Every so often a pitcher comes out of nowhere and becomes a fan favorite. In 2017 Shea Spitzbarth, and undrafted free agent signed by the Dodgers after his 2015 Cape Cod season, pitched in 9 games. He gave up 2 runs in 2 games but was very good the other 7 games. I remember fans writing that he should make the ML team out of ST. He only had 1 game above low A at the time.
Shea did not make the roster, but did have a good season at High A and Tulsa. He never made the LAD roster but did make the Pittsburgh team in 2021. He pitched 5.0 ML innings in 5 games. I was happy for Shea, as he got to live a dream…MLB.
This year there is another unheralded undrafted free agent pitcher who has caught the attention of Dodger fans. This type of column was usually handled by Harold, but I will try to do him proud.
Jake Pilarski was signed by the Dodgers to a MiLB contract on December 9, 2022.
- HT/WT – 6′ 2″, 215 lbs
- BIRTHDATE – 5/12/1998 (24)
- BAT/THR – Right/Right
Jake is a Pittsburgh, PA native who played for Fox Chapel Area High School, a Pittsburgh public school of about 1,300 students. The O’Hara resident was a three-time all-section performer in high school, playing on a 2015 section winner as a pitcher, outfielder and designated hitter.
“Jake was part of a very special group of athletes on his Fox Chapel teams,” said Michael Frank, coach of the Foxes at the time. “We saw promise in him early on because of his talent, but more importantly, because of his work ethic. From the first time I met him, he was always the hardest worker on the field, in the weight room and in the classroom. We are all so excited to see him get a chance with the Dodgers.”
Following high school, Jake enrolled at a Division 3 Virginia Wesleyan where he continued to pitch and hit. In college, Pilarski attended Virginia Wesleyan, starting in a handful of games, and came in as relief at some points. His best season in college came in 2018 when he went 11-0 with a 2.15 ERA. He played in 16 games but started 12.
At Virginia Wesleyan, Jake racked up a number of achievements.
- D3baseball.com Third Team All-America (2018)
- ABCA/Rawlings First Team All-South Region (2018)
- D3baseball.com First Team All-South Region (2018)
- D3baseball.com Second Team All-South Region (2019)
- ABCA/Rawlings Third Team All-South Region (2019)
- Virginia Sports Information Director – First Team All-State (2018)
- Virginia Sports Information Director – Second Team All-State (2019)
- 2x ODAC Championship All-Tournament Team (2019, 2018)
- 2x First Team All-ODAC (2019, 2018)
- 2x ODAC Pitcher of the Week (04/24/18, 02/26/18)
Not to be forgotten were his offensive exploits.
- Hits: 4 (vs Emory & Henry 04/21/18)
- RBI: 7 (vs Tufts 03/25/18)
- Runs: 3 (vs Tufts 03/25/18)
- Innings Pitched: 9.0 (4x most recently vs Roanoke 05/10/19)
- Strikeouts: 11 (vs Eastern Mennonite 03/10/18)
After his four years at Virginia Wesleyan, Jake signed with D-1, The Citadel, for 2021. He appeared in 21 games (13 starts). Unfortunately, Jake did not get drafted after his one season at The Citadel.
However, Jake was not about to give up on his dream, and signed with the Avo, Ohio Lake Erie Crushers, an Independent Team in the Frontier League. With the Crushers, Jake had a 3-4 record with a 5.32 ERA, 66 strikeouts, and 1.65 WHIP, allowing only five home runs and 72 hits in 66 innings pitched and 15 games (14 games started).
In 2022, Jake signed with the Washington WildThings in the same Indy Frontier League. Leading up to the 2022 campaign he added velocity and, stylistically, became much more a power pitcher, which translated to an uptick in velocity on the radar guns once he returned from an early-season injury that caused him to miss the first few weeks this past summer. He converted to a reliever with the WildThings making 23 appearances and logged 27.2 innings with 28 strikeouts. Of the 23 appearances, 14 were scoreless outings.
