Robert Erlin Scouting Report (2010)
It’s not often a player seemingly comes out of nowhere and makes me giddy with excitement. This season, I can only think of three players who fit the bill; Astros farmhand Jose Altuve, Braves prospect Robinson Lopez, and the Rangers Robert Erlin. Backed by a pinpoint fastball and arguably the best curveball I’ve laid eyes on this season, Erlin gutted the Savannah Sand Gnats in a preview of the damage he would inflict across the entire league. With a 1.66 ERA, .193 BAA, and 80/13 K/BB ratio, to call Erlin’s season dominating is an understatement. Erlin was the best pitcher on the multi-million dollar Hickory Crawdads staff.
Physical Projection: Yes, Erlin is not the ideal size for a pitcher, but I’d argue it works well for him. He’s small and compact which, combined with his athleticism, makes for easily repeatable mechanics. Erlin’s clean arm action and effortless velocity leads me to believe he could gain an additional tick or two on the radar gun as he continues to mature. I can see him developing along the lines of a pre-injury Randy Wolf who was one of the better left-handed pitchers in the game through his mid-twenties.
Mound Presence: Like a chef, Erlin filleted opposing batters with ease. At no point did he look out of sync and his demeanor was calm and focused. Lefties in the Sally tend to dominate with inferior stuff and Erlin took that dominance to a new level. The combination of stuff and location was simply above the league and I’m pretty sure Erlin knew it. However, his confidence was more quiet than a Tyler Matzek and it came across as a professional approach well beyond his years.
Fastball: Erlin peppered the corners with a four-seam fastball registering at 88-89 MPH. At no point did he have to reach back for a little extra. However, his arm action was so easy, I have no doubt 91 MPH would be there if he had needed it. While the pitch did not have great movement, his ability to locate and widen the strike zone six inches on either side of the plate made it a great asset. He also threw a couple of 2-seam fastballs, one registering at 84 MPH on the radar gun. This pitch had more run and drop than the four-seam fastball. While I’m not sure the drop in velocity will play at higher levels, the slider-speed offering has some potential.
Curveball: The best curveball I have seen this season, it has the potential to be a true plus offering. Thrown in the mid-70’s, its 12-6 break made the pitch a true knee-buckler. As he continues to develop the offering, a couple of extra ticks on the radar gun may add the bite needed to make it a swing-and-miss pitch at the upper levels. Most young hurlers fall in love with strong curveballs and will try to live off of it versus inferior competition. Not Erlin, as he instead chose to work off his fastball and use the curveball primarily as an out pitch.
Changeup: At 71-72 MPH, his changeup may have too much velocity separation from his fastball as a 16-18 MPH difference can cause the pitch to be less deceptive. However, with solid arm action and so much fade and drop that I’m not sure Erlin knew exactly where the pitch was going, an average pitch now could easily become an above-average or plus pitch later on with continued development.
In thinking of who Erlin reminded me of in terms of players I’ve scouted, Casey Kelly came to mind as a pitcher with an average fastball he could move in-and-out at will and very strong secondary offerings. With Kelly being a top-30 overall prospect, Rangers fans have plenty to be excited about in Robbie Erlin and I suspect the Rangers will not hesitate to push him hard in 2011 once he has a full season’s worth of innings under his belt.
21 Jan 2014 / Mike Newman /
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