Newcomb's progress apparent at Futures Game

Newcomb's progress apparent at Futures Game

CINCINNATI -- The fastball jumped out of his left hand at 96 mph in the seventh inning of Sunday's SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, won by the U.S., 10-1. The curveball was sharp, the delivery was clean and it all came out of a 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame that made the spectators at Great American Ball Park wonder what so many others have over the last 12 months: How did the industry take so long to learn about Sean Newcomb?

The Angels drafted Newcomb 15th overall in 2014, after his junior year at the University of Hartford in Connecticut. Over 11 months, they watched the 22-year-old left-hander progress three Minor League levels and become arguably their best homegrown pitching prospect since Jered Weaver.

"Everything is as good as you could possibly expect," Class A Advanced Inland Empire pitching coach Matt Wise said of Newcomb, ranked second in the Angels' system and 55th overall by "He's a big kid, power fastball, plus curveball and a swing-and-miss changeup. It's an unbelievable combination of pitches."

Perhaps even more unbelievable: Newcomb wasn't drafted out of high school and Hartford was the only Division I program to offer him a scholarship.

The competition in the Northeast was inferior, so Newcomb, from Massachusetts, was able to dominate with merely an upper-80s fastball. His curveball was loopy, he was about 40 pounds lighter, he only threw in the spring and summer, and few noticed.

It motivated Newcomb.

"It did, yeah," he said. "Just proving people wrong and stuff like that. But I wouldn't have changed it. If I could go back and get 30 offers, I wouldn't have gone anywhere else. That was awesome, being able to turn the program around like that."

Newcomb put on weight, sharpened his curveball, learned a changeup, finished as Hartford's career leader in strikeouts and became the program's most notable draftee since Jeff Bagwell in 1989.

The Angels started Newcomb in Class A Burlington in 2015, watched him post a 1.83 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 34 1/3 innings, then promoted him to Inland Empire after just seven starts. Newcomb has since posted a 2.94 ERA through 10 starts in the hitter-friendly California League.

He still has to improve on his 4.8 walk rate this year.

"I'm not too worried about it because they're all competitive," Newcomb said -- and the Angels would like him to be more aggressive early in games.

But that's pretty much it.

Newcomb should finish the 2015 season in Double-A and could be a fixture in the Angels' rotation by the start of 2017. He checked into the Futures Game in the top of the seventh, retired all three batters -- on two weak flyouts and one weak groundout -- and continued to show how far he's come in four years.

"Some people develop later," Wise said. "He's a bit of a late bloomer, I guess you would say. I'm not in the scouting side of it, but I know what big lefties with raw stuff look like, and he's exactly what they look like. We're very fortunate to have him."

Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.