Andy Ravel was drafted by Arizona in 2013 but opted to sign with Toronto in 2016.
Rhymes with travel—that’s how you pronounce the last name of Andy Ravel, whose travels have taken him to the Lansing Lugnuts this year. That’s where the 2016 Vancouver Canadians righthander is trying to unravel the mystery of pitching consistently in his first full season of professional baseball.
Ravel experienced a tough month of June by giving up 22 runs in his last four starts but he turned a corner Friday with a seven-inning outing in South Bend in which he gave up just two runs on eight hits and a walk as the Lugnuts defeated the Cubs 6-4. He struck just one but did get nine outs on the ground.
That was Ravel’s fifth win of the season against two losses but he is working to trying to chop down his earned run average which sits at 7.21. He has thrown 68-2/3 innings this season—cracking the 100-inning barrier in his pro career—and has struck out 38 batters while walking 23. He has hit six batters and has been prone to the long ball by giving up eight home runs.
Ravel—who hails from Reading, Pennsylvania—was a seventh-round selection of the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2016 draft out of Kent State University. A letter winner in all three of his seasons with the Golden Flashes, he earned Second Team All-Mid American Conference honours after winning eight of 12 decisions and recording an earned run average of 3.36 as the Saturday starter. In an interview with Lansing Lugnuts broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, Ravel said he had to overcome a slow start to his junior year.
“You go in your junior year thinking this is the first year you’re draft-eligible. You want to have a good year and it didn’t start off so good for me”, said Ravel. “I just had to take a step back and focus on the things on what got me to what that point is. I turned it around and just kind of let fate handle it.”
Ravel decided to go to Kent State after turning down a chance to sign with the Arizona Diamondbacks, who selected him out of high school in the 21st round in 2013.
“It was kind of my first eye opening experience where I’m not the best anymore and other guys are just as good as me,” said Ravel. “It really comes down to how hard you want to work and how hard you want to prepare yourself for each start. My pitching coach (former major leaguer) Mike Birkbeck really instilled that in all the pitchers and I’m grateful for it.”
Ravel enjoyed a successful high school career at Wilson High School in West Lawn, Pennsylvania. He was an All-American, All-State and All-Conference selection in his senior season after capturing All-Conference honours in his junior and sophomore campaigns. Ravel also played summer ball with the Grand Slam Blue Rocks of Berks County in 2013, helping them to a number 23 ranking as a club baseball team in the U.S. He also lettered in golf and dabbled in football and wrestling as well, noting that the mental aspects of those sports can be applied on the mound.
Andy Ravel won both of his debuts with the Vancouver Canadians in 2016 and the Lansing Lugnuts in 2017.
The first time Ravel climbed the mound as a professional came June 26 with the Vancouver Canadians and he earned the victory by spinning three shutout innings against the Hillsboro Hops at Nat Bailey Stadium. Teaming up with Mike Ellenbest as a tandem starter, Ravel would earn two more victories in relief against the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes July 8 and the Spokane Indians August 19. He had an ERA just over three until his last two outings in which he surrendered nine runs in his last 5-1/3 innings. That stretch resulted in his first professional loss in Everett against the AquaSox as his ERA rose to 5.12. He pitched 31-2/3 innings where he put up a K/BB total of 18-9.
Ravel was able to put on some weight over the off-season as he now tips the scales at 180 pounds, up from his listed total of 165 in 2016. He worked out with former Kent State teammate Eric Lauer, the 25th overall pick of the 2016 draft for the San Diego Padres after turning down a chance to sign with Toronto as a 17th rounder three years earlier. The lefty pitched for the Tri-City Dust Devils in Vancouver last July 29.
Ravel reported to Lansing to start 2017 after getting called up to the Lugnuts for the year-end Crosstown Showdown where he got the starting assigment against the Michigan State Spartans. He won his Midwest League debut April 12 with five shutout innings in Bowling Green in which he allowed just three hits and struck out four. The 22 year-old would have his way again against the Hot Rods April 27 with a career-long seven innings of one-run ball to earn his second victory. Ravel matched his longest outing against the Clinton LumberKings May 9 for victory number three.
Consistency has proved to be elusive as Ravel has taken his lumps, resulting in a 7.61 ERA despite a 4-1 record for the slugging Lugnuts. So far, he has struck out 33 batters and walked 19 in 49-2/3 innings over 11 starts.
Ravel’s pitching repertoire consists of a four-seam fastball, a slider, a curve and a change.
“I would like to think I’m an equal pitcher,” said Ravel. “I’m not a fastball dominant guy, I’m not a changeup dominant guy. I kind of use all my pitches throughout the game and kind of let the hitters get themselves out more than strike them out.”
Ravel said the second pitch he learned after the fastball was the changeup.
“The changeup is more of a feel pitch. It’s not really taxing on your arm so you can throw a lot of them,” said Ravel. “If it feels right, you stick with it. If not, then you try to change something up.”
Ravel’s most unique pitch is his knuckle-curve or spike-curve.
“My dad actually taught me a curveball when I was real young. It was a knuckle curve, like a spike curve ball”, said Ravel. “I’ve tried different grips, other than that, just to please some coaches throughout the years. Just the knuckle-curve that my dad taught me when I was young has always been the go-to.”
Andy Ravel had a knack for keeping runners close for Vancouver in 2016.
Ravel showed the ability to hold runners on in Vancouver as just one of eight baserunners were successful in trying to steal last year.
“Just trying to be quick, try to give my catcher the best opportunity to throw him out if he does go,” said Ravel. “Obviously, a guy on first is better than a guy on second. I kind of take pride in it. It’s kind of like a pride thing. You don’t like when guys are able to run on you and you don’t like it when the rumour has it you can’t hold guys on.”
Ravel said his goal is to working on developing his routine as a starting pitcher and outings like Friday’s will ensure he’ll get more opportunities to do just that.