The Tampa Bay Rays have a deep and talented pitching staff, which extends into their farm system. Of the bunch, Taylor Guerrieri has a chance to be as good as any.
A 20-year-old [as of tomorrow] right-hander, Guerrieri is the team’s top pitching prospect. Drafted 24th overall in 2011, he began his professional career this summer with short-season Hudson Valley and dominated the New York-Penn League. He featured a mid-90s fastball and a plus curveball while he logged a 1.04 ERA and a 0.77 WHIP in 12 starts. In 52 innings, he struck out 45 batters and walked only five.
Guerrieri talked about his pitching approach after the Futures at Fenway doubleheader in mid-August.
David Laurila: How do get guys out?
Taylor Guerrieri: I just get ahead with the fastball, or really with any pitch. Making sure you stay ahead is the key. To me, it’s get ahead early and get ahead often.
I try to stay true with my pitch sequence. A lot of it, for me, is based on where the guy is set up on the plate. If he’s further in, I’m going to come in. If he’s a little bit away from the plate, I’m going to go away. A lot depends on the batter, but I also have a game plan.
DL: Who dictates your game plan?
TG: It’s basically the manager, pitching coach and myself. It’s about staying ahead with the fastball until they prove they can hit the fastball. I usually don’t show them too much until they show they can hit it. The plan isn’t so much about particular hitters as it is my approach.
DL: You throw your two-seam fastball more than your four-seam. Why?
TG: I grew up throwing a two-seamer. I’m just now learning how to throw a four-seam off the mound and get comfortable with it. That will be a big pitch for me, so I’m looking to progress with it.
I don’t think there’s a lot of difference [in velocity]. It’s more of a placement pitch; more of a set-up pitch. I like to throw a lot of two-seamers and my four helps me set that up.
My two-seam has a little running action and some sinking, as well. It has more run toward the glove side and more sink toward the arm side.
DL: How important is velocity to your game?
TG: It is important. I’m not going to lie. But I think a lot of it is about pitch sequence and location. I’ve learned a lot this summer. Like when to throw certain pitches, how to throw certain pitches and how to go up with the fastball — not just east and west, but north and south. Changing the eye levels of hitters is huge.
DL: What else is in your repertoire?
TG: I throw a curveball and a changeup. I’d say my curveball is above average and my changeup is a work in progress. It’s getting there, but it’s a pitch I really just started developing in spring training. It’s a split-change. I vary with it, but the majority of time it’s a split-change.
DL: What goes into determining the right grip?
TG: It’s really whatever you feel comfortable with and whatever you can throw strikes with. It’s not just about the movement. It’s more about pitch speed and trying to throw the hitter off.
My changeup has been a focus for me this summer, as has my overall command. My curveball has always been a pretty good pitch, so that hasn’t been a concern.
DL: Your curveball looked pretty good yesterday.
TG: I was pretty happy with it. The last inning, I came out and threw a couple of first-pitch strikes with it. It’s always important to throw your off-speed for strikes as well as you can. I executed that, so I was pretty happy with my curveball. It’s a good pitch for me.
DL: What was it like to pitch at Fenway Park?
TG: It was amazing, something I’ll never forget it. There was definitely a little bit of adrenaline. I think that first pitch showed everybody I had a little bit of an adrenaline run.
I like to compete, but I usually feel pretty settled in on the mound. It’s mostly about finding my groove. Once you find that, you’re usually all set.
Hudson Valley Renegades manager Jared Sandberg on Guerrieri:
“Taylor is the real deal. He has a plus-fastball with command. He has both a two-seam and a four-seam, and he likes his two-seam over his four. His curveball has tremendous depth to it, and he can throw it for strikes. He can spot it up. He also has a changeup. His velocity is 92 to 97, so he‘s definitely a power pitcher. Maturity-wise, I think he’s well above his years. He’s on his way.”