Dodgers Team News

Dodgers: Prospects Expert Breaks Down Gavin Stone’s Dominant Retooled Slider

When a pitcher makes a big jump in his development — a sight Dodgers fans have become familiar with over the years — it’s almost always because of a new pitch, a retooled pitch, or a change in pitch usage (or some combination of the three). When Los Angeles drafted Gavin Stone in the fifth round of the 2020 draft, they obviously believed in him, but the jump he made in 2022 was enormous.

After posting a respectable 3.76 ERA across Low-A and High-A in his pro debut in 2021, Stone took things to a new level in 2022, posting a 1.48 ERA between High-A, Double-A, and Triple-A last year. Carlos Collazo and Geoff Pontes of Baseball America talked about Stone’s remarkable ascension, and Pontes points to one surprising reason. We’ve heard a lot about Stone’s changeup (which Baseball Prospectus said might be the best changeup in the minors) and his fastball (which touched 99 this season), but Pontes points to the third pitch in his arsenal as a key to his future big-league success.

Pontes: “He’s a really athletic right-hander and a guy who throughout the season saw his velocity tick up. He was more mid-90s, like 93 or 92 to 95 when I saw him back in May, by the time I was re-watching him later in the season in Tulsa he was sitting more 94, 95 to 96, 97 touching 99 miles per hour peak. He’s got an excellent changeup and throws a curveball and a slider, but what’s interesting is during his time in Tulsa he actually reworked his slider from a little bit more of a cutter shape to a sweeper.”

Collazo: “Yeah, you mentioned previously to me that July 26 was a very key date for him. You talk about the changes to the breaking ball, obviously pitch usage and pitch development has improved at the pro level. What exactly did he change and how did that change his profile or maybe his overall upside moving forward?”

Pontes: “Yeah, I think, you know, when you look at cutters, it’s a little bit more similar to like a fastball movement, where there’s some some ride on it and then a little bit of cut, a little bit of glove-side movement. What he did is he actually changed the tilt on the pitch by nearly two hours — he went from a 10:30, so closer to more of a fastball type of tilt, to an 8:30, which is a little bit more horizontal, which is why it was able to get that sweep. The shape of the pitch went to nearly flat in terms of vertical and about 9 to 10 to 12 inches of sweep. So he really changed the way the pitch was thrown, the way the pitch moved, it was a completely different pitch from his previous slider. And he did it on the fly and then had a lot of success with that pitch throughout the rest of the season. It was one of the best pitches he had and really, throughout the season, leading into August and September, he really tightened it up and it became a primary part of his mix. He almost really scrapped the curveball and it went to more of a fastball/slider in right-on-right matchups and then throwing that changeup, which, really, he can throw right-on-right if he needs to, but it just brutalizes lefties off the plate. So it’s a great three-pitch mix, and when he showed the ability to even make variations, make tweaks in-season, that’s the kind of thing that a starter or pitcher needs to be able to be successful in the majors.”

I try not to get my hopes too high on prospects, especially pitchers, because pitching prospects exist just to break the hearts of people like you and me. But read that transcript, watch that discussion, and try not to get a little excited to see Stone on the mound at Dodger Stadium really soon.

Stone probably won’t make the big-league team out of spring training, and some of his opportunity in 2023 could be determined by the health of LA’s existing rotation. But Stone is going to force his way into the equation this year, and I can’t wait to see it.

Have you signed up for the Dodgers Nation newsletter yet? Get the latest news, rumors, highlights and more right in your inbox every day! Keep up to date on every single thing involving your boys in blue!

Jeff Snider

Jeff was born into a Dodgers family in Southern California and is now raising a Dodgers family of his own in Utah. During his previous career as an executive at a technology company, he began writing about baseball in his spare time. After leaving corporate America in 2014, he started doing it professionally. Jeff wrote and edited for Baseball Essential for years before joining Dodgers Nation. He's also the co-host of the Locked On Dodgers podcast, a daily podcast that brings the smart fan's perspective on our Boys in Blue. Jeff has a degree in English from Brigham Young University. Favorite Player: Clayton Kershaw Favorite Moment: Kirk Gibson's homer will always have a place, but Kershaw's homer on Opening Day 2013 might be the winner.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button