Threshers Spotlight: Jacob Waguespack

Undrafted Arm is Making Waves in Clearwater

By Kirsten Karbach / Clearwater Threshers | June 24, 2017 1:47 PM ET

You won't see the name Jacob Waguespack on any of the 2017 prospect lists.

The 6'6" hurler was not a first round draft pick. He was not a multimillion dollar signing. After three solid years at Ole Miss, he was not drafted at all.

What you will see, when he takes the mound for Clearwater, is a 94 mph fastball. You will see a hard cutter that reaches 92 mph and bites in to lefties and away from righties.

You will see a 23-year-old finding his feet as a first-time starter, and piling up zeros in the process.

After 76 professional outings in a relief role, Waguespack stepped into the Clearwater rotation on May 25. The Threshers had taken note of his increased velocity and, in need of another starter, saw an opportunity to get a better look at the right-hander.

In five starts since, Waguespack has dominated.

He allowed just one run on three hits across five innings in his starting debut at Florida, and through his first five outings he yielded only four runs in 24 innings - a 1.50 ERA.

Waguespack had been drafted once before, as a late-round pick in 2012. The Pittsburgh Pirates selected him in the 37th round out of Dutchtown High School in Geismar, Louisiana.

He elected to attend the University of Mississippi, but dealt with bone spurs toward the end of his freshman year, and pitched just 27.1 innings total his first two seasons. In 2015 Waguespack appeared in a team-high 25 games, posting a 3.33 ERA in 46 innings out of the bullpen.

"I thought I'd had a decent year as a junior, and I think it's everyone's goal to go three years and then get drafted," Waguespack says, "So I was kind of expecting to get drafted."

Yet 40 rounds passed, and his name was never called.

Soon after, the Phillies reached out.

"After the draft my scout called me and said, 'Hey, do you still want to play?'" Waguespack recalls.

He had two options. Return to Ole Miss for his senior year, in hopes of staying healthy and raising his stock enough to get drafted. Or, sign for a smaller payout as a non-drafted free agent.

"I said, 'Well I might as well take my shot right now.'"

Waguespack has come a long way since then.

"His delivery is quite a bit different than when he first signed with us," Phillies Director of Player Development Joe Jordan says.

"His fastball velocity has gone from 88-92 mph to really 92-96 mph, maybe touches 97. He's really getting everything out of his body in his delivery right now, and he's not working hard to throw hard."

Waguespack credits the Phillies development program, as they worked to teach him how to get the most out of his lower half in his delivery.

"I've kind of adapted to how they've taught in the system," he says. "Last year I saw a little bit of an increase in my velocity, so that's really what I worked on in the offseason, and I put a lot of work into it."

Along with the uptick on the radar gun, Waguespack also added a cutter since turning pro, a weapon which Jordan praises as "a really quality pitch."

Waguespack says that when pitching in rookie ball, roving pitching coach Carlos Arroyo asked him how he held his fastball, and suggested an alteration.

"I had toyed with it a little bit in high school, but abandoned it in college," Waguespack says.

"So I just started throwing it, I think just one game in the bullpen in rookie ball, I was like 'Alright, let's see what happens.' And it had really good movement, and from then on I just started throwing it with more confidence and more arm action, so it essentially got harder after that. Now it's kind of turned into a cutter/slider, it just depends on what count and how I want to use it."

Threshers pitching coach Aaron Fultz believes it is a big league-quality pitch.

"I do. I still think he needs to learn how to use it more effectively, and that's going to come with being able to locate his fastball better," Fultz says. "But to me, it is by far his best secondary pitch."

Waguespack worked primarily with his fastball and cutter as a reliever this year, pitching to a 3.38 ERA in 14 games, mostly in middle relief. Since moving into the rotation, Waguespack has had to mix in more of his changeup and curveball, and has recently begun throwing a mid-80's slider.

After talking with Fultz and Pitching Coordinator Rafael Chaves, Waguespack began experimenting with a couple different grips for a slider.

"Something with a little bit more depth, and slower than my cutter," Waguespack says. "I started throwing that my second start and I've been throwing that since."

Waguespack might still ultimately profile as a reliever, but the chance to gather a bigger workload and to refine his off-speed pitches will undoubtedly make him more effective on the hill, regardless of his role.

"His velocity has really jumped up a lot this year, and making him a starter makes him work on the changeup," Fultz says. "Making him a starter makes him use those (secondary) pitches to make him more effective down the road."

 "He's a big, physical guy that works hard, and again he's just improving every month as a pitcher," Jordan says. "He's getting better at doing what he needs to do, so I'm excited.

"Jake's really come forward, and he's got a chance."

 

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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