Invisible Fastball Helps Colin Poche Thrive In Bullpen
Some call it a magic fastball. Others prefer "invisi-ball.” Whatever you call it, 23-year-old lefthander Colin Poche throws it.
Poche’s fastball doesn’t register as dominant after a glance at the radar gun, but it played that way in the low minors in 2017. Though he mostly sits 91-93 mph, he rode his heater to a dominant season, striking out 14.5 batters per nine innings and logging a 1.99 ERA as a reliever at low Class A Kane County and high Class A Visalia. The performance allowed the 14th-round pick in 2016 out of Dallas Baptist to move on to the front office’s radar.
"I’ve never seen more swings and misses on fastballs,” Visalia pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru said. "He’ll throw 10 straight fastballs and they’ll swing and miss at seven of them.”
Poche has a couple of things going for him to create deception. First, he hides the ball from hitters while loading his arm. Then, he strides aggressively toward the plate, making his fastball appear 2 mph faster because of his extension, according to the D-backs' analytics department.
"I’m releasing the ball closer to home plate than average, and I think when you pair that with (batters) not being able to pick it up, it makes my fastball play up,” Poche said. "I’ve just kind of always thrown that way. Even when I was young and throwing very slow, I was throwing it by people.”
Poche’s high strikeout rate carried over to the Arizona Fall League, where he posted a 3.31 ERA with 21 strikeouts in 16.1.
Originally a 2012 fifth-round pick out of high school by the Orioles, Poche said he came close to signing before negotiations stalled. He wound up at Arkansas but after going down with Tommy John surgery decided it was time to transfer.
He was mostly a starter in college, but he believes he found a home in the bullpen.
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"My fastball being my best pitch, I throw it a lot," Poche said. "It probably plays better in shorter stints out of the bullpen.”