Last June, the Angels used their first round pick to nab a big lefty hailing from the east coast who drew comparison to current Cubs’ ace Jon Lester. That decision looks like a darn good one less than a year later.
After a lackluster 2014 season following the draft and getting roughed up against stiff competition this Spring Training, Sean Newcomb has sprinted out of the gates to start his first full year of pro ball. He began the year where he ended it last season, in Class-A Burlington, but is having much different results.
Newcomb took the mound for Burlington on Opening Day this year and squared off against the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The lefty began the game with a strikeout and would set the tone for the game as he K’d nine total batters in his five innings of work. Wisconsin would not be able to get a runner past first base until the 4th inning when Jose Pena tripled in a run with one out. With Pena on third, Newcomb struck out the next batter and induced a fly ball to center to escape trouble. In the fifth inning, Newcomb retired the Wisconsin batters in order, including two strikeouts to end his night. All said and done, Newcomb allowed one run on two hits and two walks while striking out nine batters.
In his next outing, Newcomb performed admirably again. In five innings, he allowed just five hits, two walks, and one earned run. Newcomb also struck out six batters, including four swinging strikeouts. Base runners were able to steal three bases against Newcomb while being caught once but he was able to escape danger with strikeouts and groundball outs.
In his most recent start, Newcomb took on Cedar Rapids and stretched out for six frames in a game that would go twelve innings. He would go on to strikeout five batters, again allow just two hits, one walk, and one earned run. Cedar Rapids shortstop and #33 overall prospect Nick Gordon went 0-3 including a strikeout against Newcomb and no base runners reached second base until the sixth inning.
Although it’s been just three starts, we can’t discredit how well Newcomb has been this year for Burlington. In 16 innings, he’s struck out 20 batters, 15 swinging, opposed to just 5 walks (11.3 K/9 vs 2.8 BB/9). Along with those outstanding peripherals, he has a 1.69 ERA and a .88 WHIP while holding opposing batters to a .161 batting average. Another healthy indication that Newcomb is excelling is his 2-1 groundout to fly out ratio, meaning he is keeping the ball on the ground, which will help minimize extra base hits and balls leaving the infield.
If Sean Newcomb keeps this up, it’s almost guaranteed that he earns a promotion before June. His outstanding strikeout numbers are proving to be too much for other Midwest League batters and it would help his minor league progression to face tougher competition with the Inland Empire 66ers in High-A ball. I would not be surprised to see Newcomb climb all the way to Double-A by the end of the year and be ready to take a role in the Angels’ rotation by 2017 when Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson hit free agency.
Of course, that’s very far down the line and we shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves when evaluating Newcomb but if this is any indication of what the future holds for the southpaw, we’ll be in for a real treat.