Jake trained at Tread Athletics, a pitching mechanics lab similar to Driveline, located in Pineville, NC. Jake picked up 5 MPH, and caught the attention of Dodger scout Jonah Rosenthal.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Pilarski said. “It’s been a dream for the last four or five years of my life to get to this point. I signed up with a company called Tread Athletics out of Charlotte (N.C.). They’re pitching people, they’re really good at what they do and they had some good connections and got my name out there.”
He topped out at 100 MPH on December 9, and signed with the Dodgers the same day.
Tread Athletics was the first to break the news:
@JacobPilarski is heading to the @Dodgers! Congrats to Jake who also broke our top bullpen velocity at HQ last week with 101.4 MPH! 😮💨
PC: @TurnerGivens pic.twitter.com/YXZaZPt0zw
— Tread Athletics (@TreadHQ) December 15, 2022
Congrats to Tread Athlete @JacobPilarski for signing with the @Dodgers 🔥
All time game PR was 101 and bullpen PR was 97 before joining us and working with Performance Coach @TurnerGivens #TreadFam pic.twitter.com/or8O59G1e8
— Tread Athletics (@TreadHQ) December 15, 2022
After signing, Jake commented:
“I want to say thank you to everyone in the Wild Things organization from top to bottom,” said Pilarski. “Thank you to the fans that came out and made playing in Washington a thrilling and exciting experience. I will miss playing in my backyard at nights but I’m excited for this opportunity at the next level.”
The Washington WildThings were very proud of Pilarski.
“We are very happy for Jake. He is another in a long line of players that have come to Washington and succeeded in getting an opportunity to move on to a major league organization,” said manager Tom Vaeth. “We take great pride in being an organization that is known for moving players back. We know the more players we move for an opportunity the more new players will want to come here to get their shot with MLB.”
Vaeth continued, “we wish Jake continued success as he takes the next step in his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers.”
The press release went without any fanfare, and Jake was a veritable unknown. But all that ended on Monday, March 20. Jake entered the game in the bottom of the seventh inning, and struck out the side on 15 total pitches, several of which broke the century mark.
The first victim was Rockies minor league left fielder Zac Veen, who saw two of Pilarski’s five pitches to hit 100.1 and 101 respectively, but ironically struck out swinging on an 88.1 MPH cutter.
Pilarski’s second victim was Rockies minor league center fielder Brenton Doyle, who whiffed on four pitches, the slowest of which was 94 MPH, with the other three coming in at a hair under 100.
Pilarski’s final victim was Rockies 2022 first-round draft pick right fielder Sterlin Thompson who, after seeing four pitches that topped 98 MPH, struck out swinging on a four-seam fastball that SportsNet LA’s radar listed at 101 MPH.
A cult icon pitcher was born.
Check out the velo & the depth on the cutter from Jake Pilarski. If you haven't ever heard of him, join the club, he's been in Indy ball for the last couple of years. @JacobPilarski struck out the side and his last of the inning was 101 MPH. Wow! Can't wait to see more! #dodgers pic.twitter.com/sntSvsZWJZ
— Dodgers Daily (@dodger_daily) March 21, 2023
He followed that up on March 22 to retire the one batter he faced.
No he is not going to break camp with the Dodgers, but he sure got noticed.
“He went there (Tread Athletics) and kind of gained like five or six miles an hour and cleaned up his delivery,” Roberts said. “If he keeps pitching, he’s gonna be on the fast track. I’m excited about him.”
"If he keeps pitching like this, he'll be on the fast track." -Dave Roberts on flame thrower, Jake Pilarski.pic.twitter.com/VHCLkHT466
— Dodgers Tailgate (@DodgersTailgate) March 21, 2023
After the game:
"Dodgers fans we got a lot of good arms on the come." Dave Roberts sees a bright future with pitching on @SportsNetLA. pic.twitter.com/AtFC5Neo6D
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) March 21, 2023
It has been written that hitting 101.4 is great, but if he cannot hit a target it doesn’t so much good. The LAD pitching gurus have a tall order, but if they can continue to clean him up, they will have a fantastic late inning reliever in the pen.
