Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

Prospect Pitch: Taking Stock

Cards former catcher discusses calling games -- from mound
August 29, 2012
These three thoughts -- all in a row -- have moved through the mind of Cardinals catcher-turned-pitcher Robert Stock more than once this season.

I should throw a fastball right here.
But it's 3-2, and I just don't have the confidence in my stuff.
Instead, I will go with a changeup. That will get the guy out.

Yes, Stock -- St. Louis' 12th-ranked prospect -- still thinks like he's positioned behind home plate five months after he was told to shift in front of it.

"The most important thing for a catcher when it comes to calling pitches is to understand what the best pitch is to call at that time and what pitch you think the pitcher will be able to execute at that time," he explained. "A lot of times this year, I find myself [rationalizing]. I just hope eventually I can have the confidence in pitches to know that I can make the best pitch in a situation -- not the best one I can execute."

The 22-year-old right-hander is not there yet. He had won five of six decisions but also compiled a 4.46 ERA and walked 46 batters (against 65 strikeouts) in 35 appearances spanning 68 2/3 innings before being placed on the Class A Quad Cities disabled list on Aug. 15. (Stock, who said his shoulder had been sore but not injured, had been coming out of the bullpen to get more work, more often, but hasn't ruled out transitioning into the rotation.)

"It's certainly not fun to give up runs all the time, but I am encouraged by the progress I am making," said Stock, who has been entirely remade -- from mechanics to mindset -- by River Bandits pitching coach Ace Adams and organizational pitching coordinator Brent Strom. "My goal is to use this year as a tuneup and take it into the offseason, instructional league, and, finally, back to Spring Training, I'll be the pitcher I can be."

Until then: How exactly would Robert Stock the (catcher and) batter fare against Robert Stock the pitcher?

"This year, the batter would win," said Stock, who would work himself (against himself) into a hitter's count and hunt for a fastball. "Hopefully, next year, the pitcher would win." asked Stock to describe and grade each of the three pitches he makes. (His grade is based on a scout's traditional 20-80 scale, 50 being the Major League average.) Here is Stock, in his own words.

Pitch one: Four-seam fastball

Purpose: At the beginning of the season, when I threw a fastball, I threw a two-seam. But I went back to the four-seam to cut down my walks. Some days it would sink, some days it wouldn't. I have to get the command of my four-seam down first.

Grip: Over the seams.

Speed: 91-94, but I can get up into the mid-90s.

Grade: 40 -- velocity-wise, it's more than average, but the command is below average.

Pitch two: Changeup

Origin: I started throwing it when I was 14. I would play scout ball in the fall, and I didn't let myself -- for the entirety of the fall season -- throw my curveball. Whenever I needed to go to off-speed, I would throw my changeup so I could develop it. I found it a couple months after forcing myself to throw changeups. And in high school, college and now as a professional, it's my best off-speed offering.

Purpose: What makes it good is having the same arm-speed as my fastball. I can throw it for strikes better than my fastball, and it gets swing-and-misses as long as I don't rely on it too much and establish the fastball. I have to hold it back, so I can work on my other pitches.

Grip: I put the pressure on the knuckle of my forefinger and pinky. Every other finger just rests on the ball.

Speed: 80 mph is ideal, but I've been 76-78 mph at times.

Grade: 65.

Pitch three: Curveball

Origin: I learned it in Little League, probably when I was 10 or so. When I was younger and throwing a fastball faster than most hitters were used to, my changeup was really just helping them out. If a changeup is a difference in timing, a breaking ball -- even if it is slower -- is more about changing planes. When I was throwing it when I was younger, it was slow and loopy. Now, I'd like to have a hard, late, sharp bite to it. I'm not sure that it does that every time, but when it's going well, that's the goal. In college, I thought it was a decent pitch, but this year it has been a process trying to get it back. At times it will be good; at times, it will be bad.

Purpose: With all three of my pitches, I hope to use them for any number of purposes: late in the count, early in the count, depending on what the batter is anticipating -- I don't want to throw what the batter is anticipating.

Grip: Some pitchers like the grip it with the horseshoe or across the seams to get to the horseshoe, and I go across the seams. I like to feel more seams than less seams.

Speed: 76-78 mph.

Grade: 40 -- check in with me again next year, and hopefully I'll have these numbers bumped up a little bit.

Andrew Pentis is a contributor to Follow him on Twitter at AndrewMiLB.