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Scouting Update: Sam Stafford, LHP (Texas/Santa Barbara Foresters)

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July 26, 2010

I had a very good look at University of Texas left-hander Sam Stafford recently, in an outing in which he pitched seven no-hit innings and showed Friday night stuff on a seriously hot Thursday.

The first thing you would absolutely notice about Stafford is the overhand 12/6 curveball with true bite, power, and plane and the complete and total confidence he has to throw the pitch at any time in the count. Stafford likes to mix and match and its clear that he doesn’t stay true to one pattern. The curveball was 76-78 for hard strikes in this look, in which I graded the rotation and command above average.

Stafford has the arm power to be a front line left-handed starter. I had his fastball at 91-94, including peaks at 94 into the seventh inning. Stafford averaged 91-92 with the fastball and I graded his command above average, specifically with the ability to cut the plate in half and make good use of his slider, which was 81-85 in this look, and with hard life.

In many cases, a left-hander often has to decide which pitch is better for him, be it the curveball or the slider, because too many times one usually takes away from the other. In this look, Stafford’s stuff was so sharp that he was capable of incorporating all three pitches in and attaining various looks and angles. His slider had the arm action run on right-handers and changed planes from a differing angle than the curveball. I’m sure Stafford, like every other left-hander I’ve ever talked with in my life, wishes both pitches worked as well each time out. This was one of those times, but what you like is the idea that he has enough weapons to compete at the advanced levels when he reaches into the bag and maybe only two of the pitches are really there for him on a given night.

Built with medium hips, broad shoulders, long legs, Stafford has a loose and whippy arm action and exactly the right arm speed he needs to be what he is. He remains balanced and coordinated and closed, lands well, and pitched with poise. I liked the way the ball came out of his hand. He repeated well. The one pitch he told me he was working on was the change-up, which of course, most high school and college coaches don’t let guys throw against metal. I’ve seen it go both ways – some guys have enough confidence in the change to throw it against metal and some put it away. In Stafford’s case, he was just working on a straight change. That would be a below-average pitch at this point, but that’s OK, and I could argue that he had a very good feel for it despite not throwing it very much. It should grade up and here’s why – good understanding of maintaining arm slot, arm speed and deception. It needs more innings but you can envision it becoming a part of the palate, and the creation of a four-pitch major league starter.

Watch Sam Stafford Video

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