Judging by the numbers, it would appear Augusta GreenJackets right-hander Martin Agosta is on his way to moving up the minor league ranks in short order. But pitching progression is about more than just good statistics, and Agosta already understands.
Agosta is second in the South Atlantic League in strikeout percentage at 33.5 percent, totaling 57 strikeouts in 402/3 innings. Through eight starts, he has a 2.88 ERA.
Agosta has struck out seven or more in six of his eight outings, including five starts in a row during one stretch. He has allowed fewer than four runs in all but two starts.
But while strikeouts and run prevention have led to solid numbers for the 2012 second-round pick, his comments following his starts suggest he is not satisfied with his current progress and understands progression is a constant battle.
“I need to pound the fastball more 0-2, and if they hit it, they hit it,” he said. “Hall of famers succeed three times out of 10, so there are seven times where they fail. I need to do a better job attacking hitters and letting the defense work behind me, stop nibbling away with pitches.”
Agosta refers to pitching to more contact and minimizing his pitch count when ahead in the count. During his Sunday start against the Savannah Sand Gnats, he walked five in 31/3 innings, including three that he had ahead 0-2. Nibbling off the plate led to full counts, and in those cases, base on balls.
But even when things are going better, such as 10 strikeouts in 51/3 innings against the Asheville Tourists on May 6, minimizing the pitch count remains a focal point of postgame comments, both from Agosta and GreenJackets manager Mike Goff.
“Agosta gave us a good effort,” said Goff following the Asheville start. “I’d like to see him minimize his pitch count a little bit, especially when he’s got a lead. He was at 70 pitches in four-plus innings. When you get a six-run lead, you’ve got to attack hitters and maximize your pitches. That’s something he’s got to learn to do to pitch at high levels.”
Drafted out of St. Mary’s College in California, Agosta is ranked 15th in the San Francisco Giants system by Baseball America. He’s an athletic 6-foot-1, 180 pounds, using deception and movement to shut down batters.
Agosta said he needs to work on hitting the thirds of the plate more than the corners, and his low-90s fastball is capable of working there. Prior to the season, he said the Giants turned him to his slider more than his cutter during spring training as his main secondary offering.
“The slider has always been my pitch,” Agosta said. “It hasn’t been there the whole time I’ve been here for whatever reason. I worked on it the last bullpen. I threw a lot of sliders, a lot of grips with it, and I’m still working on a couple. But I had to go back to the old grip just because the competitive edge of it. I want to get guys out.”
Baseball America’s report said Agosta lacks a true changeup, which might limit him to relief in the future. Agosta continues to work on developing the pitch, and he has flashed a true change-of-pace pitch at times during recent starts.
“(Chris) Stratton taught me a changeup a few days ago, and I like the feel of it,” said Agosta, referring to a changeup with more of a split grip. “The changeup is obviously a feel pitch. It’s got good movement, but the command is not there. Like I said, I’ll keep working on it this week and see how it goes.”
Even with the command of more than one secondary pitch, Agosta’s success continues to go back to pitch count.
“To go deep in the ballgame, when you have a chance to put someone away, you have to take advantage of putting somebody away,” Goff said. “You get 0-2 and take one pitch to go for the punchout and then make a quality pitch and move on. If you get 3-2 and the hitter fouls it off, next thing you know you’re throwing seven pitches to one hitter. Once you get to the fifth and sixth (innings) it’s going to catch up to you.”