Gabe Speier got into a spring training game yesterday (February 26) and after Alex tweeted about him being a future big leaguer, I realized we hadn’t written much about him over the last season. Speier was part of the trade that brought former Royal Elvis Luciano to the club from Arizona for Jon Jay. It wasn’t the first trade that Speier has been part of, nor was it the biggest. Speier was part of the Porcello for Cespedes deal in December 2014. He was also part of the Shelby Miller for Swanson deal in 2015. At the time, Miller was a pretty big name and Swanson was the number one pick in the draft for the Diamondbacks.
I saw Speier throw in person at least five separate times last season. My impressions? He has the stuff and arm to make it to the bigs, he has to harness his control better and use his pitches better. I don’t doubt that the former 19th round pick out of high school in California is going to make it to the majors as a relief pitcher, it’s just a matter of when and for which team. He may be a guy the Royals decide to protect for the next Rule 5 pick. Who knows what can happen between now and then?
Speier is a case of crazy splits after he was traded and it’s something I’m going to dig into at some point in the future. It’s almost like everything flipped when he came to NWA. He no longer dominated RHHs but started dominating LHHs. He no longer struggled with LHHs but now struggled with RHHs. That wasn’t something that was supposed to happen.
Speier has a 93-94 mph fastball that I’ve gunned across multiple outings like stated above. The pitch is fairly straight but he does throw a 2-seam fastball as well that has arm side run. It’s something I think I would like to see him throw more often. Speier has a really good change up. The fade is extreme to his glove side and some might even call it more of a screw ball it dives so hard. He does have a little bit of an issue with the control of the pitch, but if you saw the one he threw yesterday to James McCann you should have been impressed. He threw it for a strike down and away to the RHH. Speier also throws a curveball which has 11-5 movement from his perspective and is a chase pitch for both right-handed and left-handed hitters. McCann saw two of those yesterday and swung and missed at both. Speier has thrown a slider in the past but I did not see it yesterday.
Mechanically Speier struggles to repeat his delivery at times. It’s why you see him get wild occasionally. I also think there are times where he seems really deceptive and there are times hitters are sitting on him. The short answer here is Speier is not a finished product and will continue to get more consistent in his delivery and deceptive in his pitching.
Let’s go through the pitch sequence that Alex saw that gave him the snap judgement that Speier is a future big leaguer. Speier was wearing the number 77 on his back when he filled in for Brad Boxberger in the bottom of the 4th inning with 2 outs. James McCann was the hitter, a RHH. The first pitch was a hard curve in the dirt on the back foot of McCann who swung and missed the pitch. Speier, who was throwing to MJ Melendez behind the plate, threw the 0-1 fastball inside up for a ball. This is when he threw the dandy of a change that was a called strike two on the outer half. The pitch started middle up, you saw McCann flinch, and the pitch took a left turn and dropped a few feet through the bottom left quadrant of the strike zone. The 1-2 pitch was another fastball in which McCann pulled foul. It was time to put the hitter away with something that he knew worked so Speier went back to the first pitch he threw in the at bat, the back foot curve. McCann realized what the pitch was and tried to check his swing but it was too late and he struck out on the appeal to the first base umpire. I agree Alex, I think he is a big leaguer also.
I’m not going to go into a bunch of numbers for us to look at, but Speier definitely passes the eye test. I would say he is already better than some guys I’ve seen in NWA that have ended up in the majors with either the Royals or someone else. I have no doubt he will be in the majors someday soon.