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Josh DeGraaf Succeeding in Numerous Roles

Righty has performed as a long reliever, closer, and a starter in 2016

Josh DeGraaf Succeeding in Numerous Roles

August 15, 2016

Josh DeGraaf is finding success this season in Lansing. (Kyle Castle)

Josh DeGraaf is finding success this season in Lansing in many different roles. (Kyle Castle)

 

Competing in multiple roles this season in Lansing, right-handed pitcher Josh DeGraaf has earned his keep with the Lugnuts. Performing as a long reliever, closer, and a starter at different points of the season; DeGraaf has been a quality option all year as he was looking to solidify his role in the clubhouse in 2016.

“I didn’t have a solidified role on the team in April,” stated DeGraaf. “My goal was to perform my best and hope that when the team needed a guy to fill a role that my name would come to mind.”

Finding success with that mindset hasn’t been an issue this season as DeGraaf has had more positive outings than negative ones. Currently maintaining a 1.19 WHIP and supporting a 3.94 SO/W ratio shows the kind of command that the righty brings to the ballpark every night.

DeGraaf’s excellent numbers comes from his understanding on how to utilize his skills to their fullest potential. Realizing that he’s not a power arm and that he’ll have to rely on sinking the ball low in the zone to get outs has worked out well for the 23-year old pitcher.

“I’m not a flame thrower,” explained DeGraaf. “I try to work low in the zone. There’s times that doesn’t happen. But the goal is to always get ahead in counts with my sinker to work in my other pitches. It varies at times, but the key is commanding the pitch and throwing strikes with my fastball.”

Keeping the ball low is extremely important for DeGraaf as his sinker usually sits in the 89 to 92 miles per hour range. When his sinker is clicking he can work in his slider and changeup which makes him an effective pitcher in numerous situations.

“I’m using the off-speed and fine-tuning my fastball location more in professional baseball,” explained DeGraaf. “It’s important to throw it on the outer third, on the black, at the knees. It takes a lot of practice, as it’s a big transition. With the off-speed I group it in with different strategies.”

Especially impressed with DeGraaf’s feel for the changeup. Lansing Lugnuts pitching coach Jeff Ware believes that ability has contributed to the success the righty has found in the Midwest League all season.

“Josh has been great this year in Lansing,” stated Ware. “Josh has a great changeup and pitchers with great changeups find a lot of success in this league. He uses his changeup as an out pitch for the most part. Josh is learning to throw the slider a little bit harder and he also uses a sinker. When he keeps the ball low in the zone he has three really good pitches.”

Jumping up to professional baseball from the collegiate game a year ago has presented numerous changes for the righty.

“The biggest transition between college and professional baseball is the mental game,” stated DeGraaf. “It’s not just learning to grind it out day-to-day, but entering the game with confidence. It’s important to go out there knowing exactly what you want to do in certain situations. Whether it’s throwing a fastball in, or fastball away, it’s important that you go out there prepared for what you’re facing. I think the mental and confidence factors are the biggest differences so far and I’m sure there will be more in the future.”

Preparing for the next level at Taylor University in Indiana. The prospect credits a lot of his present day success on the training he received as a student athlete at the private evangelical Christian college.

“I grew up a lot in college,” said DeGraaf. “The hitting wasn’t the same level as pro ball being a NAIA program. But some of the intangible things that led to me getting drafted were some of the greatest things about Taylor besides meeting incredible people, growing spiritually, mentally, and physically.”

It’s evident that his experience in college and now in professional baseball has molded DeGraaf into a viable prospect with a lot of upside if he can continue to keep the ball low in the zone moving forward.

Fans of the Toronto Blue Jays certainly hope that Josh DeGraaf can do just that as he continues to be a versatile pitching option in their minor league system for years to come.