Offseason Spotlight: Nick Hagadone
This is a key offseason for Cleveland Indians left-handed pitcher Nick Hagadone.
Hagadone is a prime candidate to make the 2012 opening day bullpen in Cleveland, and if you project it out right now he is probably in it. With that in mind he has a lot to work on this offseason to ensure that he comes into spring training in mid-February ready to roll and win a spot in the Indians’ big league bullpen.
Hagadone, who turns 26-years old on New Year’s Day, had a fantastic season last year in the minors pitching out of the bullpen. He started the season at Double-A Akron and in 12 appearances went 2-1 with a 1.59 ERA (22.2 IP, 14 H, 0 HR, 7 BB, 24K). He was quickly moved up to Triple-A Columbus where he spent most of the rest of the season and in 34 appearances went 4-3 with a 3.35 ERA (48.1 IP, 42 H, 5 HR, 15 BB, 53 K). He even made his Major League debut late in the season and in 9 appearances in Cleveland went 1-0 with a 4.09 ERA (11.0 IP, 4 H, 6 BB, 11 K).
“It feel like [the season went] well for the most part,” Hagadone said in a recent interview for the IPI. “I was able to stay consistent for the whole year and improve the things I needed to.”
The consistency in Hagadone’s performance was a big key as prior to last season he had been up and down with his performance. Some of it was related to the Tommy John surgery he had in 2008, but some of it was also mechanical related.
Hagadone struggled with his command in 2010 as he had a 6.6 BB/9, but last year he reduced that by more than 50% to a 2.8 BB/9. Being a year further away from Tommy John surgery helped as command is usually the last thing to return from such a surgery. He also made some tweaks to his mechanics that paid off for him and helped spike his command and control.
“I just made some mechanical improvements to make sure everything was sound,” Hagadone said. “It was little things that affected my fastball velocity, my slider, and everything. It was just a little fix with everything that made the difference. I put a lot of work in during the offseason as I made that my focus to work on my command. I worked on that non-stop and it paid off.”
Triple-A Columbus pitching coach Ruben Niebla expounded on the adjustments.
“We broke him down a little,” Niebla said. “I noticed he would get on his tippy toes too much as he was descending downhill, so we started getting him to drive off his backside a little better. Eventually it calmed his front side down a little. By getting him to drive off his backside it kept his lead arm lower and head from going too much up and down and got him driving downhill. He picked up on it quickly and when he had misses he was able to fix it and make the adjustment.”
The much reduced walk rate to go along with Hagadone’s ability to get strikeouts from the left side (career 10.3 K/9) with his 93-96 MPH fastball that touches 98 MPH and good slider has him back on the radar as a top prospect and potential impact reliever. But even with the good season and promising career he is not resting on his laurels.
“I feel like I did well [last year], but there is always room for improvement,” Hagadone said. “I had a few games that did not go my way, so I am working to improve on those and make sure they don’t happen again. The whole focus is just to maintain my stuff the whole year and to maintain the good slider and good command. Everything I have done to get to this point I want to keep it going.”
Hagadone used to throw a changeup but that has been shelved and is only used in the rarest cases. He is now primarily a fastball-slider guy which is fine for one or two innings considering his power stuff.
Hagadone’s consistency from outing to outing is something he just needs to continue to work on. He made huge strides with it last year and the Indians were blown away with his hard work and determination. There is a strong belief throughout the organization that he has the potential to impact the backend of their bullpen for a long time, maybe even at the outset of this coming season.
“I think the biggest thing for me is consistency,” Hagadone said. “Bringing your best game to the field every single day you go to the mound. You may not have your best stuff every day, but you still have to compete and get the job done.”
Hagadone’s performance last season along with him being one of the top two bullpen prospects in the entire Indians’ organization has him in line for an extended Major League opportunity. Now he just needs to seize it.
Follow Tony and the Indians Prospect Insider on Twitter @TonyIPI. Also, his latest book the 2011 Cleveland Indians Top 100 Prospects & More is available for purchase for $20.95 to customers in the US (shipping and handling extra).
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.