Sunday, May 15, 2016

Random Prospect Sunday - Steve Janas

Pitch to contact. It can be a dangerous path to the majors as it puts the pitcher in the unenviable position of relying on his fielders to step up and make plays. Further, it puts a manager in an uncomfortable position of knowing that when there is less-and-two outs and a runner on third, the chance that runner scores is increased simply by the pitcher on the mound not having the capability of putting the batter away. On the other hand, contact pitchers are often smart, deceptive, and stubborn. They play the long game. If Steve Janas ever gets to the major, it'll be because he never tried to be what he wasn't and knew his limitations. Rather than fear those limitations, pitchers like Janas often use them as assets to avoid the hiccups of doing too much.

Born on April 21, 1992 in Marietta, Janas did not get a gift from the eventual NL West Champs as the Braves fell 4-2 to the Padres in San Diego. Nevertheless, Janas would grow up around Atlanta at a big time for the Braves as they would roll out divisional titles year-after-year until Janas was a teenager. Undrafted out of Lassiter High School, Janas stayed local and enrolled at Kennesaw State University. It didn't take him long to see the field as pitched in ten games as a true freshman - including a pair of starts. He displayed what would become his typical control and though the results weren't great, it set the stage for a nice career.

Unfortunately, his sophomore year ended after just seven starts due to injury. He was well on his way to some potential Atlantic Sun Conference honors before the injury. The 6'5" righty returned for his junior year and became a very hot prospect. Over 13 starts, Janas walked just 14 batters in 78.2 innings (1.6 BB/9). He also struck out 55 and gave up only one dinger. His finest outing was a shutout victory against East Tennessee State in which he gave up just five hits. As June approached, Janas was rising on many teams' draft boards - including the Atlanta Braves. They would select him in the sixth round of the 2013 draft.

Nearly as soon as Janas's career began, it hit its first stumbling block. In his second start with Danville, Janas went down with injury. He would later need Tommy John surgery and just like that, he was on the mend. Janas made a nearly flawless recovery and made it back to live action just 11 months later with Rome. He would struggle as he tried to hit his spots, but logged nearly a hundred innings despite beginning the year on the DL.

Janas's return in 2014 set him up for a big follow-up season. He was bumped up the ladder to begin the year with Carolina and it became quickly apparent that Janas was just too good for the Carolina League. He gave up just one hit in a six-inning, 6 K opener and continued to roll from there. On May 6, Janas would show some of what prompted the Braves to draft him so high. Over a seven inning double-header shortened game, Janas dominated the Lynchburg Hillcats. Of his 93 pitches, 64 were strikes (including 21 looking and 10 swinging). He took a perfect game into the seventh inning before a miracle single ended the bid. Janas would finish the seven-inning one-hitter with 4 Ks. He would not start again until June 27 because of the bus crash that wrecked the Mudcats' roster.

After one start with Carolina, Janas was moved up to Mississippi. His success there was not nearly as consistent. He was vulnerable to big games from the opposition. While he was charged with two or fewer earned runs in all but four of the 13 starts he made after the promotion, those four outliers saw Janas either give up six or seven runs. Janas, who had give up precious few hits with Carolina, couldn't avoid them in Mississippi.

Janas would be pushed out of the Mississippi rotation to begin 2016. Coming out of the bullpen, Janas lacks the strikeout potential of many other relievers, but he is a solid option when you need someone to throw strikes and give you multiple frames. He has appeal to managers who seek a rally-killing option with a pitcher who can induce a double play. One advantage to moving Janas to the pen is it allows him to not have to reserve his velocity. An upper 80's guy in college, Janas can reach the mid-90's with his fastball - though that pitch must be spotted properly because it lacks much movement. It should be noted that former scouting director Tony DeMacio and his team banked on Janas adding velocity once he went pro. He loses a few ticks in velocity, but he is far more likely to utilize a sinking fastball and cut-fastball as his primary high-velocity pitches. The sinker is a good bet against righties while the cutter keeps lefties at bay.

When Janas has control over his change-up, it can be a dominator that he throws from the same motion and delivery of his fastball. When he's on, the change simply dies as it reaches the plate, which implores hitters to pound the ball into the ground and be massively frustrated while doing so. Janas also mixes in a curveball. It's been a challenge for him to control it consistently. When he does, it's a traditional 12-6 curveball that drops off the map and under the batter's swing. When he doesn't, it hangs a little and even moves to the side a bit. He has a very simple and smooth delivery to the plate that is repeatable. A friend of mine mentioned that his delivery is that of a little guy. Despite his size, he keeps everything compact and doesn't come flailing to the plate. It gives Janas an easier time fixing problems that may develop. I'd like it if he came out of the delivery a little quicker and ready to field his position considering he's a groundball guy.

Janas is a light-switch player in my book. If that curveball develops into an out pitch, he finally has the last weapon needed for him to be a potential option at the bottom of a major league rotation. Short of that, he could see work as a long reliever/emergency starter and could have a run similar to David Hale, which should prompt his team to sell high. For some reason, I see Janas being a guy who carves out a nice career overseas in Japan or Korea. That said, he is a hard worker and has done well to go from undrafted out of high school to the sixth round as a junior in college.

Follow Janas on Twitter.

Want more Random Prospect Sunday profiles?
Luke Dykstra
Lucas Sims

Steve Rodriguez
...or see ALL of them.

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