Thank you. This was perfectly done.
So what happens to him? I could see him in A ball working closely with our development team.
Or could we just stash him in the lab?
The stuff plays.
Yes, 101.4 is the fast track. Obviously he can throw strikes. I’d put him in AA. That’s where the top prospects are. If he can get them out, which will be a matter of continuing to throw strikes, he has to get a call.
Great story. Now what about the others on Jefe’s Ski Patrol?
AA sounds about right to me.
I will put them into the queue. Tyranski was a favorite of Harold’s so I thought he did a column on him, but I could not find one. My pick in the 2019 draft was 5th year Senior Aaron Ochsenbein, while Harold locked on to Tyranski. We use to have conversations on both. We enjoyed following many of the no-name prospects.
Awesome. He will be in the pen by September.
Seems like every year we have a random high MPH arm in the pen we hope works out.
Much was hoped for from one of the ski patrol – Marshall Kasowski. Better hitters can catch up to 100 MPH fastballs like Kasowski’s, so they need that secondary pitch, and be able to throw it for strikes. That has always been Kasowski’s problem. Pilarski may have that in his cutter.
A great second pitch off a 4 seamer is a 2 seamer. Move the thumb an inch from one side to the other and throw that sucker right down the middle. That’s an indirect quote from Orel Hershiser.
Thanks for the writeup, Jeff. Now what can you tell us about Tyranski? As a lefty his path may be a bit easier. As I mentioned yesterday I think Kasowski is pretty unlikely to ever become much of a factor but I still root for him. I remember a few years ago when we were talking about him and Zach Pop as being future bullpen fixtures.
Of the players lost in the Machado trade, admittedly Zach Pop was the hardest for me. He and Brett de Geus were two favorites who have not taken to MLB as I had hoped. As I said above, I have Tyranski and Kasowski in my personal queue. I will get to both, but they do take a while to research. Harold was always great at these. He was good with them, and he really enjoyed doing them. Anyone out there who wants to take on the Harold Uhlman role, PLEASE let me know.
Personal queue. I should get one of these.
Any ideas on how I should go about it?
Get in line?
Worst kept news is now official.
Culichi. I never heard that so I looked it up and found this:
person who has very pronounced or very small buttocks or buttocks with some defect
Please tell me that ain’t what it means.
Hips don’t lie.
It is actually a nickname for where Julio is from. Urías is from Culiacan, the capital city of Sinaloa, a province in northern Mexico. Culichi has grown to become a nickname for Natives of Culiacan.
Good for Urias. He deserves it. May starting game 2, Kersh game 3, and Thor game 4 per Roberts. He also said the decision has been made between Pepiot and Grove but he was not ready to announce it. I think Pepiot will get the game 5 start.
A lot of players getting released or granted early outs on their opt outs. 2 exe Dodgers missed the cut with the Rangers. Moronta released and Tsutsugo told he is not making the team. Phillies lose Hoskins probably for the year. Charlie Culberson released.
Keston Hiura has been told he will not make the Brewers roster. He is out of options and must be traded or waived. Brewers also advised Tyler Naquin (signed MiLB contract with opt out) will not make the team, and Naquin now must decide if he wants to opt out or accept a MiLB assignment.
There will be others.
I liked him
He forgot how to make contact. He had a K rate of 41% last year, and a career K rate of 36%. He also does not have any defensive ability to make up those issues. In essence he was a DH with a 41% K rate.
I’ve always been a Culberson fan. If he’d be willing to sign an OKC contract and be ready in case we need him, I’d do that in a second.
Someone will sign Hiura in the next couple of days. One of those promise-never-fulfilled guys who might just need a change of scenery. Still young.
