When you look at the Charleston Riverdogs rotation, you will see some of the top prospects in the organization such as Luis Medina, Roansy Contreras, Matt Sauer, and Luis Gil. Those names are worth the price of admission for any minor league fan, but there’s one right-hander that helps out in the bullpen sometimes that shouldn’t be overlooked.
That right-hander is Shawn Semple. Semple was an 11th Round selection in the 2017 MLB Draft by the New York Yankees out of New Orleans University. Ever since his professional career began, the 23-year-old has been known for consistently pounding the strike zone and his outing on April 5 against Columbia was no different.
In that outing, Semple, who entered the game in the 5th inning after Sauer, blew the Fireflies hitters away and threw an absolute gem. He struck out ten batters while only walking one in five hitless innings of work. This isn’t the first time that he has had a great outing against Columbia.
Last season, in Semple’s first start in Single-A after being promoted from Short-Season Staten Island, he allowed two hits and struck out ten over six shutout innings in a victory.
Whether it as a starter or a reliever, Semple has shown the consistency that the Yankees look for in terms of pounding the strike zone. He has a fastball that is usually between 89-91 miles-per-hour in velocity. While that may not register shockwaves on the radar gun, location is a key to his success.
If you go back to last season, Semple had just 14 walks in 13 games between Staten Island, Charleston, and one spot start in Single-A Advanced Tampa. He only walked more than one batter in an outing three times. Even though his strikeouts per nine innings was at 9.1, he did have four outings in which he struck out at least seven hitters.
Another key for Semple is his ability to fool hitters by being deceptive with how he holds the ball. To get some insight on that deceptiveness, I talked with Matt Dean, who is the voice of the Riverdogs and called the action in Columbia on Friday. He mentioned that Semple hiding the ball was a major key to how he dominated this outing. You will also find a video of one of those strikeouts below from that outing courtesy of Minor League Baseball here.
“I talked to a couple of scouts about who were talking about how his stuff isn’t overpowering, but he does a great job of hiding the ball in his delivery all the way.”, said Dean. “He has it in the glove, hides it behind his back and it almost “fires out of the glove” like one guy described. He used a lot of fastballs, and they just got up on guys in a hurry.”
While Semple may primarily use his fastball, he does have a changeup and curveball in his arsenal. Last year, in Staten Island, Semple talked about the evolution of those offspeed pitches and the improvements that he made with his curveball:
“My changeup is finally coming along. I’m not throwing such a hoop fat curveball any more, it’s more of a hard, down-angle curveball,” said Semple about those two offspeed pitches.
Anytime you can throw strike one with the fastball as a pitcher; you have control of the at-bat. Semple is one of those pitchers who can dictate a hitter’s approach just by putting the ball in the right spot.
For example, in a start against the West Virginia Black Bears last year, he threw a first-pitch strike to eight of the first nine batters. On that day, he gave up two runs on five hits and struck out seven over five innings on just 72 pitches.
With all of the pitching depth that the Yankees have in the lower levels of the farm system, it is easy to lose sight of Semple since he doesn’t have the velocity that the other starters have. However, with the movement he has on his fastball, you never know when a high strikeout performance might happen:
Whether it is as a starter or a reliever down the road, Friday won’t be the last you hear from Semple in 2019. He is 92nd on our preseason Top 100 prospects list, but he could rise through the rankings in no time if he continues on the consistent track that he is on.