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  • Reading rotation spotlights the tantalizing talents of Andrew Painter, Mick Abel and Griff McGarry

Reading rotation spotlights the tantalizing talents of Andrew Painter, Mick Abel and Griff McGarry

By on September 8, 2022 0

Impact talent is on the horizon for the Phillies thanks to a dynamic trio of incendiary pitching prospects. Right-handers Andrew Painter, Mick Abel and Griff McGarry, all Top 100 prospects, offer bright promise for a Phillies pitching corps in desperate need of short- and long-term reinforcements. Last week in Hartford, the potential of all three prospects was on full display as all three appeared for the Phillies Double-A affiliate over the holiday weekend. McGarry appeared in a relief role for two innings on Friday, while Painter and Abel started on Saturday and Sunday. Each pitcher displayed a powerful arsenal with quality offerings, showing a glimpse of what could soon be heading to Philadelphia.

McGarry, a tantalizing talent from Virginia whose amateur days were heavy on things and promise but light on command and production, was the first of the trio to appear on the show. After quitting his previous start with a blister problem, the Phillies made a concerted effort to limit McGarry’s innings by moving him into a relief role for the rest of the season. Promoted to Triple-A earlier this week, his relief appearance on September 2 could prove to be his last at the Double-A level. With persistent rumors of McGarry potentially joining the Phillies bullpen going from low whispers to loud screams over the weekend, his promotion to Triple-A has only fueled speculation.

McGarry entered in the third inning after a two-inning outing from southpaw Taylor Lehman. He started his day with an automatic ball due to a timer violation against Hartford first player Hunter Stovall. McGarry came back in a 2-2 count with a well-placed sweeper and a 98mph fastball that was hit foul. He missed consecutive pitches, first with a curveball and then a 97 mph fastball, to put Stovall at first base. The next hitter he faced was the Rockies’ highly rated outfield prospect, Zac Veen. McGarry engaged in a nine-pitch battle with Veen before sitting him on an elevated fastball to the outside half of the plate on which Veen breathed. McGarry sat the next two batters on a line and walked out of the inning unscathed.

In his second and final frame, McGarry was excellent, needing just 12 pitches to end the inning. He started Grant Lavigne with a steady diet of 90s radiators before freezing him with a slider to the heart of the plate. McGarry followed a similar pattern against next hitter Brenton Doyle as he tossed him with three consecutive fastballs before freezing Doyle with another slider to the middle of the plate. The last batter in the inning was Daniel Montano, whom McGarry blasted with three straight 97 mph fastballs to hit the side.

With a deep arsenal of throwing, power and movement, McGarry could be out in the big leagues right now. He was sitting at 95-97 mph on his fastball that day, mixing an 80s low sweeping slider, a curveball and an 80s mid-to-high cutter. With potential promotion looming, we maybe we won’t have to wait that long to see what it looks like at the highest level. Command issues still plague McGarry, but aside from a few uncompetitive pitches, McGarry was locked in for this two-run stint.

On Saturday night, the weekend’s de facto headliner Andrew Painter took to the mound. The 2021 first-round pick of the famed Calvary Christian program in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., was historically good over 94.2 innings in 2022, posting a 5-1 record with a 1.24 ERA, batting average of 0.169 and a 32.1% strikeout rate on walk. Prep pitchers rarely reach Double-A a year after the draft, let alone dominate arguably the most talented tier of minors. Painter, however, is the rare exception as throughout the season his stock and prestige have steadily increased. In this debut, Painter showed all his arsenal. Beyond speed and movement, he showed the ability to execute from step to step at a level usually reserved for older prospects.

Painter’s first set was his most tumultuous streak of the day, as he gave Stovall a brace. He took a 0-2 lead over Stovall before the Rockies infielder fired his cannon at a 98 mph fastball to the outside half of the plate, firing it down the right field line. Painter sat the next hitter, Veen, on three pitches, all fastballs between 98 and 99 mph. The third batter of the inning, Kyle Datres, hit a ground fly between third base and the shortstop hole that slid through the diving shortstop, leading a shoving Stovall from second base. Painter got the next batter, Lavigne, to second base before pulling out Aaron Schunk on a 98 mph fastball to escape the inning.

