The College World Series is a pressure packed event. On Saturday afternoon, I luckily had the time to watch the Cubs third round pick, pitcher Tom Hatch from Oklahoma State, go up against UCSB in the opening game. Hatch is a right-handed starter who is 6’1″ tall and weighs about 195 pounds. He has a four pitch repertoire that includes a fastball, slider, changeup, and sinker. He pitches mostly to ground ball contact and is not known as a strikeout pitcher.
In the first inning, Hatch seemed a little nervous or just a bit off. He did walk a batter but got three ground ball outs. Every pitch he he throws was down in the zone and moving which explains why hitters pounded the ball into the turf.
The second inning saw Hatch more relaxed. He struck out the first batter before leaving a ball up in the zone that was hammered into left center for a double. He got the third hitter to line out before a single put men on first and third. Hatch got out of the inning with a strikeout but I did notice several things about his delivery and approach.
In the wind up, Hatch stands straight with his hands at his waist and throws from a three-quarter arm slot. There’s nothing wrong with what he’s doing there. When he goes to the stretch, he gets in this little Virginia-type crouch that I think takes away some of his command and velocity. I also like the fact that Hatch is not afraid to move the ball around the zone. I saw him several times come in on the hands of right-handed hitters to jam them up
He got through the third inning OK and only gave up one hit. In the fourth inning, he started changing how he was using his pitches. I became very intrigued by his ability to throw the sinker down and in to a left-handed hitter. He would start the pitch almost at the hitter’s back knee and the ball would break back over the plate. I thought that was a really good way to use the break on the pitch.
By the fourth, he was starting to look more and more efficient; there were not a lot of wasted pitches. He looked more and more in control of his arsenal. He also started throwing a changeup this inning. I really like that he has four pitches that he can throw between 79 and 92 miles an hour. That has to keep the hitter guessing.
Entering the fifth inning, Hatch had thrown 61 pitches, 35 for strikes. Throughout the inning he looked completely in command, striking out two. For the final strike out of the inning, he went back to going in on the hands again. I like a pitcher who is not afraid to pitch inside.
As Hatch got into the sixth inning, you could start to see the frustration settling in on UCSB. He had such good command of his pitches that he was throwing strike one, strike two, and getting the opposition to swing at pitches that he wanted them to swing at. After six innings he’d thrown 83 pitches, 51 for strikes. He was getting better as the game went on.
The seventh inning proved that because he only needed 10 pitches to get through the inning, inducing two pop ups. Heading into the eighth, he was at 93 pitches with 58 for strikes. In college, starting pitchers tend to be left in longer because they only pitch once a week. Entering the inning, Hatch had set down 11 straight batters. It seemed that his slider got more movement as the game went gone on. I also liked that he was throwing his changeup more and more to keep hitters off balance.
It is very hard to go through a line up three times and still dominate the lineup each time. At the end of eight innings, he had struck out six, allowed four hits, and retired at one point 12 batters in a row. At 102 pitches, I began to wonder if the Cowboys were going to send him out in the ninth to finish the game. Being that this was a college game, I had pretty much convinced myself that Hatch would be given the chance to finish the game. Considering there was no one up in the bullpen, didn’t take a genius to figure that out.
The ninth-inning was more the same. Hatch got two ground outs, gave up a single, and struck out UCSB’s best hitter for the final out, Hatch’s seventh strikeout. I came away extremely impressed with the physical aspect of Hatch’s pitches, and also how Hatch used his pitches to set hitters up. It was a masterful complete game performance.
Where does he fit in the Cubs’ system?
Compared to other Cubs prospects, I think he should fit easily in the top 20, maybe even top 15 just based on his command of his three pitches. As far as how he compares to other pitchers in the system, I think he’s going to be a little bit below Cease and Underwood. I think he’s a little bit better in terms of command of his pitches than most pitchers in the organization. I would probably put him somewhere in my top 15, either right at where Trevor Clifton is, or a little bit higher in terms of pitchability. When he gets to pitching full-time next year, he easily could be the third best starting pitcher in the system. What I like most of all, is the Cubs have not even begun to develop him yet. I think he might be a number three starter and it’s not gonna take him long to get here based upon what I saw on Saturday.