LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Sean Newcomb's stock has fallen since he entered last season ranked as MLBPipeline's third-best left-handed pitching prospect.
But as Newcomb caught the attention of Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox and many others who witnessed the two scoreless innings completed in the Braves' 3-2 win over the Phillies on Thursday afternoon, he showed why it's too early to give up on his tremendous potential.
After taking the mound at ESPN's Wide World of Sports complex to begin the fifth inning, Newcomb struck out four of the seven Phillies batters he faced. Though he didn't like the feel he had for his changeup or curveball, he painted his fastball effectively enough to end three of those strikeouts with a called third strike.
"That was really impressive," Braves manager Brian Snitker said. "That was fun to watch. I haven't seen him a lot, but they didn't swing at him very good. That was different. They swung at 93 or 94 like it was 98 or 99. There must be some deception there."
Though he has fallen from 21st to 80th on MLBPipeline's Top 100 Prospects list, Newcomb appears to be much more confident as he experiences his second big league camp with the Braves, who acquired him in exchange for Major League Gold Glove Award-winning shortstop Andrelton Simmons after the 2015 season. The 25-year-old southpaw has solidified his 6-foot-5, 255-pound frame and developed a strong rapport with Atlanta's pitching coach, Chuck Hernandez.
After Newcomb continued to battle inconsistent command through last year's first half with Double-A Mississippi, he received a visit from Hernandez, who at the time served as Atlanta's Minor League pitching coordinator. The two worked together again at the end of the season, in an effort to refine mechanics and gain more trust in spotting his fastball.
Hernandez certainly had reason to be pleased with what he witnessed on Wednesday as Newcomb began his outing by getting Dylan Cozens and Roman Quinn to look at a called third strike. The southpaw then pitched around a Cesar Hernandez single before striking out both Daniel Nava and Tommy Joseph in the sixth inning. Joseph also went down looking.
"Getting them looking, that is not something I do all of the time," Newcomb said. "So, that's definitely a little extra boost to the confidence."
From a mental perspective, this outing could certainly pay dividends for Newcomb, who allowed six earned runs over the 1 2/3 innings he totaled during last year's Grapefruit League season, and then allowed four runs to the Yankees in the only inning he'd completed this year.
"I felt really good with my fastball today," Newcomb said. "So, hopefully, I can take from that. It put me where I wanted to be today. It was a good [outing]."
Newcomb produced a 3.86 ERA and 4.6 walks per nine innings over 27 starts for Mississippi last year. But he showed improvement as he posted a 2.26 ERA and issued a more acceptable 3.7 walks per nine innings over his final nine regular season starts.