The Braves made a pick that surprised many, myself included, when they picked Clemson RHP Spencer Strider in the fourth round of the 2020 MLB Draft. It was an even bigger surprise to find out he got paid slot value considering he was a surprising pick that wasn’t projected by many to be drafted.
That’s not to say Strider isn’t talented, rather he is a very talented pitcher who missed all of last year due to Tommy John surgery and battled some command issues as a freshman. He needed to log some innings this year to rebound his stock, and while he pitched well this spring- he didn’t pitch a ton of innings as the Tigers were ramping him back up in his recovery.
Strider was a candidate to return to school and try to prove why he was a potential Top 100 pick out of high school, but the Braves saw something in him that drew them to him this spring.
I didn’t pay close attention to him previously thinking with the shortened draft and a chance to rebuild his stock that he was likely headed back to school. But with him now signed, I decided to take a look at what the Braves saw.
I picked the South Carolina start, as it was his longest of the year at 4 IP, against the best lineup he faced(Liberty, Stony Brook, and Boston College were the others), and because the Gamecocks had some familiarity with him.
The fastball is a pitch that can hit at 97 MPH pretty regularly, and most often sits in the 94-96 range.
Strider makes 2nd pitch of the game pic.twitter.com/sPKM38Xvzh— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) June 21, 2020
I wanted to embed some of his work in here for you to take a look as we talk about him. This pitch below gives you a better look at the movement on his 97 MPH fastball that he ended up picking up a swinging strikeout.
Strider picks up a K with a 97 MPH fastball, following up a 97 MPH fastball pic.twitter.com/DmZslE2cAz— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) June 21, 2020
This pitch is an easily plus pitch, if not more. It wouldn’t be a stretch to put a 65 grade on it with the combination of velocity and movement.
Before we get started I want to point out that the breaking balls are the last thing to come back for a pitcher after Tommy John surgery, and Strider is still very much in the middle of his recovery as he had a 50 pitch limit on his game.
The slider isn’t a consistent pitch for him yet, but it has the signs of being a second plus pitch. If you want a good look at it, watch this entire clip below as you will see it in replay from a pair of different camera angles.
A Spencer Strider breaking ball. Watch the whole clip as you see it come from a few camera angles by replay pic.twitter.com/19a4GfXrBd— Matt Powers (@MattPowers31) June 21, 2020
I don’t think it’s a finished pitch in terms of consistency, but the slider can become a 60 grade offering with some additional work.
The below clip has a second camera angle as well.
The changeup wasn’t really seen in this outing and hasn’t been used much in his college career. If Strider is going to remain a starter, this is the biggest key for him to develop one- though it isn’t the only question mark on that if you keep reading.
Strider’s command was a work in progress. He had a better feel for his control than his command in this start. That isn’t uncommon among guys that are on their way back from Tommy John surgery, so it’s not completely fair to judge his command here. However with his feel for the strike zone, it’s not out of the question he could get a 45-50 future grade.
Strider doesn’t have the ideal delivery. It’s a bit unorthodox with some effort and may have contributed to his past elbow issue. His delivery may limit him to being a reliever as he’s not a big guy(6”, 195 pounds) and needs that effort to throw as hard as he does.
Being limited to the bullpen isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if the Braves feel like Strider can pitch some two to three inning stints out of the pen with his pair of plus pitches.
Strider has a mound presence about him, he’s high-energy and cocky to the point it shows his confidence.
Strider felt like a bit of a reach at the time, but after watching him from this year a little closer you can see why the Braves liked him. Obviously they hope he can start, but things are stacked against that. However if he can be a multi-inning relief weapon, this pick will look great. Even if he can be a one inning setup man this pick will come back as a strong pick in a few years.
Whatever happens in regards to his role, Strider is a live arm and can be an asset to the Braves in some way as his fastball and slider are more than enough to get big league hitters out.
I chose to do Strider as a lesser known commodity, but if you are interested in a similar breakdown of top pick Jared Shuster, comment below.