How I Met Your Aeros: Preston Guilmet
When you think of impact relievers, power pitchers like Mariano Rivera and Aroldis Chapman are the typical names that come to mind. Typically, fans hold up these shutdown flamethrowers as the gold standard of the bullpen.
Unfortunately, the Riveras and Chapmans of the world are few and far between. Most relief pitchers have to find a way to get people out without the best stuff. It may not be sexy, but there are far more Preston Guilmets in baseball than Mariano Riveras.
Guilmet, who is having a lights-out year for the Akron Aeros this year, pitches from a straight over the top armslot. As in, if you imagine a clock over Guilmet’s figure on the mound, he’s coming at you from 12 o’clock sharp. Most pitchers have at least some sort of a three-quarters motion, but Guilmet’s unique form is something that just became natural to him.
“It’s just something that developed over the years, just trying to stay on top,” Guilmet said. “I never wanted to be a sidearm guy, never wanted to have arm problems, so over the years I just developed into a higher armslot. It feels pretty normal to me, but everybody always has their jokes about it.”
People may like to make jokes, but there’s nothing funny about how dominant Guilmet has been in 2012. In 37 outings, Guilmet has pitched 40.1 innings with a 2.68 ERA, 3.18 FIP, 1.04 WHIP, 40 strikeouts, and 9 walks. Despite his high level of success, Guilmet considers his mindset while on the mound typical.
“I don’t know if I would call it particular or special,” Guilmet said. “You go out there and you try to stay focused, try to work pitch-by-pitch. There’s no reason to ever get ahead of yourself. You just work off of the previous pitch, work on your next pitch, and just try to make quality pitches one at a time.”
Location and working off his previous pitches is very important to Guilmet, whose fastball, slider, and split finger grade out as above-average at best. Guilmet gets his stuff to play up, however, thanks to that straight over the top throwing motion.
“I think in working with it and understanding my mechanics I definitely try to use a downward plane to my advantage with the fastball and also my secondary pitches,” Guilmet said.
Minor league saves aren’t worth very much (see Jairo Asencio’s 81 minor league saves from 2008-2011), but Guilmet certainly is someone who owns the mound in the 9th inning. Guilmet has followed up last year’s 35 save campaign in Kinston with 19 to date in Akron. Not that Guilmet is thinking about that while he’s actually on the mound.
“It’s definitely exciting coming out there in the 9th in situations like that,” Guilmet said. “But as far as anything different, I think I would handle any situation. I think any of these guys would handle the same situation. You go out there and you pitch. It’s just one inning and the goal is to go out there and get three outs.”
Bad outings have been few and far between for Guilmet this year, but blowups happen to everyone. Guilmet’s most recent blowup came on July 22 when he surrendered two home runs to Richmond, blowing a save. Just like a good closer does, though, Guilmet didn’t let it affect him and he used the opportunity to grow into a better pitcher.
I asked Guilmet how he rebounds from poor outings and he told me that it’s “not necessarily rebound; you’ve got to learn from your mistakes in the last outing and try to work off of those and fix them and get back out there the next time and again, just make quality pitches. Bad outings happen and there’s really nothing you can do to prevent them other than keep working hard each outing you go out there.”
Guilmet isn’t a bullpen prospect on the same level as Nick Hagadone or Cody Allen and you won’t find him on Baseball America’s Top 30 Indians prospects, but that doesn’t bother him. Guilmet very well may have a Major League future because he has faith in himself to go out and get batters out.
“I don’t necessarily try to prove anybody wrong; everybody’s entitled to their own opinion,” Guilmet said. “Health-wise I feel pretty good and pitch-wise I think I’ve got good stuff and I can compete.”
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