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Know Your Prospects: Asher Wojciechowski, RHP, Citadel Bulldogs

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It’s more difficult to spell than the longest name in baseball, Saltalamacchia. And its pronunciation is even more mind boggling than Duchscherer.

For baseball writers everywhere, there’s a new brain aneurysm causing name on the scene.

Wojciechowski. First name Asher.

Prounounced Woah-jeh-how-ski, I have the name copied so I can simply press Apple+V whenever it comes up. When I started this blog, I didn’t know I’d have to become proficient in the study of Polish linguistics.

But, it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to avoid the name for any duration. Currently ranked 23rd in Baseball America‘s April Draft Preview, Wojciechowski has established himself as a first-round talent while pitching for the hometown Citadel Bulldogs.

I’ve had the opportunity to see Wojciechowski pitch on numerous occasions. Early in the season, it was easy to temper expectations for him. He was raw, his aggression unbridled, and maybe he was trying a little too hard to replicate his success from 2009. His fastball command was inconsistent, so hitters sat on his curveball and routinely laced it for hits. During more than one early season outing, Wojciechowski yelled “FUCK!” into his glove as hitters fed on his secondary pitches.

Wojciechowski has progressed steadily since then and has, by a large margin, become the Southern Conference’s best pitcher. As of April 30, Wojciechowski¬†lead the league in earned run average (2.47), strikeouts (98 through 73 innings), batters struck out looking (68) and wins (8).

A 6’4″, 230 pound, righthander out of Beaufort, South Carolina, Wojciechowski is one of the more advanced pitchers I’ve seen at the college level, both physically and stuff-wise.

His tall, but stout body is perfect for his leg-driven motion. His frame is surprisingly compact and moves quickly when he drives off the rubber with his large quads, meaning he gets all of his weight behind every pitch.

As a result, Wojciechowski is a power pitcher in the purest sense. His fastball resides in the low-to-mid nineties. During the Citadel’s game against Appalachian State on March 26, he sat at 91-93 with the pitch. As the season has progressed, however, he’s actually sustained that velocity and his fastball now sits closer to 93-94, even late into games.

Wojciechowski also possesses a good slider. The action on the pitch looks more like a power curveball, but I’m assuming he’s told scouts that it’s a slider because on nearly every outside scouting report, they call it a slider. Still, I’m sticking with my guns and calling it a power curve. Whatever it really is, the pitch sits at 89-91 miles per hour and has also shown positive development as the year has worn on.

Even though it’s not his best pitch, Wojciechowski shows absolutely no hesitation throwing his breaking ball, no matter the count. In several outings, I’ve actually felt he was throwing it to a fault, like he refused to accept that it’s not an out-pitch. Now, however, the pitch isn’t a pitch you can really sit on. It’s got good, sharp lateral movement and when he can command it, he uses it to expand the plate well.

His changeup, like so many young pitchers, is almost non-existent. He’s only thrown it a handful of times in the three games I’ve seen. It needs work.

Wojciechowski has a lot working for him, though. His success in the Southern Conference has made him an imposing figure. When he toes the rubber, opposing batters feel like they can’t win, like they can’t hit, like they can’t do anything.

Wojciechowski¬†begins his motion upright and holds his glove over his face so the batter can only see his glaring eyes. Looking in my notes, on more than one occasion, I’ve recorded something along the lines of: “Looks like he’ll rip your face off when he’s on the mound.” When he goes from the stretch, he begins by expanding his whole body, just showing the opposing team how physically dominant he is.

And when he’s at his best, he doesn’t let up and pounds the strikezone, over and over, with his boring fastball. With that coming at you at 95 miles per hour and a sharp breaking pitch, he’s been nearly unstoppable in the Southern Conference.

Some scouts say he’s a bonafide number two or number three starter at the major league level. Others say he’s a flamethrowing reliever.

Like that offspeed pitch, there’s some thrash over what Wojciechowski is, what he will be, or where he’ll end up.

Either way, his dominant 2010 has been a fun ride. And no matter what the future holds, I’ll be watching.

C of C’s Brandon Sizemore will be drafted. But who else?

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The College of Charleston’s baseball season is over.

