Southern notes: Chargois learned from vets

Chattanooga righty hits 100 mph but focuses on secondary offerings

J.T. Chargois is 5-for-5 in save opportunities this season over nine outings. (Brian McLeod/MiLB.com)

By Guy Curtright / Special to MiLB.com | May 3, 2016 10:00 AM

Seeing "100 MPH" light up on the scoreboard can be enticing.

"Honestly, I used to look," hard-throwing Chattanooga Lookouts closer J.T. Chargois said.

Not any more, though.

Instead of instant gratification, the Minnesota Twins' No. 9 prospect is concerned with the long term after missing two full seasons. Chargois (pronounced Shar-GWAH) still can get it up to 100 mph -- he just knows that can't be his only ticket to the Major Leagues. 

Rather than just being a thrower, you have to be a true pitcher.

"Going to camp with the Twins helped a lot," said Chargois, who was promoted to the Twins' 40-man roster over the winter. "I got a lot of advice from Glen Perkins and the other relievers. Having 24/7 access to all that knowledge was great. I learned a lot from the mental side and how to use your arsenal. It's not all velocity. You have to know how to pitch and you have to have more than one pitch. Plus, you got to be able to hit your spots."

Chargois discarded his two-seam fastball because he couldn't control it, but still has a hard breaking ball and a changeup to go with his four-seam heat. The results so far with the Lookouts have been impressive, and the 25-year-old right-hander might be pitching his way out of the Double-A Southern League. Chargois converted his first five save opportunities and had allowed just five hits over nine innings while striking out 11 and walking four.

In his abbreviated and interrupted Minor League career, the second-round pick in the 2012 Draft out of Rice University was a perfect 28-for-28 in save opportunities counting the playoffs and had 98 strikeouts in 83 1/3 innings.

Chargois might well be up with the Twins now if it hadn't been for his elbow problems. A two-way player at Rice as a closer and switch-hitting shortstop, Chargois experienced some arm tenderness after signing with the Twins and pitching for Elizabethton in the Rookie-level Appalachian League. The issues carried over to 2013, but Chargois tried to avoid an operation.

"No one wants to have a surgical procedure if you can avoid it," he said.

Tommy John elbow surgery, however, proved unavoidable and he ended up missing all of the 2014 season as well. Chargois started last season with Fort Myers in the Class A Advanced Florida State League and then moved up to Chattanooga, where the Louisiana native recorded 11 saves in 32 regular-season games. He then saved two more as the Lookouts won the Southern League Championship.

"I told myself after the surgery that I was never going to be scared of anything," Chargois said. "I was going to give it everything I had and not look back. I realized I was blessed to have a second shot."

Chargois showed that he had fully made it back when he struck out the side in his first Grapefruit League game for the Twins this spring. He pitched in three other games in relief.

"I came into pro ball not having pitched a lot, so this has all been a learning process," he said. "I look at the surgery as both a blessing and a curse. The rehab time helped me with mechanics and I had time to really think about being a pitcher. Sometimes you have to tame yourself down to get ahead."

There is still farther to go, but the Twins like where Chargois has come.

In brief

Streak over: Mississippi catcher Willians Astudillo had gone 163 plate appearances without a strikeout before Jacksonville's Justin Garcia fanned him on April 29. Astudillo hadn't struck out since July 23 of last season, when he was playing for Clearwater in the Philadelphia organization. The 24-year-old native of Venezuela struck out just 10 times last season while batting .314 to lead the Class A Advanced Florida State League. Signed by Atlanta as a free agent, he was hitting .250 with 10 RBIs in 19 games for the M-Braves.

Home futility: Mobile played just seven home games in April, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing -- the BayBears were winless at Hank Aaron Stadium. After being rained out April 14-15 to start the home schedule, Mobile was swept in a makeup doubleheader by Biloxi on April 16. Then the D-backs affiliate lost all five games of a series against Tennessee on April 22-26. The last game was an 11-2 rout. Mobile had a winning record for April on the road, going 8-7.

Perfect day: Montgomery infielder Jake Hager was 5-for-5 with three runs scored and two RBIs on April 26 in an 11-10 victory by the Biscuits over visiting Jacksonville. It was a career day for Hager, who missed all of last season after undergoing knee surgery. Hager, 23, was a first-round choice by Tampa Bay in 2011 and is ranked as the Rays' No. 25 prospect. He was hitting .339 with a homer and 12 RBIs in 14 games.

Guy Curtright is a contributor to MiLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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