their pitching, going winning three out of their last ten games. In order to combat that and create a spark for the team, they decided to call up top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert (and also top hitting prospect Jarred Kelenic, who went 0-4 with a strikeout in his debut). Gilbert is ranked as the 4th overall prospect in the Mariners system (2nd pitcher behind Emerson Hancock) according to the 2020 Mariners Top 20 Rankings. I also predicted that Gilbert would win Rookie of the Year in the AL in my Opening Day predictions.
Logan Gilbert was the 14th Overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft out of Stetson University (Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber also come from Stetson) and proceeded to fly through 3 whole MiLB levels in 2019 combining for a 2.13 ERA, 11.0 K/9, 2.2 BB/9, and a 0.948 WHIP in 135.0 IP between A, High A and AA. With that performance, it had been expected and anticipated for 2 seasons now (2020 shortened season and 2021 so far) that Gilbert would be getting the call any day now to make his debut. In a single 2021 AAA start, he went 5 innings in a duel with Padres top pitching prospect MacKenzie Gore allowing just one run on four hits striking out five in the process with no walks. While it was anticipated that Gilbert would make a few more AAA starts before his debut, he got the call nonetheless to Seattle. It’s worth noting that coming into the 2021 season, he had a bit of fatigue with his shoulder and the Mariners didn’t want to push him in the spring.
Gilbert has a four-pitch mix consisting of a plus fastball that sits in the mid-90s, two breaking balls in the forms of a slider and a curveball (the slider is his main breaking ball while his curveball is more of a steal strikes kind of pitch), and a really good changeup with good fade and drop. Reports said from the Alternate Site in 2020 that he was really working on sequencing and the changeup, both of which have improved. He has plus control/command and knows how to throw all four pitches for strikes thus limiting the walks as seen above.
The Line: 4.0, 4ER, 4R, 5H, 5K, 0BB on 71 pitches (52 for strikes or 73%) and a 27% CSW%
The Pitch Breakdown:
|Pitch:||Number/%||CSW%||Avg Velo||Spin Rate|
|4 Seam Fastball||43 (61%)||23%||94.7 mph||2,173 RPM|
|Slider||17 (24%)||29%||81.5 mph||2,361 RPM|
|Curveball||11 (15%)||36%||74.0 mph||2,131 RPM|
Gilbert’s fastball was thrown 61% of the time as shown above and was sitting 94-95 mph the entire night. In the first, he hit 97 mph and proceeded to hit it a couple more times throughout the night. However, as the night wore on, his velocity steadily decreased with him sitting 92mph with his fastball basically the entire 4th inning (see line graph below). At first, I was a bit worried there was such a decrease however, as I noted above, Gilbert did have that shoulder soreness and was only stretched out really at the alternative site and one AAA start so I’m chalking it to potential soreness but not of a serious nature. However, if him sitting 92 mph becomes a trend, then I’m worried. The pitch has below-average spin but with the other characteristics of it, like 12.1″ of drop and 3.5″ of break, it makes up for the lack of spin. There was a lot of contact on it, especially early on and he did give up another home run on it in the 3rd, and he didn’t get any strikeouts with it but had pretty good control/command of it all night long.
Gilbert’s slider was thrown 24% of the time and was, by far, the best pitch of the night for Gilbert. All five strikeouts came on sliders, including his 1st ever in the majors, and it sat in the low 80s all night with no real increase or decrease. The pitch had a whopping 10.6″ of break on it and despite the average/below average spin on it, the break allows it to really play up to its best ability. He also gave up his first career home run on a slider to Reyes in the 2nd inning which was when he just started throwing them in the outing (incorrectly labeled as a curveball at first by Savant). He left a few too many hanging all around the zone throughout the outing but still was able to demonstrate the control/command he has on the pitch by getting all five strikeouts in the 3rd and 4th innings. The slider he was throwing then was much better than the one in the 2nd inning and it was a glimpse at the Gilbert slider we all know and love.
Gilbert’s curveball was thrown 15% of the time and for a while, Savant confused it with his slider. Once the correction was made, my tweet was deemed wrong at the moment (HR was given up on a slider, not a curveball). He didn’t get any real swings and misses on the pitch (just a single whiff) but he stole a few strikes with it and ended up with a 36% CSW% on the pitch. It has below-average spin and has become more of a pitch to steal strikes with than become a major part of the pitch mix as it was shown last night. I expect it to drop to a 7%-8% type of pitch once he fully mixes in his changeup usage.
I am baffled that he didn’t throw a single changeup last night, especially given all the positive reports that were coming out about it from the alternative site and spring training. There’s nothing to report about it since he didn’t throw it at all but I fully expect it to become the third pitch in his mix behind his fastball and slider at a 13%-15% usage when it’s instituted and thrown more. I haven’t seen any interviews/notes on why he didn’t throw it at the time of this writing so I will be curious to see if anything does at all. It’s worth noting at the moment one way or another.
Gilbert’s control/command was really good all night despite getting battered around as a result of it. He really threw strikes (71% of his pitches were) but often times left a lot of them over the heart of the plate early on. Once he got settled in, he started hitting his spots a lot better, especially with the slider low and away. The key for me in this was that he wasn’t necessarily wild with his misses, say like a Daniel Lynch where his misses were crazy at times, he missed but he still missed in the zone. Not saying that’s better but it, at least, shows that he was harnessing his stuff well and could still somewhat place it properly. Something especially clicked in the fourth inning and it looked like he could have gone one more inning if he wasn’t on a pitch limit. At the end of the outing, I was really happy he “regained” his ability to place the ball where he wanted to on the corners and vertically of the zone whether that be up or down. Him not walking anyone (and only having one 3 ball count all night) is pretty promising in this department.
However, something that I definitely wanted to mention here, and not as a good thing, were his release points from last night as seen below. There were three very distinct release points Gilbert was using last night and while the Indians were seeing him for the first time ever, there is some real tipping potential here in the future based off how he is releasing the ball. Yes, they generally bled together some but for the most part, all three pitches were pretty different. I am not sure if it was just a problem he had tonight but if it continues to look like this, things may be a pretty rough go for Gilbert at times, especially if teams do end up picking up on it. I will be very curious to see Gilbert’s release points his next time out.
Overall, I was pretty excited for Gilbert to make his debut and while it was rocky in the 2nd inning, I walked away pretty impressed with him especially after the 4th inning he had. He showed off why he is considered one of the best pitching prospects in all of baseball, and in the Mariners organization, despite the below-average line that you read on the screen. I still like Gilbert a lot, this outing didn’t change my opinion of him at all (side note: no one outing should. It’s a very small sample size and there are certain things that could worry/make someone feel good about but no one outing should drastically change your opinion of someone at all), and he still has SP1/high SP2 upside in regards to real-life and fantasy. His slider most “improved” throughout the outing and that is a big thing for me along with the control/command being as promised (he didn’t walk a single batter). Next time out should hopefully be better for him, who still is developing, but there were some really promising things to walk away from the outing with. If, for some reason, someone in a redraft/dynasty starts freaking out about him, ask with the price is and go seriously pursue it. You’ll be happy you did. I still think he wins Rookie of the Year in the AL.