Aug 06, 2023

Dodgers Rookie Gavin Stone Has a Plus Changeup (and Now, a Big League Win)

Gavin Stone was credited with his first big league win on Sunday. Working in a bulk role behind opener Caleb Ferguson, the 24-year-old rookie right-hander went six solid innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers topped the Boston Red Sox 7-4 at Fenway Park. His changeup played a predictably prominent role. Stone threw the pitch that our lead prospect analyst Eric Longenhagen has assigned a 60/70 FV (current/projected) on the 20-80 scouting scale a total of 22 times, with a vertical break averaging 30 inches and diving as low 39 inches. Velocity-wise, it ranged from 82.6 mph to 87.7 mph.

Stone was making his fifth major league appearance (and his first since July 4) when he took the mound in Boston. His earlier outings had been on the rocky side — his ERA and FIP are now 10.50 and 6.72 respectively — but there is no denying his potential. The 2020 fifth-round pick out of the University of Central Arkansas is currently no. 40 on The Board with a 50 FV.

Stone told the story behind his signature pitch the day before facing the Red Sox.


Gavin Stone: “In college, all I really threw was a four-seam and a slider. I knew coming into pro ball that I would need something that went the other way, so I started working on a changeup. Then, in spring training of 2021, one of our pitching coaches — Ryan Dennick; he’s in Double-A now — helped me tinker with it a little bit. What I basically did was scoot it back [deeper] in my hand. I’ve thrown it the same way ever since.

“I’m kind of split on the horseshoe. It’s almost like a Vulcan-type grip. The ring and the middle are split — I’m on both seams — and then I just throw it like a fastball. I try not to pronate. What I get is natural — natural pronation — because on my four-seam I pronate pretty good. Sometimes my arm will end up being almost completely upside down.

“I’d tried to throw a changeup all through my college career, but I could never get the velo down, and I could never get that consistent movement. I tried various things, like a splitter grip and different circle changeups, but couldn’t get the feel for one. During COVID, one of my buddies that I played college ball with was throwing his changeup like that, so I tried it and it felt comfortable. Then, like I said, I ended up scooting it back a little bit. It became a pretty good pitch.

“It’s got more splitter action, but it also runs arm-side sometimes. It has different types of movement patterns. I can either pull straight down on it, or kind of lead with my ring finger and create some spin. It kind of depends on how it comes out of my hand and how I want to throw it.

“When I’m not throwing it well, it kind of shoots up and arm side. That’s usually from me getting underneath it a little bit and trying to push it. That’s what I see when I get in trouble with it.

“I would say that it’s my best pitch. Last year it was definitely my best pitch. This year I’ve been a little in-between at times. Hitters have also been sitting on it a lot, which makes it harder to get it by guys, to get the swing-and-miss. But it’s still the pitch I feel most confident in.”

Stone on his other pitches:

“I’m throwing both a four-seam and a two-seam fastball now. I just started throwing the two-seam this year, probably right before the All-Star break. I wanted to have something with a little movement that had velo. My four-seam is fairly straight. Sometimes it will get the vert that it needs, but sometimes it won’t. I think a two-seam is a better pitch for me to throw.

“I’ve switched my slider. I was throwing a little sweeper last year, but I kept missing with it, so this year I switched to more of a cutter-slider. It’s anywhere between 88 and 92 [mph].”


Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas on facing Stone on Sunday:

“I think his changeup is really good. I didn’t see any pitches besides his two-seam and his changeup, but those two are really advanced. I felt like his two-seam had really late break, and if he pairs them well in an at-bat, they’re two really good pitches. The pitch that I hit out [to the opposite field over the Green Monster] was a changeup following another changeup, and it was only the second pitch of the at-bat. It was after I’d seen four changeups to end my first at-bat [a groundout to first base], so I had seen six straight. But it’s a really good pitch, really good action. It falls off the table. He almost pulls the string on it. It’s around 85, but it felt like 80 coming in.”

Gavin Stone:Stone on his other pitches:Red Sox first baseman Triston Casas on facing Stone on Sunday: