Organization: Arizona Diamondbacks || 2016 club: Visalia Rawhide (A-Adv.)
Position: RHP || Age: 27 || DOB: November 22, 1988 || Birthplace: Poway, CA
Acquired: March 8, 2016 (free agent contract) || 2016 prospect rank: None
2016 stats: 38 games, 0-5, 4 SV, 4.39 ERA, 41.0 IP, 3 HR, 20 BB, 61 K, .242 opp. avg.
- Muren’s 2016
When you’re 27 years old and only reaching High-A at your position for the first time, there’s a story. In Drew Muren’s case, it’s a good one.
Initially drafted in 2011 by the Houston Astros out of Cal State Northridge—as an outfielder—Muren kicked around the low minor leagues for a few years, eventually reaching as high as Double-A in Houston’s organization by 2013. He never really took hold as a hitter, though (in his career, he’s .270/.347/.378 with 200 strikeouts over 921 pro at-bats), and so by 2014 he was out of affiliated ball and trying to continue his career through independent leagues.
He did that for a while, grinding out long days on rough, anonymous indy ball outfields, and yet by the end of 2015, a return to affiliated ball still hadn’t caught hold. And so, quickly aging out of the minors, he went home to southern California last winter and took the pre-requisite tests to join the police academy.
Then, the Diamondbacks called.
Muren showed up for D-backs spring training back in March, went through an open tryout, and lit up the radar guns with a mid-90s fastball after the club put him on the mound to experiment with his great arm strength. A 95-mph heater tends to open eyes, and so the D-backs signed Muren to a minor league deal and stuck him in extended spring training to learn how to pitch. A few months later, they shipped him out to affiliates to go through the real thing, and between Low-A Kane County, High-A Visalia, and Triple-A Reno in 2016, Muren struck out 61 hitters against just 20 walks in 41 innings pitched. He ended up with 38 games pitched under his belt and a 4.39 ERA, and while he’s raw, and very new to pitching, he immediately flashed dominance with an arm far younger than his 27-year-old body.
Oh, and he did it while regularly flirting with 100 mph on the radar gun, too. His mechanics and arm strength are still inconsistent, without question a product of being so new to pitching, and so his velocity fluctuated some throughout the summer, but at times he’d routinely work his fastball at 98 and 99 mph. Couple that with a 90 mph slider, and all of a sudden, the Diamondbacks might have something special in their midst.
- Scouting Muren
Muren’s best attribute, without question, is his plus arm strength, and the velocity leads the way whenever you look at him. He’ll touch 99 mph with regularity in certain outings, though inconsistent mechanics and a young, inexperienced approach on the mound sometimes conspire to cut his velocity down to 93-95 mph in other games. All that can be corrected and made more consistent as he ages and gains experience as a pitcher, though; there’s no question the arm strength is there, and his fastball could really stand to push him quickly through Arizona’s minor league system.
Coupled with the fastball, Muren flashes a very hard slider that sits from 88-90 mph. It shows little depth at times, and can get horizontal with more cut than break, and so he’ll need to flesh out the feel of that pitch to miss more bats with it and use it more effectively as an off-speed offering. But, again, just like the fastball, any time a reliever has enough arm strength to throw a 90-mph slider with even some movement and break, that’s a good sign that there is enough raw talent there to potentially mold into a nasty, shutdown late-inning-type reliever.
Physically, Muren is very tall and very lean, and so could stand to put on quite a bit of good weight, especially in his lower half, as he no longer needs to be loose and quick for outfield responsibilities. (Today’s Knuckleball spoke at length to Muren about this specifically, and his unlikely career path in general, last month; we’ll have much more from him—in his own words—shortly.)
The lean and long build manifests itself in his mechanics, too, and he can sometimes be a victim of his long, loose limbs. An inconsistent stride length occasionally robs him of velocity, and Muren also sacrifices some of the natural angle his height gives him by being a drop-and-drive hurler that caves on his back side pretty quickly.
He’s long and slow to the plate, with fairly long arm action, and with a three-quarters release point he can at times get rotational and horizontal. That, in turn, affects his command, and specifically flattens out his slider in a single hitting plane. He doesn’t need to radically convert from the drop-and-drive style to become a tall-and-fall guy, but a slightly more consistent focus on using his height and natural angle, and finding a more consistent stride length (which will, in turn, make his release point more consistent) should improve his command, velocity, and day-to-day results greatly.
All that said, seriously, he throws the hell out of the ball. He’s very, very young in terms of pitching years. He’s thrown just 41 innings of baseball in his life. He hasn’t gone through a full calendar year as a pitcher yet, and he has yet to even go through an offseason of training and conditioning toward pitcher-specific needs. All this points to a very raw, very talented reliever-type that could catch fire and move very, very quickly as he simply finds more comfort and consistency in his new life on the mound.
- Going Forward
Muren’s a bit of a wild card just by virtue of his age and inexperience, but you can’t teach arm strength like this, and there’s a case to be made that he could throw considerably harder once his mechanical inconsistencies are ironed out and he builds leg and core strength more becoming of a pitcher than an outfielder.
Being a reliever, too, he has the opportunity to move quickly since his power-power repertoire lends itself well to higher levels if he can marginally improve the consistency of each pitch. A lot can happen to Muren in 2017 — everything from the wheels falling off and the experiment completely failing, to a big league cameo in the back of Arizona’s bullpen, or anything in between. For now, expect him to start the summer in Double-A, but keep him in the back of your mind; if he throws well, with that ridiculously hard fastball, there’s ample chance he will rise quickly.