A fifth-round pick by Colorado in the 2015 Draft, French began last season with the Class A Asheville Tourists before being quickly promoted to the High A Modesto Nuts after four starts, and he stuck with Modesto the remainder of the season. He started 28 games and led the minor leagues with 177 2/3 innings pitched and finishing with a 2.63 ERA, 1.024 WHIP and 122/29 SO/BB rate (4.21 K:BB ratio). He also averaged 6.19 strikeouts-per-nine innings, and showed nearly double-plus control (1.5 BB/9) split between the two levels.
With temperatures an unseasonably-warm middle 60’s in Richmond on April 9, French turned in a strong seven-inning performance, giving up one run on four hits, and retiring the first 12 hitters he faced. He’s got a solid starter’s frame, with an athletic build and sloped shoulders. Toeing the third-base side of the rubber, his unusual windup begins with his shoulders square to home but with his body facing down the third-base line, and his leg kick brings his knee behind the rubber as he gathers. He keeps his hands high and has a full arm circle, which creates a long arm action that generates average arm speed through his 3/4’s arm slot. The delivery repeats well despite the long actions, and he finishes balanced and in a ready position.
French had his plus command on display, utilizing a fringe-average fastball that sat 90-to-92 mph (T93) and he commanded the pitch well to all quadrants. The pitch has arm-side run staying inside on right-handers. He mixed in his 3/4’s-depth slider around the 85 mph range that showed effective late vertical bite, using it several times for putaway. My looks at his changeup were limited in this viewing, but based on his arm action there is reason to believe it’s an average pitch for him and a viable third offering. He had a well-above-average 2.01 GO/AO ratio last year, and when his pitches are hittable they are mostly to the pull side. In general, hitters looked to have a hard time generating loft, and they struggled to make hard contact.
He has taken the ball for every start of his career to-date (knock on wood!) and never missed time on the DL. The ingredients here for a solid innings-eating number four starter if he can continue to throw strikes and keep the ball on the ground (and in the park) as his early career has proven that he can do this far. If he continues to get similar results against the tough bats of the Eastern League, he could be on a path to the majors sooner than some might expect – perhaps as as early as late 2018.