San Bernardino, California —— Ever since moving to the bullpen with the San Jose Giants earlier this summer, San Francisco Giants left-handed pitching prospect Matt Krook has seen a significant uptick in his arsenal, as well as a moderate improvement in command and control. In eight games out of the bullpen this year, the lefty is 1-0 with a 1.02 ERA and 25 strikeouts against just seven walks and seven hits over 17.2 innings pitched. Compare that to his numbers as a starter (59 walks and five hit batters over 73.2 innings pitched) and that’s a pretty significant and quick adjustment to throwing more—and better—strikes.
At least in part, that’s been thanks to a very, very good sinking fastball that Krook throws from 88-92 mph, but he’s also flashing a harder slider and a better curveball, too. Here, you can watch that improved pitch action in the most recent video we grabbed of him from bullpen work and a game outing on August 29 on the road at Inland Empire:
For reference, you can compare that to some of our previous Matt Krook videos that have captured his iffy command less-developed arsenal in both April and May, too:
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It’s a pretty radical difference, especially in his feel for the slider and curveball, and that’s a nuance not easy to pick up midseason with what many would see as a major demotion to the bullpen. Both those pitches were spiked and very rarely competitive when he’d use them early in the year; it got so bad, he pretty much went to his sinker for an entire outing just to survive at one point. Now, his curveball has good, hard break and he can throw it to both sides of the plate. His slider also has some depth with feel, and I think it could become a good back door/back foot pitch against righties.
In regards to that aforementioned sinker, too — it’s the real deal. I was talking to Jonah Arenado before the game on Wednesday (I’ll have his full interview up tonight or tomorrow) and he marveled at Krook’s sinker, saying it has so much hump and downward movement that it looks like a hard slider from his vantage point at first base and third base. That’s a pretty remarkable thing to say, and bodes well for Krook’s raw stuff moving forward.
Obviously, I wonder where this puts Matt Krook in the minds of the San Francisco Giants after this season. The lefty has really just enjoyed his first pro ball success (in a very small sample size) coming out of the bullpen, but he has so much in his arsenal and still has such a projectable frame and approach that I wonder if he won’t quickly head back into the starting rotation next year just because it’s so tempting to see if he can do it. (To mention nothing of the fact that as a legitimate prospect and a high-round draft guy, the San Francisco Giants will likely give him a few more chances than they otherwise would to see if he can rein in his considerable talent.)
We’ll see, but no matter what they outwardly reveal now, my hunch is he gets a few more shots at the starting rotation. If that doesn’t stick, it’s off to the bullpen for good to wreak havoc on lefties with a good arsenal that we now know plays up in short stints. Command issues or not, there’s no question he can miss bats, and if he can keep things just enough in line to do that consistently, he’ll find work for years to come.
Beyond that, give all the credit in the world to Matt Krook. To put it bluntly, the lefty looked lost and overwhelmed at points early this year, and he’s filthy now with an actually usable arsenal that could push him forward quicker than you’d ever have thought if you saw him in the season’s first couple months.
There’s still some work to do, but he’s (finally) well on his way.