The stories are out there.
D.J. Snelten spent five seasons in the minor leagues before making his big-league debut in 2018, appearing in four games out of the bullpen for the San Francisco Giants. A stiff left shoulder and depleted velocity contributed to his release from the Giants -- and then the Baltimore Orioles -- over the course of the next year.
By age 27, he was pitching in independent ball with the Chicago Dogs, hoping that someone – anyone – would give him another shot. Even after going 7-3 with a 3.12 ERA in 20 starts for the Dogs, he wasn’t sure if it would happen.
“Sometimes in this game we only get one or two chances to showcase who we are in gaming situations and unfortunately we all develop at different paces,” Snelten said. “Rob Friedman has undoubtedly given me that second chance to show people who I have the potential to be.”
Friedman, better known on Twitter as the “Pitching Ninja,” launched FlatGround Pitching in Dec. 2018 as a way for pitchers to show what they could do and for the masses to actually see it. Here’s how it works: by tweeting a video along with relevant information such as height, weight and other measurable stats, players simply tag @FlatgroundApp to have it retweeted and shown to the account’s 35,000-plus (and growing) followers.
Update on the @PitchingNinja shirt experiment: after a wash cycle, the shirt is functioning at full capacity. The claim for improved quality of pitches is confirmed. 👀 @FlatgroundApp pic.twitter.com/s62w9wdNWp— DJ Snelten (@DJSnelten) December 5, 2019
Snelten, who posted the video above in early Dec. 2019 showing him throwing as high as 99 mph, was signed by the Tampa Bay Rays organization and invited to big league camp this spring.
“I can certainly say this is one of the highest points of my life being able to go to Spring Training with the Tampa Bay Rays!” said the 6-foot-6, 240-pound left-hander. “I’m extremely excited to show up in Spring Training with them this year and compete with some of the greatest athletes in the world.”
Garrett Mundell found himself in a similar situation. He pitched well out of the bullpen in the New York Yankees organization for four seasons (2.03 ERA in his minor league career) but was released in the spring of 2019.
He spent last season pitching in independent ball at age 26 with the Trois-Rivieres Aigles and Winnipeg Goldeneyes, hoping that his success would warrant another look by an MLB organization.
Mundell posted the video above the day after Snelten’s video, and a month later he was signed by the Milwaukee Brewers organization.
“The ability for a pro guy looking for a job to show some videos of their stuff and actually get legitimate interest is incredible,” Mundell said. “Rob and FlatGround have played a huge part in me getting signed.”
Friedman himself admits he wasn’t quite sure what FlatGround would become when it started, but it’s clear that it’s evolving. It’s not just a way for high schoolers to be seen or for JUCO pitchers trying to catch the eye of a bigger four-year college. Pros are now getting opportunities they wouldn’t have otherwise received.
“Before FlatGround, I did have a pair of hard throwing pitchers in Independent League ball get signed to affiliate deals through tweets from my personal (PitchingNinja) account, so I knew at least some pro pitchers were falling through the cracks,” Friedman said. “However, I never realized how big the problem was.”
“There’s a real problem with scouts getting to see enough games and pitchers, who were once in organizations, being written off after they get their ‘shot.’ Pitchers who put in work, figure it out, and continue to develop late in their career were getting missed. I’m definitely pleasantly surprised at the number of pro pitchers who have gotten signed from exposure on FlatGround.”
As helpful as FlatGround is for pitchers – and @FlatgroundBats is for position players – the added exposure only helps if the videos posted are both trustworthy and impressive. And that’s why a tool like the Smart Coach Radar with companion app (from Pocket Radar) that displays velocity for pitchers and exit velocity for hitters is so useful.
“There’s a huge advantage to showing the verified velo readings from a trusted gun like the Pocket Radar in the video,” Friedman said. “If you can show your velocity in a video, you’re a step ahead -- and can really catch scouts/recruiting coordinators attention. The more verified information you include in your videos, the better off the entire process will be for you.”
Before Snelten used the Smart Coach Radar to post his video on FlatGround, he leaned on it heavily to help him with his offseason workouts.
“Having the Smart Coach has been amazing for not only being able to get instant feedback on my throwing but also being able to log and record every workout to track my progress week by week,” he said. “It’s been amazing being able to have video of my best days and my worst days and be able to compare them side by side. It has helped with being able to self-monitor my own progress without having to constantly rely on someone being there to be my set of eyes.”
Mundell also relied on the Smart Coach Radar, along with other uses of technology, to help him get his opportunity with the Brewers.
“Having an instant gage of how you’re throwing is vital,” he said. “Mechanics may feel good, yet not yield the highest velo. It was really helpful this off-season to be able to make pitch by pitch adjustments, and see the spike or drop in velo. It has allowed to me to be confident in my mechanics, yet I am always tweaking and trying to find a few extra mph.”
Friedman has seen firsthand what the Smart Coach Radar and app video clips can do for generating exposure – just look at all the videos posted on FlatGround! -- but he believes that tells only part of the story.
Gabe Elliott, T88mph (HS Sophomore) #FGHS— FlatGround Pitching (@FlatgroundApp) February 7, 2020
Looking for a high academic college [4.0 GPA]
Very hard worker.
Recent significant velo gains.
Working with @TreadAthletics & @PitchingNinja 😀 @gabeelliott16 pic.twitter.com/N9djpdnEDb
“I see Pocket Radar’s technology as an integral tool for both development and exposure,” he said. “The more you measure your throws while training, the better you can determine what’s working and what isn’t. It’s a great way to judge mechanical tweaks, as well as making sure you’re throwing with the proper effort. If you constantly challenge yourself to throw harder, many times, your body will eventually figure it out.
“For recruiting and exposure, it’s a must have. If you’re not supplying measurables, you may as well not waste your time in creating a video. The slickest video, without measurables, is useless.”
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