ABERDEEN, Md. -- To the outside observer, the last two MLB drafts might seem to have been nothing if not frustrating for Boston’s 2013 second-round pick, Teddy Stankiewicz.
In 2012, the Mets took Stankiewicz as a high school draftee with the 75th overall pick, only to offer him less than slot money and ultimately not sign him. After he compiled a 4-5 record with a 2.52 ERA last year at Seminole State (Junior) College in Oklahoma, the Red Sox selected Stankiewicz in the second round in 2013, 45th overall, but ultimately cut his bonus from a reported $1.1 million to $915,000 because of an issue that arose in his physical.
Even so, the humble, gracious young Texan is able to see the positives in the detours on the way to his goal of the major leagues. The pitcher Boston drafted this June, he said, was much different from the one the Mets could have signed.
“College was a very smart choice for me because I got to mature a lot more in that year,” Stankiewicz said last week in Aberdeen, Md. as his Lowell Spinners wrapped up their season. “It also helped me see a lifestyle of living away from home, living in a dorm room, making sure I have my own meals -- doing all my stuff on my own instead of having my parents there.”
Stankiewicz chose Seminole State not only because it allowed him to be redrafted in a year, but because the program is run with professional baseball in mind. Seminole State’s manager, Lloyd Simmons, spent six years coaching rookie ball in the Royals organization, and spent stints as an area scout for the Royals and Yankees. Since he knows what the next level looks like, Simmons said he and his staff “spent a majority of our time getting guys ready for the next level.”
“There’s not a whole lot of difference between junior college and rookie ball because of the fact that they’re 17-, 18-year-old kids who think they know how to play the game, but they don’t,” Simmons said. “I pretty well manage my whole system after what I did in pro ball as far as time management on the field. A lot of these young men come in here, they’ve never had a set schedule. That’s why a lot of kids get in trouble in pro ball, because they don’t know [time management.”
Simmons said Stankiewicz “was a pretty mature young man” when he arrived in Seminole, and committed to the program’s conditioning regimen to help him on the mound.
“I think the biggest thing we did for him here was ... we got him in great shape,” Simmons said. “He’s a good athlete, there’s no doubt about that, and he’s got a great arm, but the biggest thing is we put strength on him, trimmed him down and put good, lean muscle on him.”
When he arrived, Simmons said the book on Stankiewicz was that he was a hard thrower who lost his velocity as games went on. At the end of the season, Simmons said Stankiewicz was still hitting 95 mph in the ninth inning.
Stankiewicz also ironed out his delivery, Simmons said. Stankiewicz said his unique motion to the plate, which begins with a high leg kick and includes a pronounced tilt backward, was honed through years of coaching and tweaking. But Simmons found that Stankiewicz could rush through his motion at times, and the manager sought to slow down his delivery to allow Stankiewicz to stay over the rubber longer and allow him to get better “tilt.”
Stankiewicz debuted for Lowell on July 21 and enjoyed an extended spell of success, though the organization limited his usage. He carried a 1.08 ERA in 16 2/3 innings into his final start Sept. 3 at Aberdeen, when the IronBirds tagged him for three first-inning runs that raised his ERA to 2.29 at season’s end. Still, Stankiewicz allowed earned runs in just three of his nine short outings, striking out 15 batters and walking just two in 19 2/3 innings in his first taste of the pros.
In his final outing, Stankiewicz featured a 92-94 mph fastball in the first inning, along with a mid-80s changeup and a mid-70s curveball. His fastball settled into the low 90s as his outing progressed, but despite the dip in velocity, Stankiewicz was easily able to repeat his methodical delivery throughout.
Simmons said Stankiewicz returned to Seminole after the season ended to work with his old team. Though Stankiewicz had been gone for just a few months, Simmons saw a pitcher who had improved.
“I think his off-speed stuff was much better than it was back in the spring,” Simmons said. “He got a little bit better over the summer, and his off-speed pitches are a lot longer. He’s not trying to rush through those or overthrow them. He’s slowed down a bit with his arm.”
The next step for Stankiewicz will be the fall instructional league, where he will continue to hone his arsenal and build toward a full season next year, likely starting in Class A Greenville. Going forward, his college coach expects the improvements to continue.
“He’s an exceptional young man,” Simmons said. “He’s got a burning desire to be successful, and I think that’s why he’s going to be successful. He’s got a deep desire to succeed, and I think he’s going to do that.”
Jon Meoli is a Senior Columnist for SoxProspects.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonMeoli.