Congratulations to Logan Verrett, whose first major league start on Sunday was nothing short of fantastic. In a spot start for Matt Harvey, whom Verrertt is clearly better than, he went eight innings and gave up just one run on four hits and one walk, and logged eight strikeouts. You can read the full game recap here. I’ve always been a Verrett fan and was given permission and access to interview him two years ago when he was a member of the AA Binghamton Mets. We talked about his early baseball career and I was able to speak to some teammates and coaches about what makes Verrett so special. I wish him nothing but the best, not only because he’s a New York Met, but because he’s the kind of guy you want to root for. For a re-introduction to the Mets newest pitching weapon, below is the article I posted here on May 22, 2013.
You hear it all the time: it isn’t about velocity, it’s about location. And no one exemplifies that old adage more than Logan Verrett. The 22-year-old Texas native was taken in the third round of the 2011 draft and has been impressive at all three minor league stops.
Verrett dominated A ball in 2012 in both Savannah and St. Lucie, combining to make 17 starts and finishing with an ERA of 2.70, a WHIP of 0.968, and a strikeout-to-walk rate of 7.15 over 103.1 innings pitched. Beginning the 2013 at AA Binghamton, Verrett has seen a slight regression in his numbers, but a slight regression from dominating is still excellent. After nine starts in the Eastern League, Verrett’s logged 60.1 innings pitched, his ERA sits at a 3.28 ERA and his WHIP is 1.044, good for fifth in the league, and his K/BB is 3.21.
And he’s doing it all with a 91 mph fastball.
“I know I’m not going to blow guys away,” Verrett acknowledges, “so I put a lot of effort into locating all my pitches and being able to throw all of them in any count. I like to keep them off balance and hitting spots helps me do that, especially with all four pitches.
Verrett’s repertoire consists of his fastball, both two-seam and four-seam, a slider, curve ball and change up His fastball has heavy sink on it and the slider is the out pitch. He has great command of all four pitches and can throw each for a strike at any time.
“You don’t have to throw 100 mph to get hitters out,” explains manager Pedro Lopez. “Guys who throw harder than he does get hit harder, because of his location. His fastball command to this point has been good. He’s also been able to throw his secondary pitches at any time in the count down in the strike zone.”
“He’s very aggressive and makes pitches when he needs to,” adds pitching coach Glenn Abbott. “He’s very competitive and likes the challenge.”
Lopez agrees. “He’s aggressive with all his pitches. He’s not afraid of contact and as a starting pitcher, when you do that, you find yourself pitching deep into ballgames. He’s been able to pitch deep into games just because he goes after hitters. That’s what he does best. He goes after hitters and he puts it in play early.”
Verrett’s 60.1 innings leads the Eastern League, as does his 6.7 IP per start (minimum six starts).
“Efficient” is how Coach Abbot describes Verrett. “You know what you’re going to get with him. When he pitched against the Yankees [AA affiliate Trenton Thunder], he got through 8.2 innings in his 100 pitches.”
Teammate Jack Leathersich sees the same thing, and from a pitcher’s perspective, adds that Verrett’s deceptiveness also plays a part in his success. “He’s not a 95 [mph] guy, but his fastball jumps out of his hand. I feel like as a hitter, it would look harder than what it actually comes in at. His slider is very, very sharp and looks exactly like his fastball coming out of his hand. That’s kind of his bread and butter.
“He’s really polished,” continues Leathersich, “and that’s how he was in college in the Cape league when I saw him there. He’s pitching really well and giving us a chance to win every time he goes out there.”
Catcher Blake Forsythe really enjoys catching Verrett. “He makes my job a lot easier than it is. He stays in the zone and is able to throw four different pitches for strikes. He’s got a lot of late movement, which forces contact, but not a lot of good contact. His slider is such a late breaking pitch, you have to try and go the other way with it. Hitters have to adjust to so many different things.”
When asked whether or not he expected to start this strong, Verrett offered a humble, if not sheepish, half-smile and shrug. “You always expect things to go well, until they don’t. But I prepared very intensely this off season I got to spring training a few weeks early. I was really able to get good one-on-one time with some pitching coaches. I was able to get an early jump on throwing. I think I took a really good approach during the off season and brought it with me to Spring Training and carried that into the season. That really helped with my confidence on the mound.
Verrett credits a high school pitching coach for helping plant the seeds that would eventually become a blossoming professional career. “He was only 10-15 years older than me and just recently got out of the game, so he was really young. It’s my senior year in high school and I have this new age approach to pitching that I’m being taught. He was always giving me tips and tidbits in my sides and bullpens, and that’s in high school. Just to be able to have a pitching coach in high school was amazing, especially one that had just left the game maybe three years before. He knew what it takes and what’s expected at the professional level and that’s the kind of approach he brought to our high school team. That carried over to my Baylor career and I felt like I was real mature for a freshman.
He finished his Baylor career seventh in strikeouts, and third among those who only pitched three years. He ranks second and third in conference-play K/BB and ERA, respectively.
Verrett knows there’s more work to be done. “What makes me successful is my ability to put the ball where I want it with all four pitches. I need to get better at doing that every single time. Not having the three or four mistake pitches that I leave up in a start. Like last night, for instance, I had four or five pitches that I could look back and say, “Yeah, I left that ball up.” If I’m going to be successful in the big leagues, it’s eliminating those mistake pitches and I think I’m on the right path.”