When the Orioles drafted pitcher Josh Hader out of Old Mill High School in Anne Arundel County in June, they knew they were getting a kid with impressive high school stats, but not yet an impressive fastball.
But that changed this summer.
The 18-year-old left-hander, who went 10-0 with an ERA of 0.39 as a senior, was pitching in the mid 80s during his high school season but ended up touching 93 and 94 by the end of his first pro season, surprising even some seasoned members of the Orioles’ scouting and player development staffs.
Orioles director of pitching development Rick Peterson said an increase of that much velocity was certainly not normal.
“You don’t see that very often, you certainly don’t,” he said.
Hader pitched in 17 games this year, 12 in the Gulf Coast League and five with short-season Single-A Aberdeen. In a combined 28 2/3 innings he gave up just 14 hits with nine walks and 48 strikeouts. Opposing batters hit just .146 off the Millersville, Md., native.
As to how and why Hader experienced such a velocity jump, even Peterson can’t completely pinpoint it.
“Who knows? You don’t know. What we do know is he had some issues in his delivery that needed to be cleaned up to generate the greatest power that we can,” Peterson said. “He was very diligent to do his drills and he made tremendous delivery improvements. We got him into a throwing program - he had never long tossed in high school - and we got him into a conditioning program and our conditioning coaches did a wonderful job with Hader. Who knows why, but the bottom line is he has a solid routine and program now.
“He reminds all of us of Chris Sale. He has that kind of body type and his delivery. He changes some arm angles and we let him do that right now because he is a strike-thrower with nice arm action. He has nice aptitude as well.
“It was almost like looking at a mold of clay and at the end of the season we all were like, ‘Wow.’ I mean all of us, scouts and player development, what a great pleasant surprise and what a great signing by (scout) Dean Albany.”
With such an impressive first season for the young man, the Orioles’ brass is eager to see what he has in store during the 2013 season.
“I think we are all intrigued to see how he develops. He really showed a great aptitude and maturity. He went from a projection guy to a guy now where we go, ‘Wow,’” Peterson said.
The birth of a new series: After a year where, deservedly so, I wrote a lot about Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman, today I begin a series of stories on some other quality pitching prospects in the Orioles organization. Today we looked at Josh Hader. Coming next week, an update on Eduardo Rodriguez. I’ll feature several other young O’s hurlers over the rest of the offseason.