Name: Anthony Bass
DOB: November 1, 1987
Taken by the Padres in the fifth-round of the 2008 draft out of Wayne State, Bass moved on to short-season Eugene in the Northwest League.
Bass migrated into the role of quasi-closer, saving games but kept off the mound for one game if he lasted an inning and two games if he went two.
The right-hander went 2-2 with seven saves in eight opportunities across 25 appearances, sporting a 2.10 ERA. He struck out 41 in 34.1 innings while allowing 25 hits and walking 14.
Bass limited right-handers to a .189 average on the year and yielded just one extra base hit to righties in 71 at-bats. He also kept the opposition to a .156 average with runners in scoring position and stranded two of the three runners he inherited.
The Michigan native struck out 10.75 batters per nine innings pitched – 13th best in the circuit among pitchers with 30 innings or more. His 78.2 left on base percentage topped the team and ranked ninth in the Northwest League.
The 22-year-old began the 2009 season with Fort Wayne. He made 18 starts for the TinCaps, going 9-3 with a 2.18 ERA. In 90.1 innings, Bass allowed 89 hits, walked 25 and struck out 69 en route to an All-Star bid. He allowed one earned run or less in 12 of his starts, allowing eight earned runs over his final 11 outings – a span of 57.2 innings. Bass held the opposition to a .235 average and limited the leadoff man of an inning to a .253 on-base percentage.
“He’s definitely one of the guys who got us going in the first half, and the promotion in the second half was well deserved,” former Fort Wayne and current San Antonio manager Doug Dascenzo said. “Attacks the strike zone with three pitches, bulldog type attitude, and when he does that, that’s when he’s at his best. He’s got a great career ahead of him as well.”
Bass’ ERA ranked second amongst all pitchers in the Midwest League with at least 90 innings of work. His .285 BABIP was seventh best, and he ranked fourth in left on-base percentage, stranding 76 percent of those who reached.
“He got off to a great start,” former Fort Wayne and current Eugene pitching coach Tom Bradley said. “He had a couple of games where he probably threw a few more sliders than we would like. He has always had a good changeup so we had a talk with him. Since he has started throwing it more, he has pitched very well. He has three good pitches. He got the win in the All-Star game. He is a bright young man with a very good future in front of him.”
Moved up to Lake Elsinore, Bass saw action in 10 games, going 3-0 with a 3.51 ERA. On a strict pitch count with the Storm, he worked just 33.1 innings and saw some bouts of wildness with 12 walks over a four-game span as a reliever. He allowed three runs across five innings in a no-decision during the California League playoffs.
“Anthony is a gifted kid,” Lake Elsinore manager Carlos Lezcano said. “He was a little tired too when he came here. First start, he had two innings here and two innings there then three, then he went back to five.”
“I had him as a closer last year in Eugene, and this year, he was starting all season and he had great success up in Fort Wayne,” Lake Elsinore pitching coach Dave Rajsich said. “When he came to Lake Elsinore, it looked like he was just a little tentative, and the two innings I think threw him out of kilter of what he was doing. It’s a lot like what happened to (Cesar) Carrillo when he came back from Double-A to do the two inning, three inning type thing and they just kind of get a little bit side tracked and lose their focus.
“I thought that he didn’t attack the zone like he had in the past. Once he got back on track and started getting into the three and four inning type of things I thought it all started to come together again; the rhythm, the intensity, his pitching style came back.
“So, he had the walks early, and I think that was just a little tentative he was pitching away from contact trying to be too fine because he was at the high level, trying to do more. It’s the same thing that happens to guys when they go to the big leagues. All of the sudden, they start to doubt their stuff that got them there and he has plenty of stuff to pitch at that level and beyond and he had to find out the hard way. There’s nothing wrong with him, he’s fine.”
