Scouting Kendal Volz, Baylor University

Kendal Volz is a 6' 5", 225 lb right-handed pitcher with some monster stuff. Out of Smithson Valley HS (TX), Volz was among the top college juniors available for the 2009 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Baseball America pegged him as the #6 prospect on both the juniors list and the overall college list.

Volz spent the summer working as Team USA's closer allowing only 1 unearned run in 14 innings and going 8-for-8 in save chances. He works off a low-to-mid 90s fastball, a hard slider, and an improving change up.

At the Houston College Classic, Volz took the mound for Baylor University against UCLA.

Game: February 28, 2009 vs. UCLA

Pitcher IP H R ER BB K
Volz, Kendal 7.0 4 0 0 3 6

Fastball. Volz sat in the 87-90 mph range throughout the afternoon, a sizable drop from his 2008 velocity. Though Volz told Aaron Fitt that he thinks his velocity will return, I think there is reason for concern simply because the drop is so large. That said, it was a pretty cool day in Houston, and I won't be shocked if his velocity does return. The pitch still had great sink and some arm-side action. He showed only college-average command.

Slider. Volz's slider looks like a tight curveball with more downward action than sliding action, but not quite an 11-to-5 break. The pitch is definitely a plus. He was throwing it in the upper 70s and touching 80 with it. The break is big and sharp. He throws it with confidence and with very good command. According to Fitt, he threw more sliders (47) than fastballs (41).

Change up. The change up didn't see much action, but again, Volz threw it with confidence and command. There was good sinking action to it, but I didn't note any arm-side fade. In the low 80s, it only had a 6-8 mph separation from his fastball. To be Major League average, the pitch needs either more movement or a greater drop in velocity.

Mechanics. The video shows a classic tall-and-fall pitcher whose forearm never fully lays back.

Volz's delivery starts with a prototypical balance point after he picks up his front leg. His back leg remains stiff as he steps into his stride. When he lands, he lands slightly closed and so abruptly that he actually kicks dirt toward the plate. Volz uses this to drive his hip turn and kick start his shoulder rotation which are both good. He drags his back foot off the rubber, so his hip turn could be even better.

To pick up the ball, Volz starts with a reach back by flexing his wrist but manages to avoid bringing the ball behind his back. His elbow reaches shoulder height before the baseball but not by much, and at foot plant, he is still picking up the ball with his forearm 180° from the laid back position.

wrist-flex.jpg

This leads to a late forearm turnover, though Volz's forearm never fully turns over. At 210 frames per second, it's hard to see clearly, but it appears that his arm only rotates about 50° to 60° behind vertical. This fairly short lay back is accompanied by some wrist extension (see photo).

By flexing the muscles on the posterior of the forearm (extensor muscles), Volz increases the valgus stress in his ulnar collateral ligament, putting it at risk. To protect the UCL from damage, valgus stress must be reduced; increasing this stress is never a good idea.

As he finishes picking up the ball, Volz brings his elbow behind his back creating a lateral "whip" in his arm action. When his shoulders start to rotate toward the plate, his pectoralis major flexes and drives his elbow toward third base. His hand follows, and this results in forearm flyout.

Volz shows good pronation after release, but only pronates into his release when he throws his change up.

He drives his pitching shoulder all the way through his release, and this creates a very controlled follow through. His arm wraps slightly across his body, but this occurs after primary deceleration and with almost no recoil.

Overall. Expected to be selected in the first half of the first round, Volz has probably slipped into the back end of the supplemental round and possibly further than that. His 2008 fastball is not there, and his command has been unpredictable - 12 walks, 8 hit batters, and 22 strikeouts through 26.1 innings pitched. Still, he has been tough to hit - limiting opponents to a .157 average - and his ERA is a very respectable 2.73.

Volz's current struggles - drop in velocity, lower strikeout rate, and bouts of wildness - are typical of a pitcher dealing with an elbow injury, and having looked at his mechanics in slow motion, I believe this could be the case. His command and velocity will be under the microscope until the draft rolls around.

If Volz falls too far on draft day, he has the option of returning to Baylor for his senior season; however, if he can iron out his command issues over the next couple of months and show scouts what he showed them last summer, he will re-establish himself as one of the best pitchers available.