Ted Williams once said “...you have to hit the fastball to stay in the big leagues.”
Somers Point, New Jersey right-hander Chase Petty intends on making that task virtually impossible. At just 17-years-old, Petty touched 100mph for the first time. He’s the hardest throwing prep in the 2021 class, and figures to be a near-lock to go in the first round next July.
Petty is a special arm. High school pitchers that touch triple digits are few and far between. In 2019, Daniel Espino bumped 100. In 2016, Riley Pint dazzled scouts by brushing 102 in a workout. Lucas Giolito tickled triple digits in 2012. Before that, according to Perfect Game, not one pitcher touched 100 between 2002 and 2012. Times are certainly changing on the bump, and Petty is truly cut from the cloth of the modern game.
Also, for good measure, Petty touched 101 at Area Code Games this year. That seems important.
Velo pays. There’s no doubt about that. If you throw hard, you’re going to get paid. In 2020, many projected Refugio, Texas righty Jared Kelley a top-20 pick thanks to his high-90s fastball. That said, he’s never proven he can spin a breaking ball. Still, the fastball alone got him an over-slot $3 million signing bonus as the 47th pick in the draft. For the record, that’s the type of money valued with the no. 22 pick in the draft.
Petty falls into an ominous bucket. Over the last decade, young athletes ages 15 to 19 have accounted for almost two-thirds of all UCL-repair or “Tommy John” surgeries performed in the United States. This, according to a 2015 study by Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. Anyone that follows trends in baseball can probably figure out why. Pitch-ability and finesse have taken a back seat to combustible gasoline. How hard can you throw a baseball? How violent can you spin it? This is the current meta, and it’s what is awarding monies in the form of scholarships and high draft picks to kids year after year.
Now, this is not to cast any sort of shadow on Petty. He is a singular case in a vacuum. Kinetic science hasn’t come far enough in predictive analytics to determine what types of arms are predisposed to suffering catastrophic failures inside the elbow. Petty has seen a private pitching coach and gone to intensive physical therapy since he was in 8th grade to help ensure arm stability and proper development. He’s doing everything in his power to train and grow the right way.
On the mound, Petty was everything you’d expect in a high-octane arm all Summer. He was almost always the “starter” at each showcase he attended. Granted, those starts generally only last one inning, but he was ‘the guy’. At the Perfect Game All-America Classic, Petty went one inning, striking out two batters. He allowed an infield base hit and walked two as well. At the Baseball Factory All-Star Classic he pitched one inning, striking out one, allowing no hits or walks.
All things considered, it was a very successful, impressive summer for the righty.
Let’s talk about the body and the build. Petty is 6-foot-1, weighing in a hair under 200 pounds. It’s a sturdy build with strong, rounded, broad shoulders and a stocky lower half. He’s well-proportioned with longer arms and impressive athleticism.
Mechanically, there’s a ton to like about his operation. Speaking toward the athleticism, some of the positions this kid gets himself into are other-worldly.
If you pause this gif at foot-strike, you’ll see Petty’s shoulders are pointing damn-near toward the third base dugout. His hips, meanwhile, are square to the catcher. The torque and explosiveness created by way of this hip-shoulder separation is unbelievable, and it’s where he’s pulling a lot of his velocity from.
Petty’s scapular-load is pretty strong in the back, and while his arm action can get a little long, his arm and elbow are generally in a good, safe position to fire at foot-strike.
On the backside, Petty really does a nice job of staying in his back hip as he rides down the mound. He stays really vertical on his back shin with solid hinge, allowing super-efficient weight transfer. This is rather impressive for a kid of his archetype as guys who want to throw hard are often in a rush to get down the mound, transferring their load too early. As that energy transfers, Petty stays glute-dominant, sitting down into his stride. As he lands, Petty’s lead leg block is also pretty exemplary.
The one gripe I will throw on Petty, if you can call it one at this point, is early in the Summer (primarily in May and June), there was far more violence and head-whack in his delivery. That has since dissipated a bit. It no longer looks as though Petty is achieving something his body doesn’t think it should be doing, and that bodes well for his ultimate role at the next level.
All in all, mechanically, the whole thing works really well. Petty will always fall in the bucket of prep right-hander that throws hard, and that may push some organizations away in the first round. It’s a notion he won’t be able to shake no matter how perfect his operation is/becomes. To his credit, he’s done everything he can and the operation is pretty clean.
TOOLS (Future Value)
It should come as no surprise that Petty, a kid who throws 101mph, is labeled as having a double-plus fastball. But it’s not quite an 80. Let me tell you why.