Ryan Pepiot has been named the #5 pitcher over Michael Grove. Grove and Victor Gonzalez have been optioned to OKC.
Pepiot should get the April 3 start at home against Colorado.
Bummed about Grove but he’s probably next arm up. He’ll have a chance this year.
Non-contact torn ACL’s certainly seem somewhat rare. Daniel Hudson had one last year. But two during ST seems way out of the norm. Gavin Lux and now Rhys Hoskins. No one to blame. S*** happens. Injuries hit every team, but how one team copes with them can define their season.
In 2019, two young guns were at the top of the list for up and coming RHSP…Rookie Mike Soroka (Braves) and 2nd year pitcher Jack Flaherty (Cardinals). Flaherty’s once promising start to his career has been derailed due to oblique and shoulder injuries the last three years. He hopes those issues are behind him as he tries to get back to the top in 2023. Besides the keen desire to win, this is his FA walk year. Jack is one of the Harvard Westlake 3, and along with Lucas Giolito, the Dodgers will certainly check in on them. The third, Max Fried has one more year before he becomes a FA.
Soroka OTOH has not pitched one inning since 2020 (13.2 IP) when he ruptured his Achilles tendon, and has been optioned to AAA due to hamstring concerns. He sure seems like a logical resurrection project for Mark Prior and Connor McGuiness. Soroka is controlled through 2024, so it is doubtful that Atlanta is going to give up on him, but I would not be upset if AF found a way to pry him away from the Braves.
Tony Gonsolin pitching from the mound:
It looks like Rob Friedman (AKA Pitching Ninja) has boarded the Hayden Wesneski bandwagon.
I think Wesneski is very impressive. Although Badger claimed never to have heard of him a couple days ago, I don’t think he’ll be able to say that at this time next year.
That is true, I hadn’t heard of him. And when I checked the Cubs depth chart at ESPN he wasn’t listed. Still isn’t. Not listed at MLB.com either, but is listed as #5 at fangraphs. Maybe this is his year. But #5 on the Cubs doesn’t necessarily impress me. We’ll see won’t we.
Let’s agree to meet back here at the end of March next year and see if The Wes is the reigning Cy Young winner or retired from baseball. It’s going to definitely be one of those two.
Wesneski won the #5 rotation spot. He set himself apart with a 2.12 ERA over 17 innings of work, as well as a strong 31.43% strikeout rate and an 8.57% walk rate.
Yeah but some of that was against guys not hitting their weight. Guys like JD Martinez.
JDM has a lot of company not hitting their weight. At least JDM did hit him. The only other LAD hits in 7.1 IP were singles by Jason Heyward, Max Muncy, and Miguel Vargas. But 10 Dodgers did strike out.
Did the same to Arizona; triple, three singles,1 unearned run in 5.0 IP.. Maybe he should be in the NL West and he could be a CY winner.
Not that it matters much, but he has pitched better than any LAD starter this Spring.
Means something to him. And it means something to you. Means very little to me. He Spring pitched his way to a #5 rookie starter on a sub .500 club. Good for him.
And I just checked the stat leaders for Spring. It’s almost like the Dodgers didn’t have any pitching.
Saw this in an article in the Athletic. What do you guys think about it?
Barrel rate is more predictive of future power than any other single power stat — probably because it’s actually launch angle and exit velocity wrapped into one stat, meaning it’s not really one stat,
Saw that somewhere before
Not a lot of Dodgers at the top of those stats.
Hope the Dodgers put Outman in CF and see how he does. Platoon Peralta, Heyward, and Thompson in LF. KT3 sucks. If not for his ill advised contract, he would be DFA. Let him give the infielders an occasional day off.
Is there any humor in resting a weak hitting good glove shortstop with a weaker hitting and fielding player in their prime making $16MM annually?
Non that I can see. However we are stuck with KT3 and Rojas will need an occasional day off.
Good humor, man.
Not funny going from Trea Turner’s stats to those two.