Braden Olthoff, RHP, LAA

Braden Olthoff pitched so well at High-A he was already bumped up to Double-A. Uh, about that start…

Video courtesy of Prospects Worldwide
  • Born: March 12, 1999
  • B/T: Right/Right
  • 6’4″, 241-lbs
  • Drafted by the Los Angeles Angels in the 2021 MLB June Amateur Draft from Tulane University

The Numbers

His raw numbers are listed above courtesy of baseball-reference.com. Let’s aggregate by year then focus on the important numbers for minor leaguers:

Olthoff had a brief introduction to pro ball after he was drafted in June of 2021. He wiped out Rookie ball, as he should. Then then went to A-ball for 8 innings, and they hit him around a bit.

In 2022, now at High-A, he made seven starts, maintained his good strikeout rate, kept the hits down, saw his xFIP and WHIP move into Excellent territory, and yes, kept that walk rate at 5%. Basically Olthoff counts every 20 batters or so and says, “OK, you can go to first base.”

Note that I did not put down his first Double-A start as a Trash Panda. He pitched into the 2nd inning, faced a total of 10 batters, gave up only one hit . . . but walked three, hit three batters, and gave up 4 ERs. Welp, that happens.

Ignoring the tiny Double-A sample, we see Olthoff faced slightly more lefties than righties in High-A, and the results were basically identical, with a few more hits to lefties.

Have you watched the video above? You really should to understand this next comment from FanGraphs:

Ninth round Tulane righty Olthoff’s slider makes hitters look ridiculous. He had a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio throughout his college career, but he’s a 30 athlete with a really weird delivery. That’s also a big part of why he’s so hard for hitters to pick up, though, so perhaps we should be looking at it as a feature rather than a bug.

FanGraphs

A really weird delivery? Yes, it’s noticeable above. And when scouts see something weird, they shy away, but perhaps, as said above, they should embrace the weirdness. I mean, if it makes batters uncomfortable, that’s a good thing.

The Scouts

Warnings

Scouts don’t rank him, and some think his motion is weird.

That first Double-A start was, uh, interesting.

Conclusion

Let me cede this space to a PitcherList report on Olthoff that I thought really captures his risk/reward:

Olthoff is a big human, 6’4″ 240 pounds they say. Yet his mound feel isn’t what you might expect. The delivery is a simple one; an easy step and here it comes. Olthoff can get decent velocity on his arm-side run fastball (low to mid-90s), but the name of his game is slowing you down a few different gears, good luck squaring up all the late swerve.

Per Olthoff’s m.o., Vancouver got a heavier dose of the three secondaries (slider/curveball/changeup) than they did the fastball. 

From a fan perspective, Olthoff is a lot of fun to watch, but as a dynasty prognosticator, it feels fair to ask how this will play for the 23-year-old as he meets more skilled hitters. This was a great seven-inning shutout performance, but man he sure lived on big chunks of the plate.

Olthoff will most likely have to walk a fine line with his arsenal, and the precision is going to need a step up or two. 

PitcherList Pitcher Review: May 16th – May 22nd, 2022

I think that gives us a clear picture. Olthoff isn’t going to dominate with velocity, so he’s going to kitchen sink you. If he controls the pitches, he could be an interesting end-rotation innings guy. If he doesn’t control the pitches, he will flame out at Triple-A.

The rest of this season will likely tell the tale of Olthoff. If he rebounds at Double-A and continues his habit of walking every 20th batter while keeping the hits at bay (and not hitting batters), scouts will warm up to him.

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