As part of his regular series of scouting reports on Tigers prospects, James Chipman profiles right-handed pitcher Paul Voelker, the Tigers' 10th-round selection out of Dallas Baptist in the 2014 big-league draft.
Editor's note: All numerical grades are determined on the standard scouting scale of 20-80, where 50 is big-league average. A score of 80 is extremely rare, except in the case of speed, or raw power. An OFP (overall future potential) of 50 is a solid-average big-leaguer and is considered a solid asset to most organizations.
Level: Florida State League -- Advanced-A
Date of birth: August 19, 1992
Acquired: 2014 draft, 10th round, Dallas Baptist
2015 minor league stats: 32 innings, 4-0 record, 7 saves, 1.69 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, 12.1 K/9, 1.7 BB/9
Body: Listed at a generous 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds, Voelker is noticeably a tad shorter and lighter than his advertised height and weight. Voelker lacks the ideal frame that you look for in a big-league pitcher. He still features solid strength throughout his upper body and has a thick lower half. He will be 23 and has minimal, if any, projection remaining for added growth. Voelker is an exceptional athlete with great coordination. Given his size, durability concerns will naturally arise. However, nothing mechanically yields any potential red flags.
Delivery / mechanics: Voelker fires the ball from a unique drop-and-drive delivery. He has a high three-quarter arm-slot with clean, compact and quick arm action through release point, which causes the ball to explode out of his hand, challenging hitters. His arm slot generates nice, natural downward plane. There is a fair amount of effort in the delivery and a decent amount of deception thanks to his exceptional arm speed. Voelker repeats his delivery and landings fairly well. Regardless of the offering thrown, Voelker does a solid job maintaining his arm-slot and arm speed. He fields his position and holds runners exceptionally well, delivering the ball to the plate in an average amount of time (1.30 to 1.35).
Fastball: Consistently sits between 93-95 mph, occasionally topping out as high as 97. At its best, the offering explodes, featuring heavy arm-side run. The fastball does, however, also have the propensity to appear fairly flat, especially when left up or in the middle of the strike zone. This is a rare event, however, as Voelker routinely pounds the strike zone with quality strikes. Voelker also does an exceptional job adding and subtracting velocity to keep hitters off-balance. Grade: Present 60 / Future 65
Slider: Consistently sits between 83-85 mph, scraping as high as 86. Voelker's slider features nasty late-breaking, three-quarter tilt at its best. The shape will also occasionally show tight, late-breaking horizontal darting action. Voelker moves the pitch around the zone almost at will, comfortably back-dooring it in the strike zone and utilizing it for a chase pitch out of the zone. Voelker's slider has legit big-league, bat-missing potential moving forward. Grade: Present 50 / Future 60
Change-up: Voelker will occasionally work in a low-to-mid-80s change piece. The offering is more a change-of-pace pitch than anything, and it's rarely utilized now that he pitches in relief. The change-up features very little downward movement and lacks desired fade. Voelker seems to lack feel for the pitch and the proper arm-speed necessary to make this pitch an adequate weapon in his repertoire. Grade: Present 35 / Future 40
Control and command: Voelker challenges the opposition, routinely getting ahead in the count by throwing quality strikes. He works off his fastball well, navigating it through the zone to adjust the eye-level, and adding and subtracting velocity to keep hitters off-balance and guessing. The control of the fastball is undoubtedly ahead of the slider at this stage of his development, but that gap could potentially close as he works his way up the ladder and refines his craft. He's a hard-throwing reliever, so, naturally, command lags behind his control at this point in his development. Regardless, he will routinely pound the strike zone with quality strikes.
Additional points: Voelker has the intense late-inning "bulldog" mound presence that you like to see in a reliever. He is intelligent, a fierce competitor and is dedicated to the game of baseball. There are no off-the-field issues or potential red flags, as Voelker features solid-average makeup. He also makes adjustments and receives constructive criticism and instruction from the coaching staff well.
Projection: Armed with a plus fastball and a potential plus slider, Voelker could be a steal for the Tigers, as he was selected in the 10th round of last year's draft. Voleker has been a fast-riser, pitching at two levels already this season, and showing the aptitude to adequately handle late-inning work at each stop. The profile doesn't have a ton of projection remaining, but Voelker's sexy fastball and slider combo should easily give him solid seventh-inning upside at the big-league level. Overall future potential: Potential 50 / Realistic 45
James Chipman scouts the minor leagues for The Detroit News and is based in Orlando, Florida. Twitter: @J__Chipman.