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Future Redbirds Top 25 Prospects for 2015: #5 - Rob Kaminsky

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The Red Baron's darling of the 2013 draft, Kaminsky acquitted himself well in a full season league at the tender age of 19. Those 100 innings didn't end all the debate regarding his size and unorthodox mechanics, however, so the New Jersey native enters 2015 with just as much to prove.

Rob Kaminsky
Rob Kaminsky
milb.com

Acquired: 2013 Draft, (Round 1, #28), St. Joseph Regional School, New Jersey

Birthday: 9/2/1994

Age: 20

Minor League Stops in 2014: Peoria (A)

2014 Totals:

IP

ERA

FIP

K%

BB%

GB%

OFB%

HR/OFB%

100.2 1.88 2.99 19.4 7.6 48.8 25.8 2.7


F-R Grades:

(You can find the 20/80 grading primer here)

Fastball

Changeup

Curveball

Command

Pitchability

50/55 50/65 60/65 50/60 60

There are more and more pitchers throwing the "spike" curveball lately (including 2015 red baron pet project Bryan Dobzanski, who learned it from a teammate of Kaminsky's), but I've not really seen anyone throw it with quite as much snap and depth as Kaminsky does. A number of scouts seem to think that it actually has "too much" depth at times, which makes it hard to throw for a strike when he needs to throw it backdoor as an out pitch or to get an early strike against and aggressive hitter. Can't say as I agree with that analysis, as I think having a true hammer curve for an out pitch is never a bad thing -- I'd rather it have too much depth than be left hanging where it can get clobbered.

The biggest difference between 2015 Kaminsky and the 2014 version is the progress he made with his changeup over the course of the year in Peoria. I saw one of his starts early in the year where he was struggling to get a good feel for the pitch and was leaving it up in the zone rather than getting the good tailing fade that both Joe Schwarz and I saw late in the year. In a three way Twitter discussion about it last August, both Joe and Chiefs play-by-play man Nathan Baliva were sold on the changeup improvement while I was still on the fence having seen Kaminsky struggle so much with it early in the year. It's not a plus pitch yet, but it certainly flashes plus at times and Kaminsky seems to have solid command and feel for the pitch now that he didn't have a year ago.

Kaminsky has an advanced knowledge for how to pitch hitters with the ability to paint the corners with his fastball, cut the ball inside to right handed hitters, and elevate his four seamer in the 94-95 mph range to get swings and misses when he needs them. The other advantage: Those funky mechanics (which resemble an old-timey delivery much like the one that Warren Spahn used to notch 350+ wins in the big leagues) that allow Kaminsky to hide the ball behind him for a good chunk of his motion, which you can see here from this bullpen session caught by VEB member Jason Payne:

Here's an AB during that game, also recorded by Jason:

Notice the late swings and weak contact?  That's not uncommon -- you see a lot of that in most Kaminsky starts: Weak foul balls on late swings and a lot of ground ball outs.  A LOT of ground ball outs:

If you get the ball in the air against Kaminsky it's almost assuredly an out and it's really hard to square the ball up against him and hit it anywhere solid.  Want proof?  Here's the opposing hitter's slash line against Kaminsky in 2014:

.194/.266/.251 in 407 PA

For a guy who doesn't have a 95+ mph fastball, that's absolute dominance.

Here's his final start of the 2014 season, against the Kane County Cubs affiliate on 9/1/2014. You'll notice that Kaminsky consistently attacks hitters on the inner half in this game, despite not having his good breaking ball. He's able to work inside/outside with his fastball and changeup and elevates his fastball to change the eye level of the hitters. This was the only start of the year in which Kaminsky gave up more than 3 runs, although only three of the four scored on him were earned:

2015 Outlook:

Kaminsky will start at Class A+ Palm Beach with fellow Jersey native Alex Reyes, who he was paired with in Peoria a year ago. These two have more than a poor man's resemblance to the last two top prospect pitchers to move through the Cardinal organization together: Shelby Miller and Carlos Martinez.  One big, fastball dominant swing-and-miss guy who looks every bit the part of future ace and another of smaller stature who always seem to be underestimated due to his size. Given the way that he dominates lineups, I'll be shocked if Kaminsky didn't pitch his way into AA by midseason and since the big jump for most pitchers in the minors is A to AA, I'm hoping this happens sooner rather than later as I'm anxious to see him against better competition.

Overall Grade: B