I had a chance to see Matt Hobgood this season during minor league spring training, and he was by far the most impressive pitching prospect.
Some people will question Hobgood and his early struggles, but you can’t expect a first year player, 19 years old, to dominate in a league where the average age is around 21.
With most high school pitchers you’re looking for projection, Hobgood is already filled out. While some sources are reporting he weighed in at 245 pounds at spring training, an unnamed source told me the correct number is 270. If Hobgood is 270 pounds, he needs to lose some weight, but if he’s 245, fine. He has the build of a workhorse and he should be able to pile up innings over his career.
Hobgood’s build perfectly complements his power arsenal, with wide hips, a big upper-body and powerful legs.
For someone his size, Hobgood moves well off the mound and does a decent job covering first base. In order to stay around 245 pounds during the course of career, he’ll need to maintain conditioning.
Hobgood’s four-seamer sat 90-92 mph, touching 94 mph, with a little down and in movement on right handed hitters. Constantly pounding hitters inside, Hobgood demonstrated average command of the pitch and occasionally left it up in the zone, where hitters had little trouble squaring up on it.
Sitting 89-91 mph, with excellent down and in movement on right handed hitters, Hobgood generated ground-ball after ground-ball and broke bat after bat. Hobgood does a much better job locating this pitch than his four-seamer and with so much down and in movement, right handed hitters have trouble squaring up on the ball.
The pitch is quite effective against lefties as well, as it fades away from them. Hobgood continuously attacks lefties on the outside of the plate making his two-seamer a true ground-ball weapon.
Currently a plus pitch, with plus-plus potential, his curveball sits at 79-83 mph with two-plane break and tight rotation. It can get slurvy at times, but still effective and generates swing and misses. Opposing hitters have a lot of trouble squaring up on the pitch, hitting the ball foul if they are able to make contact.
Easily his best offering, Hobgood’s curveball, by itself, is one of the best I’ve seen in a long time. However, his release point on the curveball is a bit different than on his fastball and change up, something I’ll get into in more detail below.
While it’s an average pitch right now, I see a lot of potential in Hobgood’s changeup. His changeup sits in the 82-85 mph range, with some slight, late break, in on left handed hitters. In the GIF image on the right, you can see how it drops before it crosses the plate.
Hobgood’s still learning how to use this pitch effectively, as he still, somewhat, lacks the feel, or ability to command it within the zone. In high school, Hobgood’s curveball/fastball combo was enough to dominate lesser talent, meaning there was no need for his changeup.
With a smooth, clean windup, Hobgood has the mechanics you’d expect to see from a pitcher his size. In a very balanced power stance, Hobgood’s back leg is somewhat bent and his hands are together before he begins his delivery to the plate. As his leg begins to come down, he drops his hands, simultaneously, which allows for more than enough time to start his arm circle.
Hobgood’s large frame gives him the momentum needed to run his fastball up to 96 mph at times. With a loose, easy arm action, he throws from a 3/4 arm slot landing flat on his front foot showing excellent body control and a smooth overall delivery.
My main concern with Hobgood is that his release point and arm action on his curveball is different than his fastball and changeup. There’s more to pitching than velocity, movement and location. A starting pitcher must make each separate pitch look similar to all his other offerings.
|Curveball Release Point||Fastball Release Point|
Hobgood throws his curveball from more of an overhand arm slot, and his fastball comes from more of a 3/4 arm slot. When throwing his curveball, his legs are slightly more bent, his upper body is closer to the ground and at more of an angle, around 45 degrees. While it’s not a huge differential, advanced hitters will be able to pick up on Hobgood’s curveball before he throws it.
While many people questioned the Orioles’ selection of Hobgood at #5 overall in 2009, the pick shouldn’t be as mind boggling as those people thought. Hobgood has legitimate top of the rotation potential.
With his weight problems, Hobgood is going to have to maintain conditioning throughout his career, a challenge most pitchers don’t have to face as extensively.
If he can’t refine his command, specifically his fastball, and doesn’t make the necessary improvements to his changeup, he looks like a #4-5 starter. If he does one, but not the other, he looks like a #3 starter. If Hobgood refines his command, making it above-average, and his changeup becomes above-average as well, he’s an easy #1-2 starter who will pile up innings and lead your rotation.
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