Todd Van Steensel on the mound for the Sydney Blue Sox
Transaction Analysis

Transaction Analysis: In Search of a Groove

The Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks signed RHP Todd Van Steensel to an unknown contract

I first watched Van Steensel throw a baseball in 2016. He was pitching for the Sydney Blue Sox in the Australian Baseball League at the time. He looked electric in the few games I was able to see him pitch. He had a fastball that touched 97 on the gun, regularly. His breaking pitches had great break to them and as he mowed down hitter after hitter I thought, “this guy is a stud.” Thanks in large part to Van Steensel being both a great person and a funny guy on Twitter I started paying attention to his career.

He would go on to have a really good couple of years for the Chattanooga Lookouts of the AA-level Southern League. In between those good Lookouts seasons, Van Steensel developed a peculiar habit of both struggling to stay healthy and to find the strike zone when he was healthy. Fast forward to 2019 and I was giddy when Van Steensel was signed by my American Association team, the St. Paul Saints. I still had the image of the guy with electric stuff in my head. I had pushed aside the struggles with the Blue Sox in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. The injuries were the last thing on my mind, all I knew was that the Saints had gotten themselves a fireball closer.

By the end of the 2019 Saints season, Van Steensel was relegated to late-inning mop-up duty. Injuries and a continued inability to throw strikes consistently had resulted in multiple players moving ahead of him on the depth chart. In his 2019-2020 season with the Blue Sox he didn’t fare much better. His WHIP did decrease from 1.642 with St. Paul to 1.291 with Sydney. At the same time, he was now getting hit awfully hard as he had sacrificed some velocity and movement to spend more time in the zone. Well, when that’s what you have to do that usually means your offerings are going to be hit more and that’s exactly what happened to Van Steensel.

The RedHawks aren’t signing Van Steensel to be their closer or to be an integral part of their bullpen. Rather, they are looking at the same electric arm I first witnessed in 2016 and hoping he can get it to spark once again. I’m not ready to write Van Steensel off. Maybe some of that is because he remains a genuinely great dude, I’m sure it is. It’s also that his arm still has the ability to be electric. Perhaps he will use a somewhat low-stress opportunity with the RedHawks to find a way to let his electric arm fly while still finding the strike zone. If that doesn’t happen all the RedHawks have done is take a flier on a possibility and they will cut him free fairly quickly. However, if Van Steensel finds a way to once again harness the ability in his arm then the RedHawks have gotten themselves a hell of a relief pitcher.

Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – Unknown

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Bill Thompson
Father (human/feline/canine), boyfriend, Paramedic, Socialist, writer Baseball Prospectus, Baseball.FYI, & Beyond the Box Score. Member Internet Baseball Writer's Association of America & Society for American Baseball Research.

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