Petty is an entirely different pitcher than the type we’ve been highlighting here of late. He doesn’t make his money riding the ball at the top of the zone. He’s strictly a sinker-ball pitcher. Sinker-ballers are not generally considered punch out guys. They’re here to break bats and induce ground balls. Petty’s current heater does just that.
Interestingly enough, Petty used to throw from a 1:30 arm-slot. This is considered the “dead zone” for pitchers as the movement profile on a 1:30 fastball doesn’t really showcase rise or run. It’s kind of in-between. Generic, ordinary, hittable. Recently, Petty was anatomically diagnosed (not a bad diagnosis) with “flat” collarbones. Traditionally, pitchers with flatter collarbones have a more difficult, strenuous time getting their arms into a more vertical position. For that reason, he and his development team decided to shift his arm-slot to more of a low three-quarters 2:00-2:30 position. Thus... a sinker-baller was born.
As previously mentioned Petty will generally sit anywhere between 96 and 99 on the mound, touching 100. His fastball usually sits at 2100 to 2200 RPMs on the gun. In terms of a movement profile, Petty will usually generate anywhere between 10 inches of induced vertical break (IVB) and 6 inches of IVB, the latter being most impressive. His horizontal break (run) is really impressive, sitting in the 17 to 18 inches range, recently peaking at over 21” of arm-side run.
Probably the best illustration of how good this sinker is would be a comparison to Dodger’s righty Dustin May, who throws a similar pitch. In 2020, May’s sinker was revered by broadcasters and featured on countless highlight reels. That pitch averaged 18.7 inches of arm-side run and 7.7 inches of IVB. So in essence, we’re talking about an awfully similar pitch with May’s sinker averaging maybe one more inch of run. May also averaged roughly 97 mph. We may be splitting hairs here.
Now, where the fastball/sinker has failed him at times this summer is in the command department. Walks have been an issue at times as fastball command has wavered deeper into appearances. When he’s off, Petty misses arm-side, the ball running away from left-handed hitters. He’s probably a fringe-average commander of the baseball right now, and it’ll be important he notch that up to average or better should he hope to remain a starting pitcher at the next level.
Again, to Petty’s credit, he’s done everything right here in creating an arsenal that tunnels well. As a sinker-ball pitcher, utilizing a sweeping slider should be his best course of action. And that’s what he’s got.
Petty throws his slider in the 83 to 87 range; a firm slider for sure. He’s got above average spin rates in the 2600 to 2700 range. His breaking ball generates -6 inches of IVB and -15 inches of sweep. Who might this be most similar to? Well, it’s not perfect, because he’s a lefty, but Petty throws an almost identical slider to Orioles reliever Paul Fry.
Fry had a 2.45 ERA this year and struck out 29 batters in 22 innings. He’s no slouch. Like Petty, he averages 84.4mph on his slider. It mirrors Petty’s slider with -15 inches of sweep and generates -5 inches in IVB. So in essence, it’s virtually the exact same pitch, though Petty gets one more inch of depth.
Where Petty must continue to grow is commanding the pitch low and away to righties, as well as back-footing it to lefties. That will be the next step in his development as he continues to refine the breaking ball. As it stands, it projects plus at the next level.
What Petty currently lacks is a definitive third-offering that he’s been able to showcase in events. The fastball/slider combo is so dominant for his age that the need to even show the changeup has been mostly nonexistent. That said, to be a starter at the big league level, pitchers have to have a third offering (with the exception of Dinelson Lamet), and Petty’s is coming along.
The movement profile on the changeup is actually quite impressive. It’s almost exactly the same as his fastball, fading 18-20 inches with roughly 6 inches of IVB. It’s plenty nasty.
Like his other pitches, where Petty will need to improve is commanding the changeup. When he throws it, there’s been a tendency to yank across the pitch, missing glove-side. He’s missed up and he’s spiked the pitch too. It’s a process. Changeups in general are usually the pitch that take the most time to develop feel and command, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise it’s his last pitch to bloom. That doesn’t mean he can’t rip a good one at times.
Chase Petty has all the tools necessary to become a horse at the top of a big league rotation. His stuff is electric and he’s got a big, strong, durable body that could hold up. Where he’ll need to focus is in commanding all three of his pitches for strikes, getting ahead of batters to induce weak contact.
Given the velo, his ability to spin a baseball, and his fundamental understanding of throwing his changeup, Petty figures to be a first round guy in July. If the command doesn’t improve, and he doesn’t show he can work a little deeper into appearances without losing it, there’s a chance he slides, but falling to pick 47 and Seattle seems unlikely. The Mariners will have to pull the trigger on Petty at pick no. 12 if they hope to have a chance at him.