2019 Level: A+
Pitches (current/future value)
Most Likely Future Role: Middle Reliever
Ceiling: Back of the rotation starter/setup
What we know: Took a step back in 2019 after a promising Delmarva season the year before. It would be easy to bury him looking at the numbers, but there is still promise in the stuff even though he may need to move to the pen for his stuff to play up. The 21-year old throws a 90-94 MPH sinking fastball that when it’s on, can be hard to barrel up and will get swings and misses down an in on right-handers. His slider is his bread and butter pitch and when it’s on, it can be a 83-85 MPH hard biting slider that gets some swing and miss, but also gets ground balls. His change shows promise with some nice drop and some fade, but he really struggles to command the pitch and limits it’s effectiveness. His command of everything this year was his main issue he just seemed to be all over the place more times than not. Overcame a slow start in April to pitch better the rest of the year, but still had those totally off nights where he was hammered. Hanifee looks the part on the mound, but will need to refind his command in 2020 or risk dropping way down the prospects scene.
What we don’t know: Will his stuff play up if he moves to the pen and focuses on the sinker-slider combination? Will his stuff work with the Orioles model of looking for high spin rate fastballs that work well up in the zone? Can he refind that command on a more consistent basis?
What we think: We’re giving Hanifee a bit of a mulligan for his down season last year, but he’ll need to find more consistency in 2020. While the frame screams starter, unless he can show marked improvement in his changeup the Orioles may want to see what he looks like in a relief role. If he could sit more 93-96 in relief, his profile could be a Brad Brach type set up guy. If his changeup comes around, he could still end up an innings eater back of the rotation starter.
Another Take: Hanifee was the most disappointing prospect in the system in my opinion. He was promising despite a low strikeout rate because of a nasty two seam fastball with major sink and tail, his strikethrowing ability, a promising slider, and an athletic, projectable frame. He’s filled out and is no longer traditionally projectable. His athleticism and strikethrowing ability also took a step back. His velocity is still 90-94 like it was when he was 19 years old. He’s still young and some of the struggle can be chalked up to an attempt to develop a changeup. He was instructed to throw the pitch a lot despite his inability to locate the pitch. It’s a pitch he needs to develop to start, but it’s a relief look for me and a risky one at that. Here’s to hoping that this is just a developmental speedbump. (Luke Siler)