I wasn’t a fan of the Dodgers selecting Tom Windle in the second round last year. My first thought was, “Oh great, it’s Chris Reed, part two.” Well, Windle has shown me more in his couple of seasons than Reed has in his three-plus years. Yes, I have a bias against Reed, but I think Windle profiles better than Reed, after seeing him in person.
I saw him on May 2 in Stockton against the Oakland A’s High-A team, the Ports.
Editor’s note: I am not a scout (#notascout). This is an amateur scouting report based on what I know about baseball and from following the sport all my life. I don’t claim to be a pro, I just want to pass along the information to the masses. All ratings in the charts below are on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 50 is roughly average, 80 is elite and nearly unattainable (think an Aroldis Chapman fastball), and 20 is unacceptably poor. Enjoy.
How he got here
Windle, 22, was the 56th overall selection in the 2013 MLB Draft out of the University of Minnesota. He signed for he full slot-recommended amount of $987,000. He was viewed by some — including yours truly — as a relief prospect. He still might be a future reliever, but he didn’t show it on this day.
He debuted last year — like his draftmate Chris Anderson — in Great Lakes shortly after he signed. He enjoyed decent success, posting a 2.68 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 8.4 H/9, 0.3 HR/9, 3.4 BB/9, 8.6 K/9 and a 3.15 FIP in 53 2/3 innings. He’s with the Quakes in the California League, and is still pitching pretty well.
Windle’s works in the strike zone with his fastball from 89-92 MPH. On this night, he hit 95 MPH two times, including one that catcher Tyler Ogle couldn’t catch. His fastball featured pretty significant arm-side movement, making it a hard pitch to hit. He mixed his 4- and 2-seamer with ease, throwing each with consistency and solid-average velocity.
He got a little wild with his fastball when he faced a lefty for the first time. He missed badly outside with his fastball on the first two pitches, but he was able to settle down and retire Bruce Maxwell on the next pitch, as he flied out to left field.
It wasn’t that easy to distinguish between his 2- and 4-seamer, but his 2-seamer featured more arm-side run that his 4-seamer, but his 4-seamer wasn’t straight — something that will work in his advantage going forward. His 2-seamer should be a pitch in which he can get a lot of grounders. His ground ball rate has improved from 0.93 (ground out-to-fly out ratio) to 1.88 this season. He was able to get two double plays on the night, both after he was in a spot of bother — and both on the first pitch of the at-bat.
While his fastball was solid, his slider was the pitch of the night. He varied the speed on pitch, as it was predominantly an 84-87 MPH offering, but he even threw it at 89 MPH a few times. That isn’t a typo — his fastest slider was the same velocity as his slowest fastball.
His slider featured a sharp 1-7 break (from the hitter/catcher perspective), and was a nasty pitch to right-handed hitters. He was able to strike out one of the Ports’ best prospects Daniel Robertson on the pitch two times. The most impressive was Robertson’s second at-bat. Windle threw four sliders — three down-and-in — and got three swings-and-misses from Robertson. While Billy McKinney is probably the Ports’ best prospect, Robertson had a better matchup against the lefty Windle on this night. Windle stays on top of the pitch and didn’t hang many sliders in this outing.
Windle wasn’t afraid to throw the slider in any count and did a great job of keeping it low in the strike zone. He got at least four strikeouts of right-handed hitters on his slider, and one against a lefty. He was quite confident in the pitch against righties, more so than lefties. But, it was a plus-pitch against both types of hitters, and flashed plus-plus potential.
His changeup was thrown sparingly, but he threw it enough to get a look at it. The first one he threw checked in at 81 MPH and he had Ports’ third baseman Renato Nunez out in front of it on a 1-1 count. It featured solid fade down-and-away and, frankly, he got lucky Nunez wasn’t looking for it. He also threw it a couple other times. Of the few he threw, only one was to a left-handed hitter. His arm speed slowed a little bit, so he’ll have to work on that, otherwise hitters will pick up on it rather easily. It’s a fringy offering at this point. If he’s to remain as a starter, he’ll need to improve and refine the pitch going forward.
When Windle was warming up, I was a little surprised by his delivery. But, it was just his first couple of warmup pitches. It looks a lot better than it was previously reported. He throws from the same arm slot as he did in college, but he incorporates his lower-half a little better since turning pro. He also bends his back significantly more than he did in college. This helps him have a smoother delivery, more consistent release point and better action on his pitches.
Windle throws from a high three-quarters arm slot that looks more consistent and cleaned up since his collegiate days. His motion isn’t as herky-jerky as it was. He overthrows the ball at times, but all pitchers do that. He also ran into a bit of trouble when the threw six of seven pitches for balls. He lost his release point and his arm dragged, but only momentarily. Otherwise, he was consistent with it on the night.
There’s no funk in his delivery, as it’s pretty smooth. He brings his front leg up to about chest level before continuing his delivery toward the plate. He has good balance, which should help him in either a starting or relieving role going forward.
From the stretch, Windle was between 1.3 and 1.4 seconds to home, but no baserunners tried to steal off him (he only allowed five on the night).
Here’s how I would grade Windle, in the table at right. These are the grades I put on him before the season began: 45/55 fastball, 50/60 slider, 40/45 changeup, 40/50 command and control, 40/45 delivery.
If Windle is as consistently good as he was on May 2, he could be a No. 3 starter in the majors. Of course, it was just one look, so the odds are he’ll still end up in the bullpen. But he has a true wipeout slider, and it’s particularly effective against right-handed hitters. He’s big, strong kid, so durability shouldn’t be much of a concern, but he does need to improve his stamina. He also has command issues at times, but has thrown plenty of strikes in his brief pro career. His makeup is solid for a second-year player. If he doesn’t make it as a starter, he could be an effective, hard-throwing late-inning reliever.