(as originally published in Metsminors.net on 11/27/17)
Andrew Church was selected by the New York Mets in the second round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Basic High School in Henderson, Nevada. Andrew started his pro career with the Gulf Coast League Mets, where he pitched in nine games (six starts) totaling 35 innings with a 5.91 ERA giving up 49 hits with eight walks and 19 strikeouts on the season.
Andrew moved on to Kingsport in 2014 and ended 2015 in Brooklyn before making his full season debut in 2016. In 2016, he was shuffled through three different levels, making making starts for the Low-A Columbia Fireflies, six starts for High-A St. Lucie Mets and also making one appearance for the Las Vegas 51s.
He made 25 starts in 2017 with the St. Lucie Mets (one start in AAA with the Las Vegas 51s). He set career highs in a season as a pro in starts, innings (156.2) strikeouts (95) while maintaining good command of his pitches (31 walks).
I was able to watch Andrew Church pitch on July 7th 2017 (click here for game recap). I saw a pitcher throwing low 90s, with good command and use of his off-speed pitches to get swings and misses. Andrew was a workhorse for the St. Lucie Mets all season, finishing strong by going at least six innings in eight of his final ten starts of the year all in the Florida heat.
However, as I learned during this interview, the Las Vegas native knows how to pitch under the hot sun. Andrew was kind enough to recently speak with me about the 2017 season, his current training in the off-season and his goals going forward for a prospect now Rule 5 eligible for the first time in his career.
MMN: Thank you so much Andrew for taking the time to speak with me. Can you please tell us what you’ve been up to since the season ended?
Andrew: Thank you! I appreciate the support! Right now, I’m working on getting my velocity back to what it was when I first got drafted. When I was in high school I was a high velocity pitcher topping out at 97 mph and sitting around 92-94. Where I grew up in Vegas we play year round and my body was used to throwing and long tossing all the time.
When I got drafted I was kind of told to ease up my throwing program and how high intensity I was. They said it will help keep me “healthy”. I ended up with a surgery and diminishing velocity. Throughout my career in pro ball I’ve learned how to stay healthy now by creating a routine to take care of my body and arm! Now I am getting back to throwing with intent and that will in turn make all my pitches sharper. I’ve always had a good feel for how to pitch and how to manage a lineup, now I need to put it all together with the stuff that I know I have!
MMN: Can you tell us about some of your workouts and routine currently during this offseason?
Andrew: I live in Las Vegas, so that’s where I’m at! I get to the gym around 4:45-5 am to get my stretching and mobility work in. Then we workout at 5:30. I’m with a bunch of local pro guys who all workout with the same trainer, Tim Soder. Paul Sewald is in there with us. Then later in the day I do some shoulder and rotator cuff work and some throwing. Then some running around 2 pm. And that’s pretty much my day for the training side of things!
MMN: I attended a game you started in July at Roger Dean Stadium. You were dominant and appeared to use off-speed pitches to rack up eight strikeouts, all swinging. Were you making an effort to utilize these pitches more and what would you say is your out pitch?
Andrew: Hahaha I’m glad you were there. I was working on my changeup at that time and it has improved tremendously, but I think majority of the strikeouts that night were on my slider. Some of them were on change-ups that night though. My slider has been my out pitch I go to consistently.
MMN: What are some of your goals for the coming season with regards to assortment of pitches?
Andrew: My goal is to have my change up and slider interchangeable, where I can through them both in the same lane, but they end up moving different ways to keep hitters off balance.
MMN: Were you concerned about your Rule 5 eligibility status? What goes through a prospects mind such as yourself when there becomes questions about being put on 40-man roster or risks you may end up on another team etc?
Andrew: Concerned wouldn’t be the word I’d use. I’m just curious to see what happens. I didn’t have the year I was hoping for, but some things are out of my control. I’m taking this offseason with the mindset that I have something to prove. So I’m just working as hard as I can and seeing where it takes me!
MMN: What is it like pitching in that Las Vegas Atmosphere and weather?
Andrew: I love pitching in Las Vegas. I like how it’s not humid so I can always get a good grip on the ball. Pitching in Florida, sometimes my hands are too sweaty to grip my pitches the way I want to. And growing up here I’m used to the heat, so I feel I’m at an advantage! Lol
MMN: What has it been like for you since being drafted by the Mets and remaining in their organization these past four years?
Andrew: My experience has been a good one! I’ve been blessed to be drafted by this organization. They are huge into developing pitchers which I enjoy because there are a lot of coaches and coordinators I can bounce ideas off and hear their thoughts!
MMN: You said you have been training with some fellow Mets pitchers who also reside in Las Vegas and have reached the majors. Any advice or tips from these major league players?
Andrew: Sewald and Bradford have both told me to just stay healthy and keep throwing strikes. It seems like the biggest thing is to get ahead in counts and if you stay healthy you will end up getting your shot to prove yourself. And all I need is a shot to prove what I can do. Because growing up in Vegas we learned how to win. Most Vegas guys will say the same thing, we will do whatever it takes for our team to win a game! And that’s the attitude I take into every game, even when I’m not pitching.
MMN: Thank you again for the taking the time to speak with me Andrew. Good luck next season!
Andrew: No problem man. I love stuff like this, I want to be able to show to fans and writers and everyone else who I am as a person and as a baseball player!
Below is one of the videos I took of Andrew Church recording a strikeout utilizing his out slider and change-up to go with his fastball in a dominant overall outing on the road in Jupiter Florida playing for the St. Lucie Mets.