Law turning heads with quirky delivery, pitch control
Giants relief prospect evokes shades of Tiant while minimizing walks
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Derek Law's unusual pitching motion has lumped him with others displaying similar traits, such as Luis Tiant, Kevin Brown and Johnny Cueto.
But among bullpen prospects in the Giants organization, nobody compares to Law.
Giants general manager Brian Sabean has indicated that Law, who made the Arizona Fall League's Top Prospects team, could reach the Majors sooner rather than later. The 23-year-old possesses not only an enviable variety of pitches but also matchless command of them, a combination that should hasten an ascent to the big leagues.
Infielder Nick Noonan, who accumulated 111 plate appearances for the Giants last year, faced Law during live batting practice Sunday and praised the right-hander's repertoire.
"I can definitely say that there's a lot of upside to his pitches, a lot of potential, and he's already captured some of it," Noonan said.
Law's control separated him from the pack last year. After successful stints with the Giants' Rookie-level Arizona club and Class A Augusta, Law ascended to Class A Advanced San Jose and walked one batter in 25 2/3 innings spanning 22 appearances, including 11 saves. For the season, Law struck out 102 and walked 12 with 14 saves. He followed that by allowing eight hits and no earned runs in 12 1/3 innings encompassing 11 games for Scottsdale in the Arizona Fall League.
Law's father, Joe, taught him the waste of throwing ball four. The elder Law pitched professionally for nine seasons in the A's system.
"I've been throwing curveballs since I was 8 or 9, getting in fights with my dad," Derek Law jokingly said.
When they weren't debating the prudence of flinging curves at a relatively early age and risking injury, Law was listening to his father.
"Most of his influence was, 'Don't give hitters too much credit. They'll get themselves out seven out of 10 times,'" Law said. "That's a pretty good ratio to me."
Law's skills further tilt the statistical imbalance in his favor. To his surprise, he gained velocity on his fastball last year, adding a couple of miles an hour to consistently reach the mid-90s range. Throwing straight overhand helps his slider, which is his out pitch, and his curveball, which travels in a sharp vertical arc -- "12-to-6," in baseball parlance.
"It doesn't have much of a hump," Noonan said.
Then there's Law's delivery, featuring an exaggerated corkscrewing so that his back faces the hitter before he releases the pitch. The turn in his motion helps him hide the ball longer and create torque, which in turn enhances velocity.
"I used to have a high leg kick with a little bit of a turn, more like a Kevin Brown," Law said, citing the six-time All-Star right-hander. "I just turned a little bit more and I was really comfortable with it. I was able to throw strikes with it and it just kind of developed over the years."
Law estimated that the evolution of his partial revolution became complete when he was a sophomore at Miami Dade College, just before the Giants selected him in the ninth round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft.
"It helped me with hiding the ball and gaining velocity," he said.
Then Law started hearing more about Tiant, who won 229 games in 19 seasons while spinning like a helicopter's rotors before he threw, and Cueto, another torso-twister who's 65-48 in six seasons for Cincinnati.
Law has sensed that he's approaching his Major League opportunity. He said that though he tries to ignore management's upbeat remarks, he can handle the encouraging words that filter through to him.
"If you're a closer or a reliever," Law said, "you kind of like pressure."