If you remember the wise words of Kunu, Paul Rudd’s character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall, you know sometimes it’s better to “do less.”
As I was perusing the recently released MLB Pipeline rankings of Royals prospects and bemoaning how conservative and traditional they are, while envying the excellent way they’re presented, I decided commentators’ assessments that Jackson Kowar needs to develop his curveball are wrong. He doesn’t need to develop his curveball.
He needs to do less.
The video attached to MLB Pipeline’s profile of Kowar is a bunch of MLB draft analysts talking about Kowar developing his curveball, but that doesn’t square with what I’ve seen of him in college and in his pro debut. His curveball is average, and that’s perfectly fine.
Here’s a look at his curveball at its best.
It’s got nice, tight break. It isn’t a hammer, but it gets the job done. And most importantly, he locates it well. Right now, his curveball serves a function as a non-fastball he can put in the lower third of the strike zone. His changeup isn’t that; he struggles to locate it in the zone because it moves so much. His curveball looks like it moves just enough to deceive but not so much he can’t spot it.
Believing that Kowar should develop his curveball into some sort of plus, out pitch reflects what I consider to be an overly simple way of viewing pitching. Not every pitch needs to be an out pitch. In fact, that may not even be useful.
Let’s imagine he continues to develop his curveball and finds a way to turn it into a hammer. There’s also a decent chance he would lose his ability to locate that pitch in the strike zone, negating its effectiveness and harming his other pitches, as well.
Kowar’s arsenal works because his breaking ball and changeup serve different functions. Hitters can’t spit on anything they recognize as a non-fastball because it might be his curveball which he can locate in the strike zone. And then, when hitters are trying to protect, Kowar can get them to chase with his 70-grade changeup (I don’t care what MLB Pipeline says, it’s better than 60).
If anything, Kowar needs to work on his four-seam fastball, both the consistency of its plane and his command of it. When Kowar gets hit, it’s because his fastball flattens and he leaves it in the middle of the plate.
The curveball is fine. He can work on its consistency, but it doesn’t need to be Verlander-esque. It just needs to find the strike zone.
Photo Credit: PLPhoto2015 (@PPhoto2015)