Nathan Bannister became the most recognizable name on the Arizona Wildcats’ pitching staff last year, but 2016 was his last in Tucson, and has now departed for professional baseball.
Arizona currently has ten (!) guys that the coaching staff is comfortable starting and pitching extended innings, meaning they could throw 90 pitches in the opening weekend.
One of them is Tylor Megill, a junior college transfer from Cypress College.
When Megill takes the mound at Hi Corbett, fans will notice the big body (6-foot-6, 240 pounds), but he’s not going to overpower hitters, much like Bannister (6-foot-3, 235) did last year.
“He’s got four B+ pitches, but he’s got A+ command,” Arizona pitching coach Dave Lawn said of Megill. “It is very similar (to Bannister). Their variety of pitches and because they throw strikes, and with all those pitches, they don’t have to give in and tube a fastball 2-1 all the time. That’s what made Nate and JC (Cloney) good, is that they could throw something else in there and steal a strike in a count that called for a fastball.”
Megill and Bannister are also both right-handers.
“I’m a big strike thrower I believe, and I can command the fastball, changeup, and slider,” Megill explained. “I’d say I pitch more for contact just because I throw a lot of strikes. I think where my strong suit is is throwing a lot of strikes, getting ground balls, and letting my defense work, but I do have stuff that can put away batters.”
Much like many Arizona players this year, Megill has experience at the NCAA level already, spending his freshman season at Loyola Marymount. He threw 57 innings there and posted a 6-3 record.
He was recruited to San Diego by current Arizona head coach Jay Johnson, but opted to attend LMU and play with his brother Trevor.
“Being able to play with my brother like no other kid can say,” Tylor said about heading to Marymount. “It’s a pretty cool experience, so I enjoyed it.”
Tylor ended up transferring to Cypress, where he went 11-3 in 101 2⁄3 innings last season.
“They really got me in step with where I am now,” Megill said of what the Cypress coaches were able to do for him. “I’d say my coaches had a big influence on me.”
Since joining the Wildcats, Lawn’s unique throwing program has allowed Megill to see a slight improvement in his fastball velocity, moving it closer to the 89-91 MPH range on a consistent basis.
While there is no set “weekend rotation” as the team heads into the beginning of the year, Megill believes he can pitch his way into that group of pitchers.
“I feel the way I’ve been pitching that hopefully I can make it into the weekend rotation, so that’s what I’m striving for,” he said about the current situation. “Nothing’s set in stone yet, but we’re all still competing to see what we can do.”
As he approaches the season, Megill is looking to get better command of his fourth pitch, which is a curveball.
“That’s the pitch I’m struggling with the most right now,” he said after a week and a half of spring practice. “I’m a four-pitch guy, and I have a good feel for the fastball, change, and slider, but I’m still looking for the curveball right now, so I’m gonna see if it comes along.”
He also said that he considers the slider his “out pitch”, and that he can actually throw both the 2-seam and 4-seam fastball, which could translate into five different pitches he can use.
The righty/lefty combo of Bannister and JC Cloney worked well for most of the season for Arizona last year, and the addition of Megill allows the team to kind of keep that together in 2017. Cloney seems to be in line to be a weekend starting guy right away, so it’s up to Megill to get up to that level and make that kind of tandem happen again.
Arizona begins the 2017 season Friday night at 6 PM when they host Eastern Kentucky at Hi Corbett.