AFL Spotlight: Trey Haley
The “AFL Spotlight” is a weekly feature piece on a player from the Cleveland Indians farm system that is participating in the Arizona Fall League. League play wraps up on November 15th.
If you want a name to keep an eye on in the Indians farm system that maybe does not get talked about a lot but has the potential to impact the big league team in the near future, then right-hander Trey Haley is one you should definitely watch closely.
Haley, 22, came into the organization with a lot of fanfare as a big time high school pitching prospect that was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2008 Draft and signed for $1.25 million. But over the years he lost some luster as a prospect because of command issues that pushed him out of the starting rotation and into the bullpen, and on top of that he had a recurring groin injury that affected him in each of the last three seasons.
But these days, things are beginning to click with Haley, and while it took a few years, maybe everything is starting to come together. A big reason for that is he is finally healthy and that nagging groin issue appears to finally be behind him.
As it turns out, the recurring “groin strain” he had the last three seasons was not really a groin strain after all, but was a sports hernia. The Indians and their doctors had diagnosed it over the past few years as a groin strain, but after more tests they were finally able to determine the correct cause of Haley’s discomfort. After surgery in early June to correct the sports hernia he was back on the mound in July and pitching better than ever.
“Minus the surgery, my season went alright,” Haley said in a recent interview with the IPI. “I feel really good coming back from that good and I have been able to stay healthy which I am very thankful for. In the past with that injury I would not know how it was going to feel the next day. Some days I would get up and try to move the sheets off and it felt like somebody stabbed me with a knife in my leg. After the surgery I felt really good.”
Even before the surgery Haley was starting to come into his own after the Indians pushed him to a full time bullpen role at the start of the 2011 season. Through three seasons in the organization from 2008-2010 he had primarily been a starter and had a 7.2 K/9 and 7.3 BB/9, but since the move to the bullpen he has compiled a 10.5 K/9 and 4.8 BB/9 over the last two seasons.
Haley’s stuff has played up in the bullpen, and now that he is healthy and continues to gain confidence he has jumped onto the big league radar as a possible pen arm in the near future. There is talk of moving him back into a starting pitching role considering his electric stuff and power arm would really give the Indians a boost at a position of need, but perhaps the bullpen is where he best fits as the shorter outings help him with his consistency and command.
“I like both roles to be honest with you,” Haley said. “I think in the bullpen [my stuff plays up] and I am developing whereas in the past in the rotation I have been working on mechanics and such. I am just kind of figuring it out as far as being consistent and the confidence and everything is coming together.”
Haley made 25 total appearances between rookie level Arizona, High-A Carolina and Double-A Akron this past season and went 4-1 with a 2.33 ERA (38.2 IP, 26 H, 0 HR, 19 BB, 49 K). He really believes that now that he is past the “groin issue” that his performance will continue to spike in a positive direction.
“A lot of it has to do with coming back from the surgery,” Haley said about his improved command. “For the past year and a half prior to the surgery I would feel okay one day and then the next day I would throw in the bullpen and feel good and then would come into the game and it would bug me. I couldn’t really push off or do much off my backside and I think that was one reason why [I struggled with my command].”
Haley has about as good an arm as you are going to find. His fastball sits in the upper 90s and since returning from his sports hernia surgery he has routinely hit 100 MPH with his fastball night after night. He saw a notable increase in his velocity in 2011 where he began to touch 100 MPH on an occasional basis, but this past season if happened in just about every game and sometimes against each hitter he faced in a game.
“I think for the most part for me is it has been going out and throwing consistently every day with my throwing program and feeling 100% on the mound,” Haley said about his improved velocity this season. “I was able to go out on the mound and not have to worry about tweaking the groin.”
Besides the injury and command issues, Haley has lacked consistency in his secondary offerings. He has a good curveball and a developing slider and changeup, but this season he put his changeup on the back burner some and focused more on throwing his slider. The results speak for themselves.
“Last year I started throwing a slider a good bit, and this year I will go with whichever one of my slider and curveball is working better or depending on the count is or what I might have thrown earlier in the at bat,” Haley said. “Both have been working really well. I have still been throwing my changeup in bullpens and when playing catch, but I have not thrown my changeup much out of the pen because I am not really flipping a lineup too often.”
In eight appearances in the Arizona Fall League this offseason Haley is 0-0 with a 1.64 ERA (11.0 IP, 2 H, 0 HR, 4 BB, 3 K). Since his first outing when he allowed two runs on a hit and two walks, he has piled up seven consecutive scoreless appearances over 10.0 innings and allowed just one hit and two walks.
Haley’s biggest area of focus in the AFL continues to be to work on his command.
“I’m just basically working on throwing strikes and continue what I did toward the end of the year and keep it going,” Haley said. “We had a couple of weeks off which got me out of the swing of things, so I am just trying to pick up where I left off and try and show them I that I can hopefully stay consistent with what I am doing.”
Now that his offseason is fast approaching, Haley will make good use of the short time off he will have before getting ready for another season.
“I don’t know what I am going to do yet,” Haley said about his offseason plans. “I will probably take a couple of weeks off, go on some hunting trips with my family, and see some friends. It will be nice to go home for a little bit and see everybody, relax, and get back into the weight room. Since we are out of here in mid-November, before I know it, I will have to start throwing again to get ready for spring training.”
Haley is expected to open the 2013 season at Double-A Akron, but could quickly move to Triple-A Columbus. He is also up for roster protection this offseason, and considering his power arm, durability and potential, the Indians will probably roster him next week.
It sets up for an interesting rest of the offseason for Haley, and 2013 is looking like a year where he can really solidify himself as a Major League option for the Indians. But he knows he can’t control any of that and will continue to work hard and try and have a little fun along way.
“We’ll see,” Haley said. “It’s gonna be fun.”
Follow Tony and the Indians Baseball Insider on Twitter @TonyIBI. Also, his new book the 2014 Cleveland Indians Baseball Insider which profiles the Indians' Top 100 Prospects and more is available for sale.
And like most people, I'm really hoping they put the kid back in the rotation.
Hey Tony, you remember when we worked on the 2008 draft and we got all kinds of crap from Voldemort for the top 3 picks. Guess he who laughs last laughs loudest.