August 22, 2016
One of the fastest movers in the Blue Jays minor league system is that of right-handed pitcher Justin Maese. Jumping levels quickly due to the command he has of all four of his pitches has really helped the 19-year old prospect reach the low-A Lansing Lugnuts in just one year removed from high school.
Finding success with his 4-seam fastball, 2-seam fastball, slider, and changeup hasn’t been an issue in 2016. Currently maintaining a 1.08 WHIP and a 5.63 SO/W ratio in his 66 innings pitched between Vancouver and Lansing; shows that the up-and-coming star is on the right path with his career.
Known primarily for his sinking fastball. There’s no question why Maese’s K/9 ratio is currently at 6.1 as he likes to pitch to contact for quick outs instead of chasing strikeouts.
Explaining how he uses his sinker to his advantage when facing opposing hitters, Maese admits it depends on the situation on whether or not he’ll show his 2-seamer that usually sits in the 91 to 93 miles per hour range.
“I throw my fastball in certain situations when I feel I need it,” stated Maese. “I throw a sinker, so I generate a lot of groundballs. I use it in certain situations when I feel I need an out.”
When his sinker is clicking he can easily mix in his slider to give the batter something totally different to think about. Currently throwing the slider around 89; Maese is happy with the feel for this pitch right now, as he believes it has improved leaps and bounds since high school.
“My slider has come a long way in pro ball,” explained Maese. “I didn’t throw a true slider in high school, it was more of a slurve. But now I have complete confidence in the pitch every outing.”
But the greatest thing about Maese’s game is the differential between his 4-seam fastball and his changeup. Usually sitting at a 10 mile per hour difference between the two has really helped the prospect keep hitters off-balance all season.
This skill has really impressed Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Jeff Ware who feels Maese will find a lot of success on the mound if he can continue to maintain his arm speed when throwing these two pitches.
“Justin has a really good differential between his fastball and changeup, especially if can maintain the same arm speed with both pitches,” stated Ware. “He’s got nice bottom to both and that’ll help him get batters out moving forward.”
Making the jump to professional baseball last summer; Maese discusses the differences from playing high school baseball in Texas to pitching in the Gulf Coast League in 2015.
“The jump from high school baseball to the GCL was tough at first as it’s not the same level of competition. But once you’re focused on repeating everything it gets a lot easier,” explained Maese. “One of the aspects that makes the process better is the amazing coaches you get to work with in the Blue Jays organization. It doesn’t take long to realize they know what they’re talking about and if you take advantage of the resources they offer you the process goes well.”
Taking advantage of great coaching is second nature for Maese who’s been blessed to have his Dad as his coach up through middle school. While he had to focus on the game without his father’s guidance in high school, the prospect feels it was the fundamentals he learned growing up from his Dad that got him to where he is today.
“My Dad was my coach up through middle school and he was harder on me than people would expect,” said Maese. “Once I got to high school I pretty much coached myself in pitching. But having my Dad teach me everything growing up played a big part in getting me here.”
With the conclusion of the season fast approaching, Maese has only one focus for the remainder of his year in Lansing.
“I hope to just continue to learn more about myself in Lansing,” stated Maese. “In baseball you never stop learning, so I hope to learn from the coaches and figure out what I can do to get better in my career.”
If Maese continues to keep this mindset moving forward his stock will only rise in the upcoming seasons. Currently ranked the 11th best prospect in the Blue Jays organization by MLB.com, fans shouldn’t be surprised to see the young Texan jump into the top-10 in the near future.
But if Justin Maese continues to stay humble and take in as much coaching as possible success in the majors won’t be far away no matter where he’s ranked.