Kevin Ginkel is a reliever prospect who is currently dominating at the AAA level. Originally selected in the 22nd round of the 2016 Draft, Ginkel quickly rose up the farm system during the 2018 season in which he dominated both High-A and AA over 70 innings with a 100/12 strikeout to walk ratio. He’s picked up where he’s left off with 30 2⁄3 innings between AA and AAA, striking out 54 and walking 10 hitters while on pace to record his second straight sub-2.00 ERA season in the minors. Elbow inflammation sidelined him during the month of June, but has since made a return and is currently pitching for Reno while waiting for a call-up. Ginkel is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft after the season, so I would not be surprised if he sees a call-up in the next month or two.
He dominates hitters by bullying them with a 92-95 MPH fastball that tops out at 97 with late, arm-side run that plays faster than that at the top of the zone due to good spin rate and extension. He complements that with a very nasty slider that sits in the low 80s with good late tilt and a late-fading change-up in the mid 80s. A mechanical change that incorporating using his lower half more in his delivery ultimately turned out to be the adjustment he needed to prolong his career, as that’s allow him to recover better from outings and has added more velocity to his fastball. That will be important at the MLB level, when he’ll be asked to pitch on back-to-back nights more. The elite strikeout profile coupled by a solid ability to limit free passes and long balls makes Ginkel a potential back-end candidate as either the closer or fireman role.
Going from starter in college to a reliever in the pros: “It’s more or less turning on a switch for me personally. So when I start, you get about a week off and prepare for your start. The goal is to go as deep in the ball game to guarantee the best chance to win. As a reliever, I feel like I’ve thrived in that role more, not just in college but pro ball especially. It’s more or less mentally pay attention to the game and seeing how the score is and what hitters have been hitting well and seeing pitches well. It’s more or less turning on a light switch and being more physically and mentally prepared for whatever time in the game you need to go in.”
Pitching back-to-back nights: “Plenty of times, this year, my arm’s been able to recover pretty well. I got hurt about a month ago, I’m trying to get back to 100%. I’m getting better day by day and it’s something I can handle. I think the coaching staff here and the front office pay attention to how many pitches you throw in the game and in the bullpen before you head out. So they are really on top of you, knowing how you’re feeling and where you’re at physically for the most part. They do a great job of making sure everything is where it needs to be.”
Postseason pitching experience in college and AA: “It’s awesome and I’ve really gotten a chance to grow and learn from those experiences. Pitching in the College World Series, playing on TV was a dream, it was awesome. That’s something I’ll carry with me the rest of the my life and I’ve just learned to just be in the moment and understand that win or lose that I’m going to give it my best and there shouldn’t be any doubts when I walk away. Getting the experience from that and playing in the Southern League last year, having that team go on that crazy run was awesome and closing out that 9th inning [of the Southern League Championship] in Biloxi was really cool and just being around those guys and celebrating with them is something I’ll take with me for the rest of the life. Just learning from those experiences and pitching in critical situations has helped me and I’m so blessed and thankful to be in the position that I’m in and I use those experiences when I’m out there pitching in those tight 8th or 9th inning situations. It’s a great thing for me and I’m blessed to be in the position I’m in.
Facing other top minor league talent in the Arizona Fall League: “Pretty cool, it was great to learn from players from different organizations and learn how they attack hitters or what hitters are looking for. Just taking advice from them and how they go about their business and also giving information about what makes you successful. Playing against the Vlad [Guerrero] Jrs. and Keston Hiura and just watching them on the ballfield was an honor and a privilege. It’s pretty awesome to face those guys and I get excited when those type of hitters step in the box and it really makes me look forward to getting out there and competing and being the best I can be. It was a great experience and I think that will help me in my big league career.”
