Spruill's development could help D-backs' rotation
No. 8 prospect in system has full repertoire of pitches that's critical to success
It usually takes a good amount of time to evaluate a trade. Any trade. When prospects are involved, patience and time are requirements for an accurate and fair trade evaluation.
One of the most discussed trades this past offseason sent Justin Upton and Chris Johnson to the Atlanta Braves from the Arizona Diamondbacks. The focal-point player in return for Arizona was versatile infielder/outfielder Martin Prado. The D-backs also received a package of prospects that included infielder Brandon Drury, infielder Nick Ahmed, right-handed pitcher Randall Delgado and right-handed pitcher Zeke Spruill.
I recently had my second opportunity to scout Spruill, No. 8 on the D-backs' Top 20 Prospects list, as he and his Triple-A Reno Aces teammates played a series at Tucson against the San Diego Padres' Triple-A team. Spruill looked like a different pitcher than the one I saw this past fall in the Arizona Fall League.
The big difference in just a few short months was the frequency and quality of Spruill's curveball. I didn't see that pitch just eight months ago.
Spruill is a long and lanky 23-year-old right-handed starter, at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds. He has a variety of pitches that includes a sinking fastball, a slider, a changeup and the improved curve.
Spruill has now thrown two consecutive shutouts. In the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League, that's a major accomplishment.
On June 9, Spruill stymied Colorado Springs with a shutout. The Aces won the game, 4-0.
In his latest outing I witnessed, Spruill pitched eight innings, throwing 114 pitches. He yielded only four hits while walking two. Spruill struck out four. That's an important point.
Spruill is not an overpowering pitcher with excessive strikeout counts. He pitches to contact. Spruill is committed to good location and changing the eye level and balance of hitters.
Spruill throws his fastball in the low 90s, but he can set up his slider, his changeup and that very effective curveball to work off the sinking fastball. In the recent game I scouted, Spruill challenged hitters with a side-to-side slider with late bite and the up-and-down curve that had "now you see it, now you don't" type movement. It was a vertical pitch that had the hitter looking for something different.
Spruill comes right at the hitter. He doesn't waste pitches or nibble. Spruill gets the ball, composes himself well and changes speeds with efficiency. He has a plan. Spruill has an effortless delivery that serves him well.
Projecting ahead, it looks as though Spruill will be able to pitch deep into games. He will see the opposition several times as the lineup turns over. Each time, the hitter will likely face different sequencing and a full repertoire.
It is important for a club to have depth at all positions, but starting pitching depth is crucial. The trade with the Braves has yielded a very solid right-handed starter in Spruill. In my observation, he's getting better and better.
Bernie Pleskoff has served as a professional scout for the Houston Astros and Seattle Mariners. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.