Javi Salas breaks down new Canes' arms Griffin Hugus, Will Smith and Carson Fischer

8 min read

Miami’s pitching depth was a major weakness in 2024, with a lack of experienced midweek and bullpen options. The Canes have acted quickly in the Portal to address these needs. Javi Salas, who pitched the 23rd perfect game in D1 history and host the Bullpen Mafia podcast (link here), broke down the newest Canes:

On the need for arms: First and foremost, we're addressing a huge need with pitching depth. Whether these pieces end up being starters or relievers, they're raising the floor of that pitching staff. We need some guys who get big outs late in games and guys who give us some length as starters. Miami's process here early on has been, “Let's go address that, let's go attack that area of need.” Three guys with experience, three guys that have pitched at the collegiate level, and who could step in and get outs right away at a muc- needed position for the Canes right now.

On Cincinnati RHP Griffin Hugus: What jumps out to you is the athletic profile. Obviously, as a former shortstop, you're getting a guy who physically looks more like what you'd want to see out of a pitcher. He likely fields his position exceptionally well. But what jumps out is the fastball and the whippy arm. Obviously, the numbers aren't necessarily all there. But when you go underneath the hood and unpack what Griffin Hugus has from a stuff standpoint, this stuff grades out really well.

Good riding fastball. You and I have talked to some guys in the professional baseball ranks that really love his fastball. It plays up velocity-wise because it has that length and spin rate. I don't know where he slots in. This is one of those situations where you go and get a good player and then he kind of charts his own course.

Personally, I like the fact that he is a two-way guy. That adds a new dynamic to your pitching staff. You're getting an athletic guy who has hit for himself before. Not sure if that's in the plans. We know last year he tapered that back a little bit, not as many plate appearances that he had his freshman year. But again, I look at the raw stuff, good breaking ball, whippy arm. That's what I really like to see out of my pitchers, especially in this day and age where guys are forcing fastball more than ever. A guy who has a good fastball that grades out well at the professional level brings up the floor of your pitching staff.

On the combination of Hugus’s rising fastball and sharp breaking ball: You kind of categorize pitchers in two ways: guys who get outs up and down, and guys who get outs left to right. [For the latter category], you're thinking sinker, slider, sweeper, sinker. That’s the group that I fell in. I threw a lot of sinkers, threw a lot of sliders, breaking away from the barrel. Hugus seems like a guy who's going to get outs up and down. High fastball, that breaking ball right coming right out of that shoot, same tunnel. We're seeing now more than ever an emphasis on tunneling pitches, making sure all your repertoire looks the same for those first 30-35 feet to the hitter and then changes directions abruptly.

Griffin Hugus has a good breaking ball that looks like to have really good tilt, up and down motion. He's going to get his outs vertically. That riding fastball, which seems to have a lot of length from a hitter's perspective, does not come down into the zone. You’ve got to go up and chase it. It seems like that ball is just rising right out of his hand. And then the breaking ball, he's going to try and bury it down on your feet.

We're going to see if he has the ability to develop that third pitch, a change up. If he's going to be a starter, they're probably going to want to have another out pitch. But I like the stuff. I like the profile. In today's day and age of baseball, you've got to be able to have a swing-and-miss pitch. And it seems like Hugus has two with a really good fastball and a good breaking ball.

On Hugus’s athleticism as a former infielder at Cincinnati: You have room for growth with an athlete. Hugus probably hasn't developed as much as a pitcher because he hasn't had the time.

If you played shortstop, it’s similar to playing quarterback at football. You're the best athlete on the field. Hugus probably grades out tremendous athletically. I'm sure he can run like the wind. He’s probably really strong in the weight room. So if you allow him to just focus on pitching, build his body up to either be a starter or reliever, we're going to see his body continually change.

On Coastal Carolina RHP Will Smith: Coastal's been on a really nice trajectory the last decade or so as a strong baseball program. First and foremost, what jumps off the page from a statistical standpoint are the strikeout numbers. I know Lance [Roffers] alluded to that in his post. 27 strikeouts in 19 innings. That's a solid clip. You see it with the top college and pro pitchers. You’ve got to have some swing-and-miss in your game.

