Sam Bachman might simply be the biggest prize of the 2021 MLB Draft that nobody is talking about. The pride of the University of Miami has huge stuff and he’s just now realizing his potential.
Ah yes, the University of Miami. Countless big leaguers have come by way of Coral Gables and the Hurricanes.
*ear piece buzzes*
What’s that? Not the Miami Hurricanes? The University of Miami of Ohio? As in Oxford? You’re sure? Alrighty.... well that’s a twist.
Ah yes, the University of Miami of Ohio. Countless big leaguers have come by way of the RedHawks. Well, in fact, in 106 years of Miami Baseball, the school has produced just 24 big leaguers. Notable alumni include the likes of Buddy Bell, Bill Doran and Adam Eaton. On the mound, it’s a less accomplished list, Charlie Leibrandt being the most notable arm to don the RedHawk name.
It’s been about a decade since a pitcher hailing from Miami of Ohio has thrown an inning at the big league level.
Bachman figures to change that.
A reasonably unheralded arm coming out of Fishers, Indiana, Bachman was the 260th ranked right handed pitcher in the class of 2018 according to Perfect Game. He was the 21st ranked talent overall coming out of the Hoosier state. Back then, Bachman was 89-91 touching 92 with a slider. That has since changed...
A burlier kid, Bachman stands 6-foot-1, 220 pounds. He’s barrel-chested with strength ever-present across the board. He’s got a thick, strong lower half with muscular calves, thighs and quads. The strength moves up into his hips and through his core. He’s got big, rounded shoulders as well. The entire stature is reminiscent of Johnny Cueto in his prime, if not a bit leaner/stronger.
As far as mechanics go, it’s a pretty long arm action. Bachman has a tendency to show the ball a little early, something he’s working to improve. He really drops and drives through his hips, creating good extension, releasing the ball from a lower three-quarter arm-slot. Bachman definitely slings it with a lot of his ability coming from sheer arm talent. There’s some energy leakage in his hips and shoulders opening a bit early, but to be fair, it’s really, really improved this summer, thus the added velocity. Some have worries about the “inversion” in his arm action. I don’t see that at all. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Bachman’s arm action is extremely long and the elbow actually gets up too early. I’m here to tell you the elbow and arm as a whole are in a reasonably safe position at foot-strike; the moment when torque is created and “danger” begins. He won’t suffer from the “inverted W” that crushed guys like Mark Prior and Joba Chamberlain.
The arm gets up too early, his hands break too early and the arm swings up too early which shows the ball and, in theory, can cost you velocity. But here’s the thing... Bachman’s velocity is already really, really good. So the energy leakage in this case may be insignificant. His timing may not be perfect, but the results are okay, and the injury concerns surrounding this specific operation is less-so than typical elbow strain concerns.
Early arm raise can create early trunk rotation (which Bachman has suffered from) and limited hip-shoulder separation. But with the velocity where it currently stands, this conversation may be trivial. So while it may not be the most efficient velocity, the velocity exists and it’s reasonably safe. Think Nate Jones, the White Sox long-time reliever. Same type of operation.
In terms of performance, his college career has consisted of 19 games, 18 of which have been starts. He’s thrown 99.1 innings, striking out 106, issuing 45 free passes along the way. That said, he walked just six batters in 24 innings this season. The 3.81 ERA and 1.349 WHIP won’t jump off the page, but 80% of this sample size comes as a true freshman starting games at college level. He started just four games in 2020 before everything got shut down.
Bachman continued his development with PRP Baseball this summer, and he seems to have really turned a corner. He’s lost 15 pounds and cleaned up his mechanics quite a bit. The results have been staggering.
Let’s get into it.
Tools (Future Value)
I teased this article with “What if I told you Luis Castillo is actually working out in Oxford, Ohio this Winter?” and here begins the payoff.
Bachman’s fastball in 2019 and 2020 really lived in the 91-94 range, but in Fall/Winter 2020 it really jumped into an entirely separate category. As mentioned previously, Bachman really cleaned up the mechanics and got into better shape and those two things have resulted in serious gains.
This spring, the fastball has been comfortably sitting 97-99, touching 102. Bachman is an entirely different animal. Bachman induces a ton of arm-side run with some sinking action to supplement the already electric velo.
Bachman has proven he can throw his fastball for strikes. It’s got good action and the velocity is huge. There’s deception here too. He misses a ton of bats and this is clearly one fo the best fastballs in the class.
The slider is probably considered his ‘best’ pitch as he’s shown he can throw it for strikes and create whiffs with it. It may not end up being his best secondary, but he’s more familiar with it and the track record is a little longer.
Bachman has extremely gyro-heavy sliders that fall more than they sweep. At 88-92 mph, it’s the definition of a wipeout offering.
Given the velo he offers from the fastball, the slider simply isn’t needed much at the college level. When he throws it, and throws it for strikes, it’s completely un-hittable. It’s mostly been a plus offering this year, but he’s ripped off a handful of double-plus sliders and I think Bachman will find himself in that bucket more often than not in the future.
So here’s the hot take. I think the changeup is going to end up being Bachman’s crown jewel. You could make a pretty rock solid argument Castillo has the best changeup in all of baseball...
Listen, Castillo’s changeup is better. There’s no doubting that. He gets 2 more inches of fade and kills 2.5 more inches of lift than Bachman does. But Bachman just switched to this changeup grip. He’s still putting it all together. As you can see above, just a touch more wrist supination, getting that spin direction a little closer to 3:00, and Bachman may have an absolute dagger of a pitch here. The closer you get to 3:00, the more lift you’ll kill, thus resulting in more drop. Castillo has a double-plus, 70-grade changeup. I think that potential exists here as he’s shown his arm is capable of putting itself in a position to exact extreme orientations on a baseball.
The one above is nasty. This is better than the 2:21 spin direction he averages. It’s clear he can be even better.
It’s a firm changeup in the mid-80s. It’s not as comfortable a pitch for Bachman as the slider currently is, but the ceiling on this pitch is substantially higher for my money. The movement profile and arm slot tunnels the fastball perfectly, so gearing up for 95-99, and then getting this spiraling gem would be hell on hitters.
Sam Bachman is just coming into his own. His stuff has taken monumental steps forward this offseason and he’s on the precipice of vaulting his draft stock to an entirely separate tier. If Bachman brings the arsenal above into game-action consistently this Spring, he’s a very, very real option for the Mariners at 12. That’s how good this stuff is.
As it stands, he’s a pretty good bet to go in the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft, but his ceiling is that of the 3rd best arm in the 2021 class.