Over the next two innings, Painter pitched mostly on contact, living all over the zone and challenging hitters to swing to a steady diet of fastballs and sliders. He allowed three singles in the second and third but neither ball hit particularly well. In round four, Painter appeared to lock in, crushing Lavigne and Schunk with curveballs, switches and sliders, knocking out each on a total of seven pitches. He then generated a ground ball off Montano’s at-bat to put the side in order on 10 pitches.

In the fifth, Painter continued to be effective, going off target on 16 shots despite a single. He was still maintaining his speed, sitting at 95-98mph and finding his top speed when he picked it up. In the sixth, Painter laid down the side in order, first forcing Veen into the air to end a seven-pitch battle. He needed just nine pitches to retire the next two batters, first freezing Datres with a curveball in a 1-2 count before swinging Lavigne on a slider in a 2-2 count.

In Painter’s seventh and final inning, he sat the first two batters he faced before allowing back-to-back singles to Doyle and Willie MacIver. He called on Isaac Collins to line up to end the inning and end the threat from Hartford in the seventh.

Overall, Painter consistently attacked the zone, landing 75% of his pitches for strikes and forcing hitters to swing. He drove 11 balls on the ground that day, showing his ability to keep the ball on the ground and limit hard contacts despite living around the area. He mixed up his sequencing, showing off his high 90s fastball and early 80s low-to-mid slider before adding the curveball and changing with greater frequency as the start progressed. The combination of power, movement, punching pitch and throwing ability is an extremely rare combination, and it left this writer thinking he had just looked at the best throwing perspective he had seen all along. season.

In the series finale, the 2020 first round and Top 100 Prospect Mick Abel started Sunday morning. The athletic right-hander didn’t disappoint, showcasing his powerful three-pitch mix during a five-inning scoreless appearance. Like teammate Painter, Abel was considered one of the top high school pitching prospects in his draft class, and like Painter, he rose through the Phillies’ minor league ranks fairly quickly.

Abel came out of the gates pumping 98 mph and going just past the top of the Yard Goats command. He sat the first two batters via strikeout before knocking out Lavigne in third down. He needed just 13 pitches to cross the frame, generating four swing strikes – two against his fastball and one against his slider and switch. He threw a slider up the sleeve, a nasty 85mph sweeper that broke heavily on the side of his glove. Of the three Phillies prospects discussed in this article, Able had the loudest opening inning.

He started the second with a walk before retiring the next three batters he faced. He used a steady diet of fastballs at 95-98 mph, mixing his slider in two strikes against left-handed and right-handed hitters.

In the third, he continued his dominance, edging out Tyler Hill early before securing a line for center fielder Johan Rojas. He then retired Julio Carreras on three pitches, all swing strikes. Abel worked backwards towards the Rockies infielder, starting Carreras with a slider before following him with a pair of well-placed fastballs to both sides of the plate.

The next hitter, Stovall, followed a slider into a 1-1 count, catching the ball in front and driving the pitch deep into left field. Despite a diving effort, Ethan Wilson failed to play the ball. Abel then hit Montano on three pitches, all fastballs, as Montano swung on all three, missing the first and third while committing the second.

Round four was effective for Abel. He laid down the side on eight pitches despite walking the second batter of the inning, face down due to a first pitch slider against Doyle that induced a late-inning double play.

The fifth turned out to be Abel’s last work run. He walked the first man, Veen, before inducing a line off the bat of Yard Goats receiver Daniel Cope. Veen was caught trying to steal second base, and Abel worked from a 2-1 count against Cope to freeze him with a 96mph fastball to the inside half of the plate for the strikeout.

Abel showed arguably the best of the three, with a 95-99 mph fastball with spin rates in the 2,500-2,600 rpm range and a flat vertical approach angle making it difficult for hitters to get on the plane and on time consistently. His slider has less sweep than Painter’s or McGarry’s, but was nearly 2-3 mph harder. He threw just four substitutions on the day, but the pitch generated a pop out, two puffs and a called strike. While Abel’s mastery is no match for Painter’s, his three-pitch blend has just as many benefits as he hones his craft in the years to come. Abel will show elements of advanced pitching and above-average command, but it’s all about finding the consistency he’s shown on this outing, start by start. All in all, he’s an impressive arsenal and an athlete who could form a formidable partnership with Painter in the years to come.

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