Former Inland Valley Pirate Cody Ponce has been turning heads in the Cape Cod League all summer long. This story is written by Aaron Fitt of Baseball America.
BOURNE, Mass.—Cody Ponce said he attracted little interest from college baseball coaches and scouts during his prep days at Damien High in La Verne, Calif. He always had size, but his fastball sat in the low to mid-80s. But Division II Cal Poly Pomona saw something in him, and so did former big league pitcher Dave Coggin, a trainer for Performance Fitness for Athletes who has worked with Ponce since he was in high school.
“Out of high school nobody ever looked at me,” Ponce said. “Because of that I’ve always worked hard, I’ve always kept my nose to the grindstone. My pitching coach and mentor, Dave Coggin, always said, ‘Cody, it’s going to click one day. Just keep working and you’ll be all right.’”
Now, Ponce is the toast of the Cape Cod League, where he is one of the circuit’s premier breakout prospects. The 6-foot-6, 240-pound rising junior righthander has emerged as a legitimate candidate to be drafted in the first round next year.
It started to click for Ponce during his 2013 freshman year, when he began to add strength to his big frame and his velocity started to jump. He worked primarily as Pomona’s closer that spring, then went 4-4, 2.48 in 72 innings as a sophomore, working mostly as a starter.
He has taken another big step forward this summer, going 4-1, 2.82 with 32 strikeouts and 11 walks in 35 innings for Brewster.
“It’s not really that I’ve put myself on the map, but shown everybody that D-II ballplayers, smaller school guys, there are possibilities for us, it’s not just everybody has to be drafted from a D-I,” Ponce said after showing power stuff in Sunday’s Cape Cod League all-star game. “To come out here and show everybody and prove to myself—it’s not just proving it to scouts and agents but also proving to myself that I can hang with these kinds of guys . . . My body has always been tall and lanky, maybe a little thicker, but for my body to actually start clicking and find everything, learning my body, it’s big-time for me to figure everything out.”
Ponce worked in the 93-96 range at the all-star game, where he surrendered a home run to Chris Chinea on the first pitch he threw—a 96 mph heater—then got four straight ground balls. He also flashed a very promising curveball at 78-82, though he said he “backed off” a couple of them. His best secondary pitch, however, was an 86-88 mph cutter with sharp tilt.
“I just kind of figured it out this summer,” Ponce said of the cutter. “I used to throw a slider, it wasn’t really biting as much, so I said, you know what? Let’s just see if the cutter will work, and that’s just what I’m going to start running with now. I would say it’s my go-to out pitch for sure. But it’s still got some work to do, I don’t have it down. I backed up a couple, but I’m still figuring it out, especially since it’s a brand new pitch to me.”
He also throws a changeup, though he did not get a chance to use it in his one inning at the all-star game. He said the pitch remains a work in progress but can be an effective setup pitch for him early in counts against lefthanded hitters.
Ponce is also a good athlete for his size, showing the ability to field his position well.
“My pitching coach (at Cal Poly Pomona), Bret Lachemann, has made sure I know how to get off the mound,” Ponce said. “He always said I’m a big donkey. Now I can go back and tell him I’m a big cat. I can get off the mound and I can move, Coach.”
He can do just about everything his coaches—and scouts—could want to see him do. And he’s only going to get better as he continues to gain valuable experience against top competition.