A couple things on Michael King’s resume stood out before RailRiders fans got their first look at him Sunday.
He gets ground balls, he’s a quick mover and he’s put up some of the best numbers in the Yankees organization this season.
At High-A Tampa: 1.79 ERA in 40.1 innings, with 45 strikeouts, 10 walks, a 1.07 WHIP and a 2.22 groundout-to-flyout ratio.
At Double-A Trenton: 2.09 ERA in 82 innings, with 76 strikeouts, 13 walks, a 0.95 WHIP and a a 1.11 groundout-to-flyout ratio.
King didn’t disappoint in his Triple-A debut, allowing one run on three hits in seven innings. He walked one, struck out four and got 12 groundouts against three flyouts. The only run he gave up came on Rowdy Tellez’s seventh inning homer. King tried to get a fastball in on Tellez, but he left it out and up and Tellez hammered it.
“There’s obviously a bunch of improvements,” King said. “That home run in the seventh definitely got me a little bit. It was just one of those pitches I took off and left up. But yeah, executed the gameplan pretty well. Kept the fastball down for the most part and was just able to work quickly.”
One of the first things you notice about King is his delivery. He’s not the hardest thrower — King’s two-seam fastball was between 91-93 mph for most of his start Sunday and touched 94 once (a groundout by Vlad Jr.) — so King benefits from some deception in his windup. Here’s a look:
I think there’s some deception in Michael King’s windup, too. Pretty much turns his back to the batter. Is able to do it out of the stretch as well because he pays a lot of attention to runners when they’re on base; keeps them close. pic.twitter.com/DAn00VxdN3
— Conor Foley (@RailRidersTT) August 5, 2018
“It’s definitely kind of a process,” King said about developing his delivery. “I’ve always been a little bit across my body, so I kind of like to square up where my back is toward him, kind of adds a little bit of deception. I’ve always been able to control it and I try to go as far as I can with being able to control it, and I think I found that happy medium.”
King has a little bit of a delivery quirk when he’s pitching out of the stretch, too. He raises his hands above his head — think Clayton Kershaw, but not as deliberate — and takes a couple steps up the mound with his front leg. He turns his back a bit on the hitter, though it’s not as extreme as the full windup.
“The weird thing from the stretch, that was actually a thing I did last year, where I had this jersey that was huge, and so every time I went up, I wanted the shirt to come down and the sleeve to come down,” King said. “So, I would just go up just go up just to fix it, and then it just became part of my routine. And now I do it even with a good jersey on.”
King said he’s thrown the two-seam fastball his whole life. It’s got a lot of movement, so the 91-93 he showed was more than enough. He also showed the ability he has to throw it to the gloveside of the plate. Against righties, it runs back to the outside corner. Against lefties, he’s able to run it across their front hip and spot it on the inside.
“I’ve only thrown a two-seamer all my life,” King said. “I think it was this year that really stands out as a time when I had it more consistently. That’s kind of my bread and butter right now — if I have that pitch, I know I’m going to have a decent outing.”
He had it Sunday, and it’s impressive when he runs it in on lefties. It’s not Maddux-level, but it’s not a pitch you see too much.
“I like to try to pimp it, too. Kind of sell the umpire on it,” King said. “When I see that lefty kind of back his hips away and I see it kind of cross over the corner there, I know I’ve got him. It also sets up a lot of pitches off of that, because then they have to respect not just the inside corner, but a good four, five inches more in. So, it opens up away a lot easier.”
King said his slider wasn’t great Sunday — he left one up in the zone to Vlad Jr. and he lined out to left — but he was able to work around it.
Moving three levels in his first season in his first organization — New York acquired him from the Marlins in exchange for Caleb Smith and Garrett Cooper — might have the Yankees showing their hand a bit with the 23-year-old, who was born in Rochester, New York, raised in Rhode Island and went to school at Boston College.
“I had no idea what I was walking into,” King said. “I had no idea what the Yankees’ plan for me was. I mean, it was a little scary originally, just because I had no idea. I knew kind of where I was in the (Marlins) organization. I knew the coaching staff with the Marlins in our entire organization, and I’m just happy I’ve been able to produce success, or produce outs, I guess really, good numbers and kind of making it tough on the front office to try to move me. Because I know this organization is unreal. It’s loaded with prospects and their big league talent is off the charts. I’m really just trying to put pressure on them to have to make a decision. It’s been little adjustments that I’ve had to make throughout each level. Double-A was definitely more of a challenge with my offspeed pitches to get that going. High-A I could just pitch with a fastball.”
He said he noticed the Triple-A strike zone was a little smaller and hitters’ approaches were a little more advanced the Double-A. After Sunday’s game, King wasn’t sure where he would be making his next start, whether it be with the RailRiders or the Thunder, but he’s certainly opening eyes.
“When I got the call up here (to Triple-A), they said it could be one, two, five, ten (starts) — they have no idea,” King said. “As of right now, it was just to fill in for Chance because he went up. And they said, ‘But just go out and shove and again, make it a tough decision’ to have to send me back.”
Photo credit: Christopher Dolan / Staff photographer