Full Scouting Report: Nick Hagadone
Hagadone was only about a year removed from Tommy John surgery at the time, but he has rebounded quickly from the procedure. The big southpaw has gotten off to a very strong start here in 2010 with the Kinston Indians, and Cleveland has to be very pleased thus far. Here is what I saw from Hagadone on Tuesday night in Wilmington.
Hagadone has the benefit of an extra large frame, and he uses every bit of it to produce his velocity. At 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, he has the durable body scouts look for and he carries the weight quite well. He's well proportioned and he's probably maxed out physically at this point. The 24-year-old also uses his height quite well in his delivery. He also proves himself to be a plus athlete and is an above-average fielder.
The delivery is where things begin to get interesting with Hagadone. He is a high-effort guy and his mechanics somewhat resemble a left-handed version of Tim Lincecum. The glove flings out in front of his body and he throws close to right over the top. It looks violent and somewhat awkward at first glance, but he proved on Tuesday night that he could repeat it with relative ease. Like Lincecum, with all that movement in his delivery, he hides the ball exceptionally well.
He has a nice, long arm action and gets through his pitches, in general, very well. Hagadone steps a little across his body, and as a result is extremely tough on left-handed hitters. Considering his history of injuries, there will be some concern over his long-term health when people take a look at his delivery. This is one reason he may profile better in a relief role in the long-term.
The fastball is what is going to be separates Hagadone from the pack, especially among left-handed pitching prospects. Working out of a starting role, and not even two years removed from elbow surgery, he worked at 92-94 mph, reaching 95 a handful of times in just over four innings of work on Tuesday night. There were points in the game when Hagadone let off on his velocity, to get a first-pitch strike or when he was behind in the count, and pitched around 89-91 mph.
While it's good to see him put a premium on throwing strikes, this is a guy that puts a lot into it to produce the velocity on which he relies. Letting off to throw strikes may not be the best thing and is another indication that the bullpen could be in his future, but when he's pumping his fastball at his best, Hagadone showed against Wilmington that he could be downright overpowering. He seemed able to reach for 94-95 mph when he needed it and his fastball also showed a little run down in the zone.
Also worth noting -- by the latter portion of his outing, the former first-round selection's velocity was just not quite where it was in the early innings. Even working around 91-92 mph, he still has a plus fastball, but rather than having to pace himself, it would be fascinating to see how his velocity would play at the back of the bullpen. With his max-effort approach, watching him air it out could be very interesting, and we could see more 95-mph fastballs (or higher) in that role. He was living there in the first inning in particular against Wilmington. Given how much he likes to use his fastball, and that he appears to be willing to go right at hitters with it, he would fit very nicely as a closer or setup man.
Also something to keep in mind, and it can't be stressed enough, is that it has been less than two years since his surgery. There is more velocity still to come from Hagadone.
The slider is Hagadone's out pitch, of that there is no doubt. It may not be as hard as it once was, given that he is coming off surgery, but it's a clear plus pitch, and he flashed a couple that would grade out as 7s on the 2-8 scouting scale. He was able to back foot the slider repeatedly to right-handed hitters for swinging strikes and sweep it down and away from lefties. Given the combination of his plus velocity and big slider, he's going difficult for lefty hitters in particular, and that showed on Tuesday evening. This is going to be a swing-and-miss, put-away pitch for him that will play at the next level.
He throws it at 78-81 mph with outstanding two-plane action. What was nice to see is that he didn't overuse it and gradually worked it into his arsenal as the lineup turned over. He showed a nice feel for it, knowing when to bounce it and when to throw it for strikes. Once again, having the plus breaking ball to go along with the good velocity lends itself very well to a late-inning relief role.
The third pitch, for good reason, is a key part of what makes or breaks a pitcher as a starter. In Nick Hagadone's case, already having a high-effort delivery and velocity that could potentially spike in short relief stints, the third pitch may not end up being all that important unless Cleveland is truly committed to keeping him in a starting role. The use of the changeup was sparse on Tuesday, but when he did throw it he sat around 82-84 mph.
The big question for Hagadone is not about his talent. He absolutely has the stuff to succeed at the big-league level. The question is about his role. I'm believe that organizations should attempt to develop their best arms as starters because they can be moved to the bullpen at a later time if necessary. But in this case, Hagadone has the look of a potentially dominant reliever at the back of a bullpen.
In short stints, he may eventually be able to live at 94-95 mph. Couple that with his plus slider and you have closer stuff. If he is going to remain a starter, the changeup is going to have to come along and he may need to tone down the effort in his delivery. If he follows that path, he just might not hold up over time. He does have the command and solid feel for pitching to succeed in either role, but when you consider the pros and cons, the bullpen looks like his eventual home.
Frankie Piliere spent the last three seasons working as a scout, most recently in the professional scouting department for the Texas Rangers in 2009. He now serves as the National Baseball Analyst here at FanHouse.