Mississippi Braves reliever Chasen Shreve was a mostly-forgotten 11th round draft pick in 2010, out of the College of Southern Nevada. That school may sound familiar to some, as it gained a bit of fame as the school Bryce Harper attended for a year before he was drafted.
Harper was Shreve’s catcher at Southern Nevada, they’ve known each other since high school, and they still work out together sometimes in the offseason.
“[Bryce] brought a lot of fans out, it was really cool,” Shreve recalls. “A lot of scouts too, so I got seen a lot.”
That might have helped Shreve get onto the draft radar of some teams, but the Braves already knew about him. They had drafted his older brother, Colby Shreve, in the 8th round in 2007. Colby chose to return to school, and was selected a year later in the 6th round by the Phillies.
Chasen’s first year in professional baseball at Danville in 2010 produced good results. In limited action he posted an 11.2 K/9 rate, and a 1.7 BB/9 rate. He continued to post decent numbers as he climbed the minor league ladder, but his K-rate slowly fell while his walk-rate doubled.
This may have been the unintended consequences of good advice. As Shreve explains, “my first year in spring training , Tom Glavine came and talked to us. He was like, all the young guys want to come and throw hard, but it’s really about spotting up, and I kind of took that to heart.”
Everyone knows that Glavine was the model of a control pitcher, but he also had velocity behind that control. Shreve may have been a victim of too much early success from dialing back his velocity in favor of control. And who can blame a left-handed pitcher like Shreve for taking every ounce of advice he can from Hall of Famer Tom Glavine.
“The next outing in spring training I just decided to spot up, I did really well and got a lot of ground balls. That year I went to Rome and did real well, next year same thing, went to Lynchburg and did real well.”
But the toll came due when Shreve arrived at Mississippi in 2013. His ERA nearly doubled, and his 5.9 K/9 was the lowest of his minor league career. Late in the year he was demoted back to A-ball in Lynchburg.
When he began his 2014 campaign back at Mississippi the same troubles followed him. “We were playing Jackson at the beginning of the year,” Shreve explains, “and I gave up seven hits in two innings and four didn’t leave the infield grass.”
Shreve went to M-Braves pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn, and asked him what he (Shreve) could do. After some discussion, Shreve revealed to Lewallyn, “I can throw hard if you want me to. I choose not to, I choose to spot up.”
Shreve threw a bullpen and it went well, so he tried throwing harder in his next game. “My first game out I was 91-94. Did well, so we kept with it. My next game I was 91-95. And right now I’m sitting around 93-94.”
That’s s big jump in velocity from where he was last year, at 86 to 90 mph.
And the control that he had been practicing for the past three years, that’s still there, complemented now by mid-90s heat. Since the change, opposing batters are hitting just .180 off Shreve, who has 70 strikeouts in 47 innings, while walking just 8 during that span.
On the season his K/9 has rebounded to a robust 12.7, and his BB/9 is down to 1.5. He’s also giving up fewer hits than at any point in his career.
Shreve turned 24 years old earlier this week, so he’s still younger than the average age of the Southern League. When he was just 19 years old, in his first spring training, he took the sage advice of a Hall of Famer.
Now that he’s waxed on and waxed off for several seasons, the final knockout punch was added to his repertoire — velocity. That has made him a hard-throwing lefty-reliever with excellent control. Guys like that can stay around for a long time in the majors, and it just so happens that there’s a vacancy with that job description in the Atlanta bullpen waiting to be filled.
Shreve should get his chance next spring training, if not before.
Shreve adds, “when I first started [throwing harder] my arm really wasn’t used to it. I was really sore, [but] I’ve finally gotten over that soreness. It’s feeling good, and I’m feeling really confident about it.”