Probably one of the top resurgence stories in 2016, this pitcher broke out after three seasons of underperformance and showed why the Mets selected him in the 2nd round. The Vegas-born Church had been ineffective through his first three seasons in short season league, and looked early as though he was going to be a definitive bust. He’s made a statement this year to not be counted out yet.
(Photo: Jeff Blake/MILB.com)
RHP Andrew Church
R/R 6’2″, 200 lbs, 10/7/1994 (22), Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft out of Basic HS
In 2013, most people wanted Austin Wilson in the 2nd round, who had fallen despite having first round talent, while the Mets were rather starved of outfielders. Instead, they took Church, a raw arm from the Las Vegas Area, who had a checkered past, bouncing from high school to high school. He began at Bishop Gorman High School, but then transferred to Palo Verde High School the next year to pitch for an old friend who was a coach there. He couldn’t pitch because of transfer rules and then the next year his friend was fired. His junior year, he had a fight with the new coach and didn’t play that year. His senior year he was already 18 and just moved out of the high school, got his own apartment, and went to Basic High. Transfer rules didn’t allow him to pitch until later into the season, but he did get some time in practice and played for a travel team. Nevertheless, he hadn’t pitched very much in high school and pretty much lacked much experience at all.
Church signed for an under slot $850,000 (1,138,800 was the slot value), and was assigned to Complex Level Rookie League Gulf Coast where he allowed a lot of contact to opposing batters. In 35 innings pitched, he allowed 12.1 hits per nine innings, and only struck out 4.9 people per nine innings. It was a pretty ineffective start to Church’s campaign.
It didn’t get much better in Kingsport where he gave up 73 hits in 52.2 innings, while striking out 31. He did have flashes of brilliance, tossing a 7-inning complete game shutout while striking out five on 8/1/14. They sent him to Brooklyn, and he didn’t do well there either, and ended his season in late August with a bad hip. According to Andrew, he had felt a few issues with his hip, and required surgery.
The next year after surgery, he was finally healthy and was put into full-season-A Columbia on May 24th where he pitched two dominant games for the Fireflies before moving up to Hi-A St. Lucie. However the Mets didn’t believe he wasn’t completely ready for St. Lucie, pitching 6 games to a 3.60 ERA, but threw an 86-pitch complete game. He was returned to Columbia where he continued to dominate, throwing another complete game, this time a shutout, and struck out 10 on his return. It looked as if he was getting tired in his final three starts, allowing 9 runs in his final 15 innings. As a bonus for a very good year, the Mets sent him to Triple-A Las Vegas to pitch in front of his hometown crowd, where he threw four innings, giving up seven hits and three runs, while striking out 4 for his final game of the season.
Andrew Church looks to build on his productive season. Church is generally in the 90-95 range, and that hasn’t changed much since high school. He does hold his velocity well deep into games. Known for a really good curve, when I watched him pitch in Columbia (since it’s televised), I saw it in action, and it is a very nice offering with 12-6 motion, and he has some decent control over the pitch. However, I didn’t expect him to develop his slider, which is getting to be an above-average pitch, and described as his best offering. His changeup needs a bit of work, but it has some potential. His stuff just blew by hitters in the A-ball leagues, but we may see some struggle when he gets to AA. He has a nice ceiling as a mid-rotation starter, or possibly more if he can unlock some more velocity in that arm and a good changeup.
However, for right now, I project him going to High-A, and possibly be bumped to Double-A after around 12 starts. Watch out for this guy.
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