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How Sweet it is: meet the farm’s hottest pitcher

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After promotions and reassignments opened a spot in West Virginia’s rotation, Devin Sweet has dominated the Sally League

MiLB.com

The past few weeks on the farm have been a little mixed. On the one hand, prospect promotions! Logan Gilbert, Cal Raleigh, and Ljay Newsome all made the well-deserved jump to Double-A, pitchers Clay Chandler and Steven Moyers are Modesto Nuts, and 2019 draftee Austin Shenton earned a trip to Low-A after torching the Northwest League. On the flip side... nearly all of these guys are struggling. Calboy is lugging around a rough 44 wRC+ in Arkansas while opposing teams have run wild on him, Ljay’s strikeouts have vanished in his first couple starts at the level, Gilbert had a couple of rough, unlucky outings, and Chandler has been hit around in Modesto. While prospects struggling at a new level certainly doesn’t spell doom, it’s taken the wind out of a few sails lately.

Of course, promotions - and demotions - can also present opportunities for the rest of the team. Enter right-hander Devin Sweet, who is no stranger to the grind. Going undrafted after four years at North Carolina Central University, he was signed by Seattle last July, and scattered 19.1 decent innings between the AZL, Everett, and Clinton (RIP). His 24 strikeouts against six walks nearly mirrored the ratio he put up his senior season, and a 3.20 FIP in one’s first pro season is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

After spending the first two months of this year in West Virginia’s bullpen putting up solid results, the reassignment of teenage righty Deivy Florido to Everett in June - and the subsequent promotions of Chandler and Moyers - opened up a spot in the rotation, and Sweet has seized his chance with gusto. Through nine starts with the Power, he’s put up a 2.41/2.81 ERA/FIP, with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just over 6:1. Sweet is also coming off of the finest outing of his career on Sunday, a one-run, 12-K, no-walk complete game against the Braves’ Low-A squad, featuring 2019 first-rounders Shea Langeliers and Braden Shewmake.

Even more impressively, that complete game is just the latest of a string of eye-popping starts. Over his past five outings, Sweet has run an astounding 42:1 K/BB ratio, a FIP just under 2, and reached at least six innings in four of them. He’s run into a bit of unfortunate sequencing luck, but has only allowed two homers in that 34-inning span - in fact, a solo dinger accounted for the only damage done on Sunday.

Sweet doesn’t throw especially hard - especially for a right-hander - sitting low-90s on his fastball. His best pitch is far and away his changeup, which features plenty of late fade and downward action. He can use it to dispatch righties and lefties with equal effectiveness - here he is in mid-May against the Greenville Drive, deploying it to strike out same-handed hitter Kole Cottam...

more like cole kottam amirite
.gif by John Trupin

...and immediately following that by getting lefty Kervin Suarez on the same pitch.

.gif by John Trupin

He can also lead with it to pitch backwards: here he is against these same Greenville Drive in his first outing of the year on April 4th. With just one out away from sealing the win, Sweet started Cole Brannen off with a beauty...

.gif by John Trupin (again!)

...and finished him off with a p e r f e c t fastball on the inside corner.

.gif by (who else?) John Trupin

Sweet also leaned heavily on his changeup on Sunday, and fooled the Rome Braves all afternoon with it. Unsurprisingly, he capped off his brilliant performance - and twelfth strikeout - with one low and away.

Turning 23 in September, Sweet is right in line with the average age for A-ball, and there’s a chance his slimmish frame of 5’11” and 185 pounds could fill out a bit more. Given that he’s torn apart the Sally League for the past month, a late promotion to Modesto might not be out of the question, and he’s all but certain to start there in 2020. It’s impossible to consider his 2019 anything but a resounding success, and after many of the recently bumped up prospects have scuffled, Sweet’s dominance has been an encouraging trend to follow, and his rise from undrafted free agent to sleeper prospect has made it even sweeter.