I was witness to a cold doubleheader this past Saturday where I had the pleasure to see arguably the two best Cubs pitching prospects at Kane County, Pierce Johnson and Tayler Scott, pitch. I’ve already discussed Johnson here, and Saturday was the best outing he’s had so far. Tayler Scott pitched the second game, and though he clearly doesn’t have the upside or stuff Johnson has, he was interesting to watch as well. Scott was credited with the win after throwing 6 innings, striking out 4, walking 1, and surrendering 3 earned runs.Video of Tayler Scott’s Start. The occasional numbers I say out loud are the pitch velocities. Breaking stuff near end.
Tayler Scott started out the game sitting 87-88 mph on his fastball, which he featured heavily throughout the day, occasionally mixing in an 83 mph changeup. Predictably, he generated loads of contact, some of which was hit pretty hard. Teoscar Hernandez, specifically, absolutely crushed one of Scott’s fastballs for a triple. Scott seemed to gain strength as the start went on, and he hit 90 mph twice in the 4th inning out of the stretch. It was a cold day, and it probably took Scott, a South African native who went to high school in Arizona, a while to get loose. He did not lose any movement on his fastball with increased velocity which is always a good sign.
From what I saw out of Tayler Scott on Saturday, it appears the Cubs development staff are having him throw fastballs almost exclusively to start the season. I saw one breaking ball out of Scott all day (and it was a good one) and his changeup was used sparingly. With Scott’s fastball only sitting 88 or so, building up arm strength is likely a major goal for him, especially early on in the year.
Scott throws from a low 3/4 arm slot, and very nearly releases the ball at shoulder level. He has a high leg kick and generates some momentum, but his velocity is limited by poor hip-shoulder separation. Scott’s stride is simply not long enough to allow him to generate any more velocity than he already does. Fortunately, increased flexibility could help him generate more hip-shoulder separation and, with it, more velocity. That said, Scott has good balance and posture on the mound, so increasing his momentum or stride length in an effort to gain velocity could seriously hamper his command. Scott also has a pretty shallow release point, which is going to be a problem if he can’t find more than 88 mph in the tank.
Scott sat 87-88 for most of the game, but he did hit 90 twice in the game and 89 once or twice per inning. His fastball has sinking, tailing movement to it, and when he missed he was missing arm-side. If he could get up to 90 mph consistently it’d be a solid pitch.
Used only occasionally in the game I saw. It’s only 4-7 mph slower than his fastball, but despite that he got multiple swings and misses with it. It takes roughly the same tailing path to the plate as his fastball, but drops off considerably as it approaches the plate. His arm action on it is identical to his fastball, and that goes a long way in making it a useful pitch. Scott has a good feel for the pitch, but it would certainly be nice if he could figure out a way to slow it down by 3-4 mph.
I only saw one on Saturday (I did leave before the game was over, though, because my hands were about 10 minutes away from being lost to frostbite). It was 79 mph, had good two-plane movement and was a good looking offering (about 2:15 in the video). He most likely does not have a feel for the pitch right now, though, or else I imagine he would’ve broken it out a few more times.
Scott was locating his fastball well on Saturday. His changeup was more iffy and was left up twice, hit hard both times. As I mentioned earlier, Scott has good balance in his delivery and releases the ball with good posture, two things that should help him repeat his delivery and command the ball well. At 88 mph he’s going to need to.
I like watching him pitch. A good 70% of that was probably because he was working very fast and I couldn’t feel my toes, but I still came away from his start with a positive impression. This is certainly one of those times where I wish I could put my finger on a specific reason why I liked him as much as I did, but I think the frame (and the hopeful projection that comes with it), the command, the way he went about his business on the mound, and that one breaking ball all moved the meter just slightly on their own, and in aggregate left me with a good feeling. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on him, and if that fastball starts flashing low-90s he may just start getting hyped around the Cubs internet sphere.