Thoughts on the PCL adopting the MLB ball: “We talk about it at the ballfield and it’s pretty amazing how much the home run increase in AAA has taken a toll and pitchers’ ERAs are going up. When you’re out there pitching, you can’t focus on that, it’s not going to help you compete and be the best you can be. It’s something more off the field that we discuss and I noticed playing here in Reno, the ball flies a lot easier than in other parks I’ve played coming up through the Dbacks system. Adapting those AAA/big league baseballs, I can tell have a different feel coming out of my hand compared to a minor league baseball so pitch execution is a huge factor pitching in this league. Making sure you don’t throw an elevated fastball or a slider that backs up, making sure you throw every pitch with conviction and attack. If you give up a double or a homer and it was on a good pitch, you shouldn’t be disappointed. A lot of guys are adjusting to that and the hitters are a lot more aggressive, so watching guys that go about their business here and seeing guys that have played in the big leagues taking experiences from them and what makes them successful is pretty important.”
The challenges of pitching in an extreme hitter’s park as his home park: “What helps me and what makes me successful is working the top and bottom of the strike zone. I try to work north to south and that plays with my fastball and slider combination. Using that to my advantage and changing eye levels is critical in my game, so being able to execute your pitches is the whole entire thing. I know that Colorado, the ball flies and even at Chase Field the ball can fly some times, and other big league parks you can see on TV. It all comes down to pitch execution and watching the Zack Greinkes and Clayton Kershaws of the world, watching their start and watching them pitch efficiently down in the zone. When they need to elevate, they will and watching those guys work is a thing of beauty. I really appreciate watching those guys and seeing what makes them work. Pitch execution is critical in this league.”
Confidence that the mechanical changes to the delivery gave: “I saw a pitching coach independently, away from the Diamondbacks, a couple seasons ago. I struggled in 2017 with injury and overall command, my velocity was down, and I needed to see someone. I got in touch with a player and he told me about this coach and I went into his facility and we talked about what needs to work to get my velocity back up to where it once was and he got me on a lifting program, throwing program and I started to see some results right away. I knew I was always able to throw hard, in college I could throw mid 90s and so I was just trying to figure out how to get that back. Seeing him has helped evolve my game. I’ve always wanted to be aggressive, I just never knew the right way to do it. I found mechanically I’ve made some tweaks, incorporating my lower half more, which has helped my arm feel better day in and day out and overall command. Developing that and finding what works for me has made a huge adjustment in my game and I didn’t expect to be this successful quickly. Overall, I’m just happy where I’m at in my career and looking to keep progressing and moving forward and I’m excited for what lies ahead.
The prevalence of shifts at the MLB level and how often do they shift in AA and AAA: “There’s so much information and scouting reports on hitters to where they like to hit the baseball: their tendencies and frequencies. They play into that, for the most part hitters will hit it to where the fielders are playing at if it’s shifted to the left or right, wherever they may be. The analytics side has really changed the game, I see that and also from a pitcher’s perspective, you’ll see some balls hit where the SS is supposed to be played and it results in a single. As a pitcher, it can be frustrating but you can’t focus on that while you’re out there. If you give up a weak ground ball and it finds a hole, you make the adjustment and move forward. The front office and analytics teams that we have are really on top of that, so I trust them and making sure everyone is in the right position and giving the pitcher the best chance of getting the guy out.”
The trend of starters going less deep into games and the bullpen needing to get more outs: “It’s important having those long relievers pitch can help the bullpen out big time. Constructing the bullpen to where you can have 1-2 long relief guys and the rest of the bullpen can go 1 [inning] or a hitter or two can help change the game. I’m seeing it now where pitchers, especially relievers, are getting used more and more. It adds more stress and is more taxing on the relievers, so you’re seeing a lot more starters pitch less [innings] and it’s becoming more of a bullpen game and analytics are showing that swings and misses are way more important than getting ground ball outs or fly ball outs. I think constructing the bullpen the right way and have a guy go multiple innings. Over a course of a season, it can wear a pitcher down. Using those innings effectively in critical games and situations is important, having that durability and longevity is really important.”
Off the field hobbies: “I love to go hiking. I’m from San Diego so there’s a lot of great hiking spots there and then in Arizona I’ve gone to Camelback, Squaw Peak, everywhere I’ve been. I love going to the beach when I’m home and seeing friends. For the most part, I like to golf a bit too. A lot of guys like to go out and have a good time playing golf and I’m more light on that, I’m not as competitive on that as I am pitching. Those are some things I love to do.”