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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Loux, Stilson Shine for Texas A&M

David Rawnsley        
All the scouts in the stands at the Texas Tech vs. Texas A&M match up Friday night in College Station could talk about was the impending weather. With good reason, too. Theres been a Texas size gully washer here on Saturday morning, with winds up to 40 mph and temps in the 30’s following the front.

Feels like Nebraska….must almost be time to go home.

When the attention was on the field, the scouts and 4,006 Aggie fans saw a crisp, fairly well played 6-3 victory for A&M in the Big 12 opener for both teams. Tech fell to 8-11 overall, while A&M raised its record to 14-3.

While I knew junior RHP Barrett Loux was starting for the Aggies, my hope was that I would get to see hard throwing sophomore RHP John Stilson out of the bullpen. As sometimes happens, things worked out perfectly. Loux pitched the first 5 2/3 innings, striking out 10 Tech hitters (his third straight double figure strikeout game, giving him 48 K’s in only 27 innings) before leaving after throwing 104 pitches. He raised his record to 3-1 on the season with an outstanding 1.29 ERA.

Stilson then came in from the bullpen and threw the final 3 1/3 innings, striking out five more Tech hitters. The 6-3, 190 lb transfer from Texarkana JC is establishing himself as perhaps the most dominant pitcher in college baseball this spring. Stilson is now 4-0, 1.04 with 3 saves. In 25 innings he’s allowed only 8 hits and 7 walks while striking out 39 hitters.

Loux and Stilson’s dominance is reflective of the entire A&M staff, which has a 2.25 ERA on the season with 185 K’s in 152 innings. Their bullpen had a streak of 37 consecutive scoreless innings earlier in the year. Freshman RHP Michael Wacha (2-0, 0.40, 1 SV, 22 IP/33 K) has pitched just as well if not better than Loux and Stilson.

Scouting Reports

Barrett Loux: Loux is a mature 6-5, 230 lb right hander with a very strong lower half but loose and easy athletic actions. He has a full arm circle and shows the ball a bit in back but he comes through clean and quick from a high ¾’s release point that produces a very good downhill angle to the plate. Loux had elbow surgery last summer to clean up some bone spurs but his delivery and arm action aren’t the type that will make scouts worry at all about future injury. He throws a bit cross body on release, which works well for him. Loux’s fastball was up to 94 mph last night and never dropped below 91 the entire game, with his last two fastballs registering 93 mph. It’s pretty straight and didn’t have the heavy sinking action that I’ve heard it has at times but the downhill angle really is a plus for Loux. Early in the game Loux threw some 83 mph sliders and low 80’s change ups and tried hard to establish the change up especially. I’d like to see him throw the change a little less firmly as hitters’ timing wasn’t affected much. About the middle of the game, Loux started getting a rhythm with his 76-78 mph downer curveball and got many of his 10 K’s on this pitch, including striking out the side in the 5th. It’s a solid pro level pitch that he commanded well. I was impressed by Loux’s ability to mix pitches and repeat his delivery. Throwing 93 mph after 100 pitches was certainly another plus. The minus side was the lack of fastball life and the present below average quality of his slider and change up, although they were admittedly his third and fourth best pitches. Based on this outing I can see Loux as a second half of the first round type of pick, with teams in the early comp round getting really excited about his maybe sliding down a bit to their area of the draft.

John Stilson: This is the first year that Stilson has concentrated primarily on pitching, although he has still started three games at shortstop for the Aggies. He was a three-sport star in high school in Texarkana, TX, and was the starting shortstop for Texarkana JC last year while also going 12-1, 2.44 on the mound. He was drafted by the Twins in the 19th round of the 2009 draft. Stilson’s delivery, to put it mildly, makes you want to say “Wow…that interesting”. It’s high energy with a pretty severe head jerk and lots of recoil after release. I think the only way that Stilson can get away with it and repeat it well enough to throw strikes is that he is such a good athlete. Of course, all hitters are seeing are arms and legs flying around and it has to be very deceptive. Stilson’s stuff, also to put it mildly, makes you want to say “Wow….that’s awesome”. He sat between 94 and 98 mph and it wasn’t your normal straight high velocity fastball. It had some arm side running action and when Stilson threw to his glove side the ball just ran away from right handed hitters. Stilson’s 83 mph slider was twisty and inconsistent, although it flashed some bite and to his credit he tried a couple of change ups, which wasn’t a pitch he looked too comfortable throwing by looking at his body language after he threw the ball. Stilson will definitely need work developing a true slider, something that he could probably throw in the upper 80’s, but his deception and sheer velocity are enough to overmatch most hitters. The 2011 class is pretty loaded with top half of the first round talent but Stilson’s name certainly belongs in that company.

Most of my attention was on the pitchers but two senior position players warrant mention.

A&M’s Brodie Greene is well known to most college baseball fans. He was the All-Big 12 first team second baseman last year and until yesterday was playing centerfield this spring. He started his first game of the season at shortstop in place of the slumping Adam Smith (.188, 6 E’s) and is one of those type of athletes who can play every position on the field. Greene is an aggressive hitter (.426-2-16, 6 SB’s) with bat speed and running speed and should be among the better senior sign type drafts in the country.

Tech’s Joey Kenworthy stands out because of his diminutive 5-5, 160 lb frame but this young man can play. A left handed hitter, Kenworthy accounted for Tech’s first two runs with a home run off Loux and later squared up a hard line drive to centerfield. He was acrobatic at shortstop, although his arm strength is way short for that level professionally. Kenworthy can definitely play pro ball despite his size and reminds me of Chris Cates, the 5-3 shortstop in the Twins organization and graduate of Louisville.

-- David Rawnsley

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