San Bernardino, California —— At the top of this post, watch one of our baseball scouting videos of San Diego Padres right-handed pitching prospect Zech Lemond, taken from an April 2017 appearance he made for the High-A Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League against the Inland Empire 66ers. Entering play Saturday night, Lemond has struck out 22 hitters against just two walks in 14.1 innings pitched this year for the Storm.
To read our feature interview with Zech Lemond that was also released today, please click here. And for hundred more clips like these Zech Lemond baseball videos, click here to subscribe to the Baseball Census YouTube channel, too.
Zech Lemond scouting report notes
The Zech Lemond baseball journey is now into its third straight season at High-A Lake Elsinore, and the first two didn’t go so well. In 32 games (22 starts) in 2015, the Rice University product allowed 175 hits and a .326 opponents’ batting average over 130 innings pitched and finished 5-10 with a 5.54 ERA. The Padres sent Lemond back to Lake Elsinore in 2016, kept him in the rotation, and things didn’t go so well again: in 20 games (14 starts), Lemond allowed 113 hits and a .334 opponents’ batting average over just 81.1 innings pitched, finishing 6-6 with a 7.30 ERA.
So when the San Diego Padres sent him back to Lake Elsinore for a third chance this year, you’d have been right to be skeptical — except that a full-time shift to the bullpen has completely changed how Lemond is setting up hitters, and his stuff is playing up far better in short stints where he can max out and miss bats. Lemond’s career has taken a turn for the better with the Storm, and entering Saturday, he’s now whiffed 22 batters against just two walks in his first 14.1 innings pitched (over seven relief appearances) with a 3.77 ERA this year. He’s tough to square up, and he’s proving that despite being overly hittable as a starter, when he’s a max effort relief option he can be hell on hitters and he can miss bats in tight, late-game situations.
As you’ll see in our set of Zech Lemond baseball videos both at the top of this post and below, the righty is doing it all with a very hard fastball that’s coming out of a release point nearly straight over the top. Lemond makes that work on his right-handed frame with long arms and mechanics that leave him fairly tall tot he plate. When he gets on top of the ball and commands it down in the zone, he can get great plane on it, making the pitch extremely tough for hitters to square up. The pitch is hard, too, sitting 91-95 mph and occasionally touching a bit higher now that he’s coming out of the ‘pen. But it’s also readily apparent why he’s been so hittable in the past, too: Lemond’s fastball is straight, with little by way of consistent cutting or running action either way as it crosses the plate. If he misses his spot and leaves a fastball up in the zone, even with good velocity, it’ll flatten out and leave him liable to get tagged pretty hard if a guy can get the ball on his barrel.
Lemond is a strike thrower to an extreme, and that makes him perhaps a bit too hittable to pitch in the late innings at higher levels, so there’s little question he needs another wrinkle to his fastball. His slider shows flashes of being an above-average pitch though, thanks to its very, very tight spin and its hard downward drop in the 80-85 mph velocity range. When Lemond releases it in the right place, with good fastball arm action, it’s a difficult pitch to pick up and it’s helping to account for a good portion of the righty’s strikeouts this season as his main change-of-pace to hitters on both sides of the plate.
There’s little to no movement on Lemond’s changeup right now, but he may not need the pitch as much if he’s in the bullpen full time—and doubly so if he can develop a modest cutter or two-seamer to play off his fastball-slider combo. He is adding a split-fingered fastball, though, as he mentioned to us in a feature interview also up today, so that’ll be a nice new wrinkle that should complement his power stuff extremely well and give him another pitch that’s tough for hitters to square up when he commands it down in the zone.
He’s notably slow to the plate, which is an interesting and unfortunate wrinkle in his bullpen game. Runners get good reads and great jumps on him, and his slow delivery and long arm action—which includes showing the ball very early behind his back after he breaks his hands—combine to make it extremely difficult for his catchers to throw out base stealers. That can be adjusted somewhat, you’d hope, but when Lemond does quicken his pace to the plate, he’s liable to drag his long arm action behind his body and end up misfiring high and arm-side because his release point can’t catch up to his lower half.
Lemond will be 25 years old in October, and 2017 represents his third sustained shot at High-A, so you’d have to imagine that it’s now-or-never if he’s to have any potential impact on the Padres one day. He’s pitching well early this summer and appears to have taken well to a max-effort bullpen role. He certainly looks the part, and he’s an intense presence on the mound who’s unafraid to challenge any hitter in any situation. With 22 strikeouts to his name against just two walks, you’d imagine that another couple strong outings missing bats in High-A will prompt the San Diego Padres to finally test him in Double-A and see if his transition to the bullpen can stick at higher levels.
To read our feature interview with Zech Lemond that was also released today, please click here. For hundreds more clips like these Zech Lemond baseball videos, click here to subscribe to the Baseball Census YouTube channel, and keep scrolling down for all of our Zech Lemond scouting report videos and GIFs. To visit Zech Lemond’s player page, please click here.
Zech Lemond scouting report: 140 characters or less
A converted starter with a grip-it-and-rip-it mindset, Zech Lemond has the intensity and power stuff to miss bats and survive in relief.
Zech Lemond scouting report video
Here’s a look at three of our most recent Zech Lemond baseball videos, taken during a late April series for the Storm on the road at Inland Empire:
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Zech Lemond scouting report GIFs
In addition to our video clips, we broke out some Zech Lemond baseball GIFs for a deeper look at the life on his pitches and his release point and mechanics to the plate:
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