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  • Scouting Twins Prospects: RHP Ben Gross


    Lucas Seehafer PT

    When the Minnesota Twins selected right-hander Ben Gross out of Duke University with the 299th overall pick during the 2019 MLB Draft, they likely didn't envision that he would put together the kind of season he has in 2021. At least not this soon into his career and assuredly not after losing an entire season of development due to a global pandemic. 

    Image courtesy of Image courtesy Bri Ostwinkle

    The New Jersey native had a solid if unremarkable college career, pitching for three seasons for the Princeton Tigers — where he achieved Second Team All-Ivy League honors in 2018 — before registering a 4.40 ERA in 75 innings for the Blue Devils during his senior year. Gross went undrafted out of high school and was selected with pick 1,032 in the 2018 draft by the Houston Astros before signing with the Twins.

    Gross pitches solely from the stretch and utilizes a three-quarter arm slot. His delivery is compact and fluid, with good push off his back leg. 

    The Duke product primarily employs a fastball-slider pitch mix with the occasional changeup, though "occasional" might be a bit of an overestimate. His fastball touches the low- to mid-90s, sitting around 92-93 mph, and is … alright. It doesn't have a ton of ride, nor does it sink. However, on most nights, he can command it pretty well, placing it where he wants to and using it to get ahead in the count. It plays best up in the zone, but it will likely be an average pitch at best at the major league level.

    Gross's best offering, by far, is his slider. While his command of it sometimes waxes and wanes throughout a game, hitters have a tough time making any contact at all when it's working.

    Gross has struck out 98 batters in 77 innings this season for High-A Cedar Rapids, the majority of which have been a result of his slider. His 11.5 K/9 rate is among the best in the Twins' system, and his 2.7 BB/9 is a good indication of his overall control. Before his most recent start when he walked three batters, Gross had only walked more than two batters in an outing on one occasion this summer. 

    In all likelihood, the role in which Gross would find the most success should he make it to the big leagues would be out of the bullpen. The limited upside of his fastball in combination with his lack of a third pitch makes it highly unlikely that he will stick as a starter. However, his slider has true MLB potential, particularly if he hones in his command.

    Hear more from Ben in his conversation with Seth on Twins Spotlight this past offseason. 

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    Thanks for this article.  I didn't like the pick when the Twins made it but I guess it goes to show they can see guys with potential to have a plus pitch and work from there.  I really thought he would wear down as the year went on and his numbers would be less impressive but he has been pretty consistent all year from what I saw.  I agree the pen seems the most likely place he would play but good pen arms are apparently harder to find than I realize so hopefully he continues to develop ways to make his pitches more effective.

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    2 hours ago, Dman said:

    Thanks for this article.  I didn't like the pick when the Twins made it but I guess it goes to show they can see guys with potential to have a plus pitch and work from there.  I really thought he would wear down as the year went on and his numbers would be less impressive but he has been pretty consistent all year from what I saw.  I agree the pen seems the most likely place he would play but good pen arms are apparently harder to find than I realize so hopefully he continues to develop ways to make his pitches more effective.

    As they say, the best way to build a bullpen is to begin with 10 starters in the minors.

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    1 hour ago, bean5302 said:

    Lack of a 3rd pitch makes it virtually impossible to be a starter. Still, glad to see he's having success. For a guy drafted that late, it has to be a ton of fun!

    Probably pretty fun for the player development staff as well! They took a decent college pitcher and turned him into a force in the minors. That's got to feel good.

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    I got to see him a couple weeks ago in Iowa. Sitting down near home plate, he got a lot of swings and misses. He looks very sturdy and athletic on the mound. The defense let him down and he gave up a couple home runs, but after 5 innings, I thought at the least the Twins has a bullpen candidate in Gross.

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    I think relievers are undervalued, just look at the first half of the Twins' season to see how much damage a bad pen can do. If this guy's eventual fate is to be a solid bullpen arm, that's great news!

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    I love these prospect profiles! Let's us really get to know the guys in the system, particularly those that aren't high selections that get all the ink.

    Agree his future would eventually be in the bullpen as of today. But I stress "as of today". He started 11G for rookie level Elizabethton after signing in 2019 with OK but not great numbers across the board. Fast forward past an entire missed 2020 and he's a stalwart at A+ after skipping low A entirely. Not blowing smoke, but I would think there is a real chance time/coaching could add a tick or two to his velocity and maybe a little more movement to go along with his control and quality slider.

    Would it be so much of a reach to think a guy in his first full season might harness/adapt the grip on his change to make it a decent offering? Over the years I've seen guys adapt a straight change to a circle variety or even a palmball grip variation to suddenly find success, I've also seen some just abandon a traditional change and learn a split-finger or cutter as their "change".  At 6' 1" and 210lbs and still only 24yo, 23yo in prospect terms if you follow me, I don't know if his hands are built for the splitter, (It's always been my understanding you need larger hands/longer fingers to make a splitter work). But a cutter, or other variations on a change I just don't know enough to speculate. Just saying the guy has shown so much improvement in so little time that I'm not going to bet against his FB showing a little bit more life and some kind of refined 3rd pitch offering. And even in the pen, any kind of remotely solid 3rd pitch takes you, potentially, from a candidate to perhaps an important piece.

    Thank you and keep up the great work!

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    His fastball touches the low- to mid-90s, sitting around 92-93 mph, and is … alright. It doesn't have a ton of ride, nor does it sink. 

    Is that backed by some data or based off of visual scouting reports?

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    1 hour ago, Parker Hageman said:

    Is that backed by some data or based off of visual scouting reports?

    Just visuals, unfortunately. As far as I'm aware, there's no great way to get Statcast-ish data from minor league teams. Also, the angle that most Cedar Rapids games are shown from isn't the greatest, which can make more minute vertical movement difficult to track. It may be a flawed eval, I'm more than willing to admit, but it's the best I got given the circumstances. 

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