Bass’ success rides on the command of his fastball. A unique delivery in the Tim Lincecum mold sees his heater ride in the low-90s, touching 93 mph. Because of his deception and drive off the mound that makes for an awkward look, the heater appears to come in even quicker. He has worked on bringing more two-seamers into the game than in the past when he favored the four-seamer. Bass is looking for a little more movement to keep hitters from timing the four-seam fastball.
His overall fastball command is so good that he will neglect the rest of his repertoire. He can move the express to all four quadrants and works it down in the zone effectively and consistently.
Bass has a quality changeup but did not throw it as often during 2009. He uses the same motion as his fastball and gets drop from the offering, seeing it bottom out as it closes on the plate. It has separation in terms of velocity from the fastball but needs to be used more to increase its effectiveness.
“He was our opening day starter, he had a very good first half 9-3 will a real low ERA,” Bradley said. “He started using his changeup a little bit more probably the last five or six starts. He’s got a real good one. His slider is pretty good. I think it needs maybe more depth to it, but right now it’s a workable pitch. It needs to improve a little bit.
“He has a real good plane to his fastball. His fastballs are average to a little bit above average at times.”
His slider became a bit more slurvy in 2009 and didn’t have the crispness that it showed the previous season. It had a little too much spin and was not being thrown hard enough. If he can increase its velocity while tightening up the spin, the slider can be a plus pitch and one that gets swings-and-misses. He did, however, throw it too often, at times. Tempering the enthusiasm for the pitch and mixing in his changeup more frequently is in the cards for 2010. Bass did throw a curveball at one time but that has been shelved in favor of the slider.
“He’s got a good slider and changeup,” Lezcano said. “He’s a competitor. I think he also was a little tired here at the end. He’s a prospect.”
A quick tempo and aggressive attitude means that hitters must be ready from the starting gun. He finds his rhythm rapidly and likes establishing the strike zone early. Hitters who are expecting to work the count are often found in the hole early in the game.
He also understands that pitch plane is vital. His ability to come over the top with a funky motion is something that not many hitters are seeing. He hides the ball well and it jumps on hitters, making them commit early. That will make his secondary pitches more important moving forward. The pitch sequencing will allow him to fool hitters who are attempting to sit on the fastball.
“This guy’s got a real good grasp on the mechanics,” former pitching consultant Bob Cluck said. “I think he’s got a real good idea, and competes really well. The thing that always sticks out when I see him pitch is this guy stays at it, competes, the mental skills are good. Some guys are good and some guys aren’t, but this guy is really solid emotionally. He’s a low-maintenance guy for us.
“We fixed a couple of mechanical things when we got him, and he just took right to them. Worked on his changeup, and he took right to it. This guy is a piece of cake, for us. He’s one of the easier ones.”
Strong mentally, Bass has been able to make adjustments on the go. He has a plan of attack and is around the zone. The only time he showed wildness was when he was being limited to two-inning stints in Lake Elsinore. Considered a bulldog, Bass always wants the ball in his hand. He is a go that can go deep into games.
Bass improved on his ability to hold runners close by varying his looks to throw off a base runners timing. His slide step is better and he mixes things up to make sure runners aren’t comfortable with their potential jump. Early in the year, he struggled in this area of the game, as 16-of-20 runners were able to steal off him successfully. It is something he remains cognizant of but settling his mechanics had to come first.
An athletic pitcher, Bass fields his position well and will be an asset with the bat once he can hit again in Double-A. He led all pitchers in Fort Wayne in assists, despite getting promoted midseason.
“He’s around the plate, so he’s got three good pitches,” Bradley said. “He’s a bulldog on the mound, a great competitor. So I look for him to do well in his career.”
“He’s a very aggressive pitcher,” roving pitching coordinator Mike Couchee said. “Works fast and has a quality arm. He throws three pitches and is going to play this game for a long time.”
Conclusion: Bass has three usable pitches and is ahead of the game with his fastball command. If he can improve upon his pitch sequencing and tighten up his slider, Bass will be a legitimate starter that profiles in the middle of a rotation. He must continue to improve his ability to hold runners.
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