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Monday, February 09, 2009

Webb and Weber On the Panhandle

Anup Sinha        
MARIANNA, FL- The #1 and #2 JUCO prospects (in our pre-season Top-250) both pitched on the Florida panhandle just 90 miles apart on Friday the 6th. I stayed in Marianna to watch #2 Ryan Weber throw a masterful shutout for St. Petersburg JC against Southern Nevada JC at 5:30 CST while #1 Daniel Webb was pitching for Northwest Florida State in Niceville at 4:00.
The similarities are stunning with our #1 and #2 pre-season JUCO prospects. Both are righthanded pitchers with very similar last names. And both had committed to SEC schools only to switch to high-powered Florida panhandle junior colleges. They were also chosen two picks apart in the 12th round; Weber by the Philadelphia Phillies and Webb by the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Webb, from Paducah High School in northeastern Kentucky, had sig ned with his home-state University of Kentucky Wildcats. A throng of about 25-30 scouts left Marianna shortly after 2:00 PM to get to his game at Northwest Florida State while another 20+ (including myself) stayed in Marianna.

The reports on Webb against Shelton State were that he was not sharp and his stuff was less than what scouts had seen him do as a high school senior. While his mechanics were cleaned up, particularly the way he pulled the ball out of his glove, his stuff was down across the board as was his control, walking five batters and throwing several balls away. Northwest Florida State ended up winning a 12-11 slugfest.

Webb, according to scouts I spoke to, threw mostly in the high-80s and his curveball wasn’t sharp. This is actually not unusual for someone who has recently altered mechanics. The idea is that they improve their long-term fortunes, but often they lose their comfort zone in the short term and their stuff suffers. It would be no reason to count out Webb even if his first impression in 2009 for these scouts was not positive. The scouts who also saw him in his first start against Northwest Shoals JC on February 1st said he was much sharper and throwing some in the low-90s then.

Weber, throwing 90 miles northeast in Marianna, was very sharp shutting down Southern Nevada. I’ve seen Weber’s first two starts and the constant has been excellent pitchability and plus command of his curveball. Weber didn’t throw many pitches higher than 87 MPH on Friday, in fact he was mostly 85-87. But he was hitting both corners and battling on every pitch. Weber got a lot of misses putting his curveball on the inner half against righthanded hitters. Both his curve and his change-up project as 55-60 pitches on the 20-80 scale.

The other big issue with Weber is future durability; it’s an issue with every pitcher, but Weber in particular concerns scouts because he’s a small-framed 6-0, 160, with a slender lower-half and his delivery involves a lot of effort. Time will tell, when he’s physically matured, if he develops into the type of pitcher who can be effective over a 162-game season. What’s not in doubt is that he’s a dominating pitcher at this level, at this time. If he did show up to Gainesville, he’d have had a good chance to be in their weekend rotation as a freshman.
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