Name: Connor Sadzeck
DOB: October 1, 1991 (21)
Acquired: 2011 Amateur Draft, 11th Round (Howard College)
When the Texas Rangers signed right-hander Connor Sadzeck to an above-slot $350,000 deal as an 11th-round pick in 2011, the organization gained a raw-but-powerful arm that flashes upper-90s velocity.
Sadzeck was drafted by the Rangers out of Howard College––a junior college baseball powerhouse in Big Spring, Texas. A native of Illinois, Sadzeck initially signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Oklahoma out of high school, but he instead ended up at Howard.
As a freshman in Big Spring, Sadzeck posted a 3.56 ERA in 60.2 innings, yielding 61 hits, walking 34, and striking out 49. He was set to attend the University of Texas in 2012––following his freshman campaign––but instead opted to begin his professional career.
The general scouting report on Sadzeck coming out of college was that he flashed a plus fastball (though not upper-90s) with relatively raw secondary stuff and command. His velocity quickly ticked up in pro ball––reaching 97 mph at spring training and 99 at extended spring––and the secondaries showed promise, though the command and mechanics remained underdeveloped.
Corey Ragsdale, the extended spring and rookie Surprise Rangers manager last season, saw Sadzeck's velocity jump first-hand.
"You see a guy hit 99 mph––obviously it's an exciting arm," Ragsdale said. "He has very good life on the fastball. He is working with the pitching guys, and they're doing a good job with him. He's trying to repeat his delivery a little bit. I think, sometimes, he doesn't repeat and maybe doesn't find the same release point at times."
The command and repeatability of Sadzeck's delivery was something Ragsdale stressed last May. While the right-hander threw strikes in bursts, he ended up issuing 47 walks in 62 innings at short-season Spokane.
"For him, I think that's the biggest thing they're working on––just repeatability in his delivery," Ragsdale said. "They want to get him in a good position to let the arm work and repeat it. That way, he can find the strike zone consistently. He goes out sometimes and he's right there when he's feeling it. And sometimes it's a struggle––just like the young kid that he is.
"But no doubt––any time you see a guy at 98-99 mph––and it comes out pretty good. It's pretty easy. So it's exciting. He has definitely got a live arm."
On the whole, the 21-year-old's debut summer in Spokane was a mixed bag of results. He showed power stuff, was difficult to hit, and missed bats. However, he also had some difficulty throwing strikes.
Sadzeck made 15 starts with the Indians in 2012, posting a 4.06 ERA. Over 62 innings, he yielded just 44 hits, walked the aforementioned 47, and struck out 58.
His inconsistency was perhaps summed up best in his final two starts last season. On August 24, the fireballing prospect tossed six innings of no-hit ball, walking two and striking out four. Five days later, he was tagged for seven runs on five hits in two innings, issuing six walks without recording a strikeout.
Also See: Rangers Spring Training Notes (March 21, 2012)
Sadzeck on the prospect radar (March 28, 2012)
Rangers Minor League Notes (March 27, 2012)
Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Corey Ragsdale (May 10, 2012)
Lone Star Dugout Video: Connor Sadzeck (January 22, 2013)
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Fastball: A big right-hander with a 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame, Sadzeck flashes a 70-grade fastball with excellent velocity and life in bursts, but his shaky command keeps it from playing at that level at present. The 21-year-old worked between 93-97 mph––reaching up to 98 and 99––during a handful of three-inning appearances at extended spring training last season. He's shown the ability to work at 95-97 during one-inning relief stints, and he was 92-94––touching higher––while starting in Spokane last summer.
On top of the easy plus velocity, Sadzeck's fastball isn't straight, as it has heavy life down in the zone. He throws the heater on a good downward plane from 6-foot-5 when he gets on top, but he struggled to get on top of his entire arsenal with much consistency in 2012. Sadzeck's command and control––particularly with his fastball––are his two biggest question marks, and his success down the line will likely be determined by how much they develop.
Other Pitches: When Sadzeck gets on top of his curveball, it's a plus hammer in the upper-70s with sharp two-plane break and plenty of depth. When he doesn't, it flattens out and/or loses sharpness, often getting buried in the dirt. His arm slot gave him problems getting on top of the breaking ball with much consistency last season, but he worked on the slot and made progress in Spokane and at instructs. While the curveball lacks consistency at present, it could be a true swing-and-miss pitch with more refinement. The righty also shows a feel for his less-used mid-80s changeup, which he struggles to locate at times but has some funky sinking and fading action.
Projection: Without a doubt, Sadzeck has some of the best pure stuff in the Rangers' organization. He attacks hitters from that 6-foot-5 frame, his fastball reaches the upper-90s with heavy life, he shows the ability to spin a plus breaking ball, and his changeup has its moments.
Sadzeck's command and control are currently holding the fantastic raw stuff back, however––both are currently well below-average and likely won't progress enough for him to remain a starting pitcher at the upper levels. If Sadzeck repeats his delivery with more consistency down the line, he could develop at least fringe-average command that will enable his power stuff to play at the back end of a bullpen. There's a lot of room for growth, though, and the Rangers hope he begins making strides with his command and control in 2013.
2013 Outlook: Even though Sadzeck's command profile will likely land him in a bullpen role long-term, the Rangers may continue starting him at the lower levels in order to maximize his opportunity for command/mechanical/secondary development. After making 15 starts at short-season Spokane last season, the right-hander should progress forward to the Single-A Hickory rotation in 2013. Still on the raw side despite his overpowering stuff, Sadzeck may get a late-season look in Myrtle Beach if he excels, but it wouldn't be a surprise to see him spend the entire 2013 campaign in the Sally League.