During their late season playoff run, the Cougar’s usually potent bats went dead. The Citadel Bulldog’s swept them in a regular season series and then Furman beat them in the first round on May 21, effectively ending their run at the SoCon Championship. It was a disappointing end for the league’s most dominating offense, but it was perhaps deserved: the team was entirely too focused on slugging for a good chunk of the season.

For C of C, next year will be all about rebuilding. The team will lose eight seniors, most of which formed the team’s everyday roster, including Southern Conference first team second baseman Brandon Sizemore and second team selections Jesse Simpson and Joash Brodin. The team will still have several promising players, including SoCon co-player of the year Joey Bergman, but will have noticeably depleted depth.

I’ve spent a good amount of time watching College of Charleston games over the past year. Every game I go to, I sit in the front row behind the home plate. It allows me to see the movement on pitches and also to steal radar gun readings from the opposing team. I hate being behind the net, but there’s something to be said for being within an earshot of amateur umpires.

I’ve sat next to the same guy for most of the year. He’s an older man, probably in his 60’s. He brings his own gun and pad of paper and he usually leaves around the 4th inning, only to return around the eighth.

For a while I thought he was Charleston’s statkeeper. For a while I thought he was someone like me, someone keeping score and scouting so we can someday say, “I saw so-and-so and knew he was going to be good in ’99, three years before anyone else.” Then I realized a) they usually have an off-duty pitcher or first-year player do the stats thing and b) he’s doing something during the time he leaves in the middle of the game.

At the Charleston versus Citadel game last week, I finally broke down and asked him what his deal was.

“If you don’t mind me asking, what organization are you doing this for?”

“Atlanta,” he said back.

As in the Atlanta Braves. I’ve been sitting next to a professional scout for an entire baseball season and not said a single word to him until the last series of the regular season? Nice move, Dylan.

Still, it got me thinking. Who is he watching? Over the last four seasons, 24 Cougars have been drafted by MLB teams. Atlanta, despite its relatively close proximity to Charleston, has yet to draft from the school. There’s someone they’re watching closely enough to have a scout attend every game, but who is it?

Obviously there’s Sizemore. As a junior, he was drafted in the 46th round by the St. Louis Cardinals. He chose to return to school and it’s probably a good thing he did. After an impressive senior year, which saw him get promoted to the Golden Spikes watch list, there’s no doubt Sizemore will be drafted in a higher round.

I don’t think it’s Sizemore though.

With Atlanta’s first ten picks last year, they took eight pitchers. Unlike 2007, when they drafted bats, this tends to be the team’s draft focus. I don’t think it’ll be any different this year.

For that reason, I think Atlanta is looking at Jesse Simpson.

Could RHP Jesse Simpson become a Brave?

Could RHP Jesse Simpson become a Brave?

Simpson acted as Charleston’s ace in 2009 and bolstered what was never truly a great starting rotation. He stands at 6’0″, 175 pounds, and throws right. This is an unofficial scouting report (done myself at a game versus Appalachian state):

Fastball: It sits routinely at 86-88 mph and looked to have good movement. It tails in on righties and dips away from lefties. I think it was of the two-seam variety, but it could also just be a straight fastball with good movement.

Changeup: At the two games I saw him pitch, Simpson’s changeup sat at 79 mph. He throws it consistently and gets swings and misses. Obviously a 79 mph change will be a meatball at higher levels, but it’s a good pitch.

Curveball: Thrown in the high-70’s, Simpson throws it overhand, but it tends to be more of a power-curve. Of all the college games I’ve been to this year, I’ve yet to see a good 12-6 curve and Simpson’s is something like 11-5, or 10-4.

Simpson has a good pitcher’s body that’s compact, lean, and built. From the games I saw him pitch, his motion look extremely repeatable and fundamentally sound. There didn’t appear to be any added wear-and-tear on his elbow. I do not remember much about his makeup.

I am hesitant to comment on how Simpson’s stuff would translate at a higher level because I need to learn more about added velocity, the tangible differences between college and the minors, and the like. He doesn’t appear to have anything dominating, but hey, what do I know?

The Brave’s scout was also at the Appalachian State game on April 16 where Simpson truly impressed by going 7 innings, striking out nine, walking three, and giving up three earned runs. Simpson’s pitching during this game was particularly dominating and he showed amazing control of all his pitches.

Of the pitchers that Charleston trotted out this year, Simpson is the only one I can picture Atlanta taking a flyer on.