We’re getting a guy who knows how to get outs in big situations, has the ability to strike guys out with a swing-and-miss slider. I love this addition by the staff. He immediately elevates whatever role you put him in. If you put him in the middle relief, late inning role, he already makes a difference because that was an area Miami really struggled.

It's been a tremendous couple of weeks for college baseball. You look at some of these bullpens, there's a lot of fourth and fifth year guys who have pitched in Regionals and Super Regionals. Outside of the Florida Gators, who pitched nine freshmen this year, there are not really any teams who rely on a ton of freshmen to get out in big situations.

Experienced teams get to Omaha. Will Smith immediately elevates the floor of the experience of your staff. He'll come right in and be able to get outs in big situations for the Canes.

On Davenport RHP Carson Fischer: The sinker ball pitcher is something that this program has done really well with in the past. Obviously, JD tinkered a whole lot with a sinker. I was one of the protégés of that system and developed my sinker at the University of Miami. Fischer already has that at the Division II level coming into Division I.

People always talk about the transition from D2 to D1. His stats in D2 were really good. But then you start looking deeper. He played in the Northwoods League, which is a really competitive summer ball league. He's there right now. You look at the roster, that team has guys from Louisville, Georgia Tech, Michigan State. So you have ACC and Big 10 representation. The league is littered with guys from all the big conferences. He's pitching to a 1.38 ERA. Granted, it's only 13 innings, but he did the same thing last summer, pitched to a 3.26 ERA over 30 innings.

So you're getting an experienced pitcher with a really nice profile. He’s an athletic guy at 6'4, 220, who is going to fill out a uniform nicely. That's something you want out of a pitcher.

And that D2 defense probably wasn't doing him a lot of favors. All of a sudden, you put a D1 infield behind him and those numbers look a whole lot better. He's got a really good feel for a cutter. That's a great pitch too for a sinker baller because, like I mentioned earlier, some guys get outs left and right. His sinker is going to be heavy towards the arm side. If he can have a pitch that can get in on left-handed hitters, that's worth its weight in gold. That's something I really struggled with. especially being overbearing with that sinker. If you can just keep the lefties honest and come in on their hands, that's a great pitch.

In my opinion, he's the one who truly profiles as a starter. The sinker is a pitch that you can go out there and on your worst day, you could throw sinkers all night long and you might have a successful outing. The pitch lends itself to quick innings by pitching to contact. You’ve just got to have a strong defense behind you. The Hurricanes are addressing pitching here. The next order of business is to get that defense good behind it.


Comments (1)

This was a nice breakdown. And not just because Javi Freaking Salas somehow knows my name.

I liked how you talked about the E-W vs. N-W variations of a pitcher. The sweeper revolution gets the press for the E-W guys, but the letter-high fastball is a pitch that most hitters struggle with and you're seeing the "rising" fastball guys look to tunnel off that because if you can cause a moment of hesitation on either pitch you've changed the timing. High fastballs are more prone to HR's, of course, so you'll see a few from Hugus, but I think his potential as a pitcher-only at UM.

I did a quick study on DII to DI players, and while the sample is still too small to make sweeping declarations, thus far, the pitchers from DII to DI have fared much better in aggregate than the hitters. Fischer has a chance to fill a starting spot and be a lot more reliable than what we had last year.

Finally, like that you've spoken about roles and age. Getting old and staying old is the key to sustained success and you can see Miami wants to have reliable experience in the bullpen this year.

College baseball teams want to get to your middle relief. Unlike in the pros where your best arms tend to be relievers throwing 100 mph, in college, you're generally throwing younger guys or guys who rely on deception to get outs in those bridge innings (because teams don't have enough good arms to fill all the needed spots in a bullpen).

These moves and subsequent depth moves have made it where Miami can go several deep legit arms in their bullpen and just need two weekend starters to let the mold dry for how to return to the tournament next year.