Nick Margevicius is making a unique jump

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The crafty soft-tosser hasn’t thrown a pitch above High-A, yet he finds himself in a big league rotation to start the season.

Pitchers jumping from High-A to the major leagues is something we rarely see. Having not even faced competition in the upper-minors yet, going from facing lineups that a majority of non-big leaguers to facing actual big league lineups is not an easy task. Taking on that task Sunday will be Padres prospect Nick Margevicius, a good-but-not-great prospect (FanGraphs tabs his future value at 40) who the Padres saw enough promise from him in camp to put him in the big league rotation.

A left-hander out of Rider University, where he put up a 3.18 ERA in 229 college innings, he was drafted in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. His pro-debut saw him yield dominant results across two levels (1.31 ERA, 48 IP, 8 BB, 62 SO), included with a big strikeout boost when he left the college ranks. He started the 2018 season at Low-A Fort Wayne where he continued his success (3.07 ERA, 76 IP, 9 BB, 87 SO), earning him the promotion to High-A Lake Elsinore, where he finished out the season (4.30 ERA, 58 23 IP, 8 BB, 59 SO). Now after an impressive showing in Spring Training (12 IP, 4.50 ERA, 4 BB, 12 SO), he’ll get his first taste of big league action.

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Off the top of my head, the last notable jump for a pitcher from High-A to the majors was Jordan Hicks last year. The reasoning for his case was pretty ease to point out, that being that he sits triple-digits. Here’s the thing with Margevicius, though: he can barely hit 90 mph on the radar gun.

Being a minor leaguer, there isn’t much public data available on Margevicius. Luckily, he did appear in a Spring Training game against the Diamondbacks, who play in one of two Spring Training complexes with Statcast-tracking. This appearance came back on March 19th, an outing that saw him give up two earned runs in four innings, striking out three and walking one. His fastball velocity was dreadful. He maxed out at 90.7 mph, minimized at 86.9, and averaged 88.8. This falls in line with the scouting reports. He’s “crafty.”

“Margevicius has the qualities of a finesse lefty. His fastball sat in the 88-to-90 mph range, touching 91, with above-average armside movement and riding life when he was up in the zone. He will mix an infrequent cutter to righties in the mid-80s, showing pitchability and knowing when to change looks at the heater.”

This velocity isn’t something we’ll typically see in today’s game and it’s something we keep seeing less and less of with upcoming prospects. Out of 265 pitchers that threw a four-seamer and accumulated at least 10 innings, only 11 pitchers sat lower than what Margevicius did with his four-seamer on March 19th. Adding an age constraint of 23 or younger and the lowest average velocity was from Orioles reliever Josh Rogers at 89.9 mph. Nobody else sat below 90.

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Now you may be asking however did Margevicius reach the highest level of baseball in the world. Well, there’s two reasons. First, it’s his superb-control. Here are the walk-rates of each of his minor league stops.

  • 2017, Rookie: 5.0%
  • 2017, A-: 3.6%
  • 2018, A: 2.8%
  • 2018, A+: 3.3%

Since 2017, here are the 10 lowest walk-rates among minor league pitchers with at least 150 innings. Worth noting that none of these pitchers posted a higher strikeout-rate than Margevicius.

And now for the highest strike-rates:

Second, his curveball is pretty darn good. FanGraphs pins the value of it at 55, one of the better grades in the Padres organization that it is loaded with talent. He pairs it with an average-ish changeup. He tries his best to use those two secondary offerings to make up for his shortcomings velocity-wise.

“I don’t throw 95 plus so I can’t do just throw a fastball in the middle of the plate and think that they won’t touch it because they will. The way I pitch is that I’m going to put it on the corners. I’m going to move it up and I’m going to move it down and I’m going to throw changeups and curves in fastball counts.”

With the profile Margevicius has, his road to big league success is tough one, unlikely at this day and age; it’s almost to the point of where it becomes unprecedented. It remains unlikely that he’ll be up for long though, as his start in the starting rotation could represent a stop-gap until a more highly-touted prospect is ready. Yet for now, it’s time for Nick Margevicius and the Padres to see if his unique brand of success can get by.

Patrick Brennan loves to research pitchers and minor leaguers with data. You can find additional work of his at Royals Review and Royals Farm Report. You can also find him on Twitter @paintingcorner.

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