Four years ago I trailed a lanky southpaw from Shorewood High School (Wash.) most of that spring. He was filthy, including a fastball up to 96 mph and a put-away curveball. Today, Blake Snell is property of the Tampa Bay Rays, and he owns a 49-inning scoreless streak as he dominates the Double-A Southern League. He was the No. 52 pick in the 2011 Draft.
One full high school class later and Shorewood head coach Wyatt Tonkin has another left-handed ace in Ian Oxnevad.
Oxnevad threw 119 pitches Saturday in the state regionals at Bannerwood Park — in 11 innings of work — impressing scouts with a three-pitch mix that includes a fastball up to 91 mph. The senior wasn’t sharp early and Lake Washington had a terrific approach against him all afternoon. In the end, the slider and changeup — and Oxnevad’s mental toughness — were too much for his opponents. The Thunderbirds ended up winning 1-0 in 12 innings and scouts walked away convinced Oxnevad has a future in professional baseball.
He starts his windup ever-so-slightly on the third-base side of the rubber, showing a bit of a drop-and-drive with his lower half, but he hides the ball well with a Clayton Kershaw style mechanism where he re-balances as he sets to explode toward home plate. It’s a three-quarter slot with an easy, loose arm action he repeated more often than not, including when going from hard stuff to soft. He threw his slider for strikes early in counts and his fastball, which sat 86-89 most of the day, showed both armside ride when working away from right-handed batters and in on lefties, and gloveside cut when he worked away from left-handed batters and in on righties. He did have some occasional problems finishing, flattening his fastball.
The slider is a bit slurvy but with late, two-plane break and he showed a feel for a changeup from consistent arm speeds, but he didn’t command the pitch well in this outing. He pitched very well to all quadrants of the zone, however, and did so throughout the start.
Three times in the game’s first four frames, Lake Washington was able to get a runner on first base — once on a walk, once on a hit and once on an error — and all three times Oxnevad picked off the runner with a quick, deceptive move, taking advantage of the judgment call that is the balk. Good southpaws push these limits, and Shorewood’s star did just that.
He did telegraph a handful of offspeed pitches in the middle of the game, but impressively did not show a dip in velocity when he went from the stretch. He varied a semi-slide step with runners on, getting to the plate as quick as 1.09 seconds, and at times clocking in as high as 1.48. After failing to induce swings and misses the first half of the game, Oxnevad flipped the switch late, with the game sailing along in a scoreless tie beyond regulation time. In the sixth inning, he was brilliant, throwing strikes, expanding the zone on hitters with two strikes and logging another pickoff/caught stealing to end the frame.
|Ian Oxnevad, LHP — Shorewood, HS (Wash.)
He kept his velocity through the eighth and when it did finally dip some he was well beyond 90 pitches. He battled through some tight situations several times, including in the seventh when the Kangs got a runner to third with one out and the middle of their order due. He escaped with eight pitches, including a 3-2 slider to get the strikeout to end the threat. He balked a runner into scoring position in the fifth, but worked through that without any more trouble.
The changeup came in at 79-83 mph and the slider varied from 78-81. He swept the breaking ball across the plate a few times versus a left-handed batter and created more downward action versus right-handers.
Despite no red flags with the mechanics, the one thing his future coaches likely work with him on is how he gets to his release point, and how he works through his landing foot. He’ll undoubtedly get better creating more consistent downward plane on the fastball and especially more tilt on the slider, perhaps with a slightly adjusted grip and/or improved wrist action.
Oxnevad, an Oregon State signee, is athletic with a sturdy and prototypical 6-foot-4, 195-pound (ish) frame. The physical projection will tempt MLB clubs earlier than later in next month’s draft. There’s a lot to mold, but the foundation is a solid one on which to build. If he makes it to campus in Corvallis in the fall, keep an eye on him for the class of ’18. Left-handers with three promising pitches don’t grow on trees, even in the northwest.
Word from numerous clubs is that Oxnevad is signable this year, however, which may mean the three words on the kid’s Twitter bio may come to fruition in just a few weeks.
Jason A. Churchill
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