Profile: 6'5" - 220lbs - BT:R - TH:R - 2011 Age: 23
• FB4 91-93: Straight and tough for righties to pick up due to his cross-fire action. (45-55)
• SNK 89-91: Hard with heavy sink and solid command. (55-65)
• SL 82-83: Tougher on righties just due to his release point. Doesn't generate enough depth to be effective vs lefties yet. (40-50)
• CH 84-85: Needs work across the board (35-50)
The Indians 3rd round pick in 2009 out of the University of California Santa Barbara, Garder signed quickly for $360,000 but unfortunately didn't end up making his professional debut until this past season due to a rib cage injury he suffered after signing.
The first thing that jumps out at you with Gardner is the arm action - he comes at you with a really low 3/4 delivery that's almost sidearm. Still he generates solid velocity and the cross-fire action he creates due to his arm-angle makes it really tough for righties to gauge the fastball on the outer half and if he could polish up his command. He could be really effective against them by mixing his fastballs and showing the occasional slider. Speaking of fastballs, his sinker gets really good bite and has been extremely effective in getting MiLB hitters to pound it into the ground, it projects as a legitimate plus pitch.
Outside of his fastballs, Gardner doesn't have one particularly impressive off speed offering, which hurts him against lefties and will hold him back for the time being. He throws a slider, which as I mentioned earlier doesn't get enough depth to be an ideal pitch against left handers. His changeup also just doesn't seem as polished as I wold expect for a pitcher of his age and experience.
Mechanically there are also some things that I don't like. He reaches back too far initially for my liking and seems to overexert his elbow because he drags his arm forward more than loading it. He also seems to clear his body ahead of his arm too consistently, creating excessive stress on the shoulder and leading to a tendency to leave pitches up.
It's been just one season, but Gardner showed of his full breath of strengths and weaknesses - solid strikeout rates and an extremely impressive 67% ground ball rate that portends bad things for worms residing in the vicinity of home plate. He also showed off his biggest flaw of curse, a penchant for wildness. His walk rates aren't terrible, but they aren't ideal either and 18 hit batters? Yikes. I like seeing that a young guy will work inside and keep hitters off the plate, but actually hitting them that much starts putting the pitcher in too many dangerous spots. To stick as a starter long-term he's going to want to find a way to cut down on the walks.
I'm certainly not the first person to say this, but he reminds me a lot of Justin Masterson. A couple right handed, extreme 3/4 pitchers who kill righties, get ground balls, miss some bats, and have control issues.
Corey Ettinger is a proud contributor to both 612Sports.net, 312Sports.com, and 313sports.com. He also provides extensive analysis of the American League Central Division at his own blog, AL Central In Focus.