In a matchup of top pitching prospects in Durham, Jeremy Hellickson made his AAA debut against Jake Arrieta and the Norfolk Tides. After Jacksonville Jaguars QB and Durham native David Garrard threw out the ceremonial first pitch, Hellickson held his own throwing 103 pitches, 71 for strikes, over six quality innings en route to a Win in his debut. He allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks while striking out six. Hellickson was particularly strong early, striking out five of his first 11 batters faced while allowing only a single and walk. This was the first time that I have seen Hellickson pitch in person and he was pretty much as advertised from a stuff standpoint.
The first thing that stands out about Hellickson is his smooth delivery and seemingly easy velocity. He releases all of his pitches from the same arm angle and did a pretty good job keeping his pitches down in the zone during this outing. In terms of pitches, Hellickson threw his fastball from 90-92 mph almost every time and he struck out three with this pitch. The highest velocity I saw was 93 mph. The pitch does have good life and he commanded it well. He threw a nice curveball in the upper 70s and did a good job keeping it down. I would say these pitches are slightly above average major league pitches, but not quite true plus pitches. His changeup around 80mph was an effective pitch as well and he threw it with confidence.
Hellickson had good command of all three of his pitches and wasn’t afraid to work inside to hitters. His consistent release point adds a little deception to his pitches as well, and coupled with his good command and excellent mound presence gives him great “pitchability.” Unlike many you hear that term applied to, Hellickson does have above average raw stuff. It’s easy to see why he’s been successful so far in the minors.