Lefty Michael Theofanopoulos talks about his Cal career, being picked up by the Minnesota Twins and…
B Before his redshirt junior season at California, Minnesota Twins 22nd-round draft pick Trevor Hildenberger dropped his arm slot down to the side, and boy, did it pay off.
Hildenberger saved a program-record 10 games as a senior, and was lights-out in some of the biggest spots the Bears put themselves in. He came in to get the final out, he was fit enough to throw several high pressure innings in single appearances, and in his longest of the year against Arizona, he tossed 5.0 innings to hold the 2012 national champs at bay.
The arm slot plays a big part in what Hildenberger can do, but you have to start with the head. He knows how to pitch. Hildenberger won't get behind many hitters, and is a strike-throwing machine. Being in the zone, though, doesn't necessarily mean he gets hit hard. Because of his unorthodox delivery, there's very little that comes out of Hildenberger's hand straight. His fastball runs in on righties and he can start it just a little inside and tail it back over the plate against lefties.
It doesn't look like Hildenberger throws very hard because of that motion, but don't be fooled. He's consistently between 87-89 with his fastball, but regularly gets to 91-93 with good command. Because of he movement he gets on the fastball, he can entice swings from right-handers as the fastball looks like it'll come in over the plate, but then it will cut back and bury itself in on the hands for either a swing and miss or a jam shot. He can also tail it off the outside corner to lefties to get swings and misses.
Because he runs his fastball up in the low-90s, his change up is very effective at getting hitters out in front, particularly because he doesn't change arm speed or arm slot for the change, and because he re-adujsts his grip in his mitt as he goes into his motion. That change up tumbles down and away from righties with a lot of good downward movement, so it's as much a swing-and-miss pitch as a ground ball pitch.
As a consequence of coming from around the third-base side, Hildenberger has a lot of natural sink, and rarely goes up in the zone.
That natural sink adds depth to his already plus slider, which he can throw for strikes on both sides of the plate, and uses as a wipe-out swing-and-miss pitch.
He prefers to work down around the knees, which is a good habit to get into, particularly with his repertoire. That said, because he works low, he needs a good receiving backstop catching him. He wasn't nearly as effective last year throwing to eventual Philadelphia Phillies draft pick Andrew Knapp as he was throwing to Jesse Kay, Mitchell Kranson and Mike Reuvekamp this season.
A final word on Hildenberger's motion: It's very sustainable. He has easy velocity and hasn't suffered any of the ill effects other side-armers tend to because of the motion. The very thing that makes Hildenberger as effective as he is, won't wind up biting him in the future, and he has a clean health record, to boot.