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Tyler Olson, LOOGY Extraordinaire

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Tyler Olson is the last man standing in the competition for the last bullpen spot. Let's see what he brings to the table.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The final 25-man roster is slowly taking shape. All of the position players are accounted for and the rotation has been set. The final thing to figure out is the last spot in the bullpen. Erasmo Ramirez was traded away last night and I expect new acquisition, Mike Montgomery, to start the year in the minors. Carson Smith hasn't had a great Spring Training and he and Joe Saunders were just recently optioned to the minors. That leaves Tyler Olson as the last man standing. He'll serve as the second-lefty and long-man out of the pen.

Olson was born and raised in Spokane, Washington and played college ball at Gonzaga. He was drafted in the seventh-round in the 2013 draft and spent his first season in Single-A Everett, splitting time between the bullpen and the rotation. Last year, he started the year in Single-A High Desert and was able to post a 3.13 ERA and a 2.83 FIP in five starts, an impressive feat considering the hitter-friendly environment. He was promoted to Double-A Jackson where he made 22 starts and posted an impressive walk rate (just 4.7%), an ERA of 3.52, and a FIP of 3.19.

This spring, Olson has pitched 12 2/3 innings over ten appearances, has yet to give up a walk, and has struck out almost a third of the batters he's faced. He's impressed with his ability to throw strikes early and often and looks like he's capable of maintaining his excellent control when he makes the jump to the majors. Olson throws four pitches with a sidearm delivery that provides a bit of deception when facing lefties. And that's where he should excel.

Let's take a look at Olson's arsenal and see what he's working with.

Note: data was pulled from Baseball Savant's PITCHf/x database. Brooks Baseball has been giving wonky PITCHf/x data this spring as we found out when I examined Taijuan's new slider. I had to go into the data to manually clarify Olson's changeup (it was being classified as a slider) and to reclassify some of his sliders as curveballs. This data covers just six of his ten appearances (where PITCHf/x data was available) but should give us a decent representative sample. To the data!

Pitch

No. Thrown

Frequency

Velocity

pfx H Mov

pfx V Mov

Cutter

29

46.0%

88.88

0.58

5.35

Changeup

5

7.9%

82.76

5.49

-0.34

Slider

23

36.5%

76.31

-11.75

0.40

Curveball

6

9.5%

74.1

-10.92

-5.04

Olson mainly relies on his cutter and his slider and will mix in his changeup and curveball to righties. His slider and curveball have some extreme horizontal movement and they're thrown at similar velocities. When looking at the video, it seemed like he often dropped his release point when throwing his slider to get a flatter trajectory—a true frisbee slider.

What do each of his pitches actually look like? Olson's most impressive appearance this spring was on March 9 when he struck out the side against the Indians, cutting down Jason Kipnis, Yan Gomes, and Michael Brantley. I've compiled representative pitches from that outing (plus a curveball from his appearance on March 29).

Cutter

Olson cutter

Olson gets Brantley to chase a cutter low and away for strike three. The most surprising thing is Brantley swings behind this 89 mph pitch. The velocity differential between Olson's cutter and his breaking stuff is significant enough that the batter has to keep the 75 mph slider or curve in the back of his mind. That should let his cutter play up above what would be mediocre velocity.

Changeup

Olson change

Olson gets Gomes swinging on this changeup low and away. This pitch breaks away from righties but the velocity differential between it and his fastball isn't ideal—just 6 mph. If he's able to keep this pitch down, it should serve as a decent change of pace against opposite-handed batters.

Slider

Olson slider

This is Olson's bread and butter pitch. Kipnis flails wildly at the pitch and has no chance to make contact. This slider reminds me of Charlie Furbush's slider. It's thrown at a similar velocity, from a similar angle, and is death on lefties. You can see the lower arm angle on this pitch compared to his other three pitches. This is something major league batters will pick up on, but because of his delivery and the pitch's movement, he might be able to get away with it against lefties.

Curveball

Olson curve

Olson will also mix in a curveball against both righties and lefties. Its velocity is almost the same as his slider but with an extra five inches of vertical drop. He won't get many whiffs with this pitch—it's used to give the batter a different look when they're expecting a slider.

At first glance, Tyler Olson looks like he should be a capable LOOGY and will probably also serve as the long-man as well. His slider and cutter will make him a nightmare to face as a lefty and his change and curve should keep righties honest. The Mariners will have to add him to the 40-man roster, but with David Rollins' suspension, there's an open spot. If Olson falters, Mike Montgomery has looked promising as a reliever this spring and could see time with the major league club this year. Making the jump from Double-A to the majors won't be easy but the confidence gained from Olson's impressive spring and his feel for pitching will help him tremendously.