In my journalism class this week at school, we are discussing the question of where a story comes from and what to do with it once it comes along. On Tuesday, a guest professor came to speak to our class about his most recently published book, and the process he followed to make his dreams a reality. One of the first tactics he highlighted is that everyone should have a reporting notebook in their back pocket—an important tool, but one that usually goes unseen, unless being actively used.
He continued by describing the ways in which he learned from rejection, and how it inspired him to keep going. He worked to continue revising his book, traveling to many different countries to gather new insights, and learned how to utilize his knowledge for the better. He is now the successful author of over a dozen new books, and doesn’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Something about his story, and processes to achieve his goals, struck me. Sitting in class, as the lecture began to wrap up, I started drafting my 40 in 40 (don’t tell my professor).
My reporting notebook, let’s call him Gabe Speier, has been an important asset to many different teams, yet has stayed in the background for much of his career. In fact, the Mariners are his sixth different team in 11 seasons so far. He’s found a home in the back pocket of many different teams, but when he’s needed, he knows how to step up and remain calm under pressure.
Thus begins the origin of Gabe Speier’s story. He was drafted by the Boston Red Sox as an 18-year old in 2013, pitching in the rookie level until 2014 where he contributed a total of 29 innings through 10 games, with a 1.55 ERA and 3-0 record. Later that year, he was part of the Yoenis Céspedes trade that sent him to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for an up-and-coming Rick Porcello. Speier remained with Detroit’s High-A West Michigan Whitecaps for the 2015 season, pitching in 44 innings over 33 games with a 2.86 ERA and 4-2 record.
But in the 2015 off-season he was traded again, this time as part of a three-team trade between Detroit, Atlanta, and Arizona (former Mariner Cameron Maybin went to the Tigers for Ian Krol and Speier, and Atlanta then sent Speier and Shelby Miller to Arizona). Speier spent the 2016-18 seasons with the Diamondbacks’ various A and AA affiliates, pitching in a total of 95 games with an average K% of 9.81 and WHIP of 1.20 across three seasons in the minors.
As if all of his previous movements weren’t enough, Speier was traded yet again in June of 2018 to the Kansas City Royals, where he would finally make his MLB debut on September 5th, 2019, pitching one scoreless inning in relief in the Royals’ 4-6 loss against the Tigers and starting pitcher Matt Boyd (!). Speier continued to bounce around in the Royals’ organization, before finally being claimed off waivers by the Mariners in November 2022.
The next part of the guest professor’s lecture was about rejection, and how to learn from it rather than being defeated. His book was rejected numerous times before he got a good offer from a publisher. However, despite the rejections, he never ceased researching, writing, and reporting. His curiosity took him on trips to many different countries, as he set out to gather information and knowledge.
Speier has racked up numerous frequent flier miles throughout his career, gaining new insights of his own along the way. As he’s transitioned from team to team, he’s been able to remain poised and stick to his mission and goals. In doing research for this article, the first story of Speier I came across was one of hustle, and knowing the importance of every moment. After receiving a call up from the Royals last year, Speier drove three hours from Triple-A Omaha to Kauffman Stadium to change into his uniform and warm up in the bullpen. He entered the game within 30 minutes of his arrival. Describing it as “the craziest baseball experience of [his] life”, Speier was able to get two quick outs and help the team close out another big inning.
During Speier’s research and travel phase, he’s had many quick-moving parts. Although he still remains in the back pocket throughout this long MLB journey, he continues to be an important tool that knows how to step up when needed. Due to his constant movement, he knows how fleeting each moment really is, and has a unique ability to keep calm when faced with difficult or unexpected situations. His story continues to develop with each new place he visits.
Gabe Speier— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) June 9, 2021
What a play by the @Royals pitcher for @OMAStormChasers. pic.twitter.com/OJGPVKDFC5
His pitch arsenal, another necessary tool, is one of his main defining features. Speier relies mostly on his sinker and slider, both with above average Swing% and Whiff%. Speier’s average fastball velocity sits around 93-94 mph, a steady constant since his debut in 2019, and he’s able to consistently command the bottom of the zone with the sinker. He’s additionally been steadily improving his walk rate through his time in the minors, with hopes to continue that trend in 2023.
Gabe Speier was painting that inning, and might be another player development success story. His minor league walk rates by year:— Rany Jazayerli (@jazayerli) September 16, 2021
Speier, Lovelady, and Brentz give the Royals 3 LHRP options next year at minimal expense.
With Speier’s sinker, his go-to pitch, while it’s usually kept around the knees as is common for such a pitch, he is capable of getting batters to jam into weak contact even when he locates it up in the zone, as shown in the video below.
He does have some command issues, with lots of ball movement leading to pitches sailing out of the zone. In the clip below, Speier’s pitch lands on the opposite side of the plate to where the catcher set up.
However, command issues aside, the Mariners obviously see a positive light in Speier’s pitching that they believe is worth working on. As the guest lecturer taught us, all it takes is one person to believe in you.
Now that Speier has found his new home in Seattle, what sets him apart from the rest? His marketing pitch is one of the most important parts in getting his message across. Luckily, Speier has an important selling point for this audience: He’s lefty! One of the Mariners’ struggles the past few seasons have been their limits on left-handed pitchers, especially out of the bullpen. This season, Speier is now one of three lefty reliever options for the Seattle Mariners, compared to last season when, at times, they had zero. The team will also have the option to move him back and forth from Triple-A as needed.
As the lecture concluded, the inevitable question was asked: “What’s your next book?” The speaker replied with plans for a new project he’d already begun researching, emphasizing how he continues the same process for each book. Now that he knows how to do the first one, the next ones become a little bit easier each time.
Speier’s various trades could be seen as rejection and lead to defeat. But the 27 year-old pitcher hasn’t given up, and doesn’t plan on it any time soon. He instead has continued to grind and grow wherever he lands, making every new transition smoother each time. The term “resilience” is perhaps overused these days, but it captures the fundamental idea that if someone can persevere through challenging circumstances, they are stronger because of it and more prepared to face difficult situations in the future.
Given his pitching arsenal, the fact that he’s a southpaw, and all he’s learned and overcome up to this point, Speier now has everything he needs to write his own story for a successful season with his new team.