"He's a kid who can adapt and make changes as he goes," said Double-A Richmond pitching coach Steve Kline, a former Giants reliever. "He's not afraid to try things. He works hard the whole time and takes his job seriously. He's a breath of fresh air."
Kline nicknamed Slania "Mr. Incredible," because the 24-year-old's physical dimensions invite comparisons to the Disney cartoon superhero. Though "incredible" might be a slightly extreme description of Slania's 2016 ascent, "remarkable" isn't too far off.
Slania began last year by recording a 5.32 ERA in 17 relief appearances with Richmond. Moved to the rotation, he compiled a 1.48 ERA in 10 starts.
Elevated to Triple-A for a July 31 start against Salt Lake City, Slania yielded one run and two hits while lasting seven innings for Sacramento. He went to Class A Advanced San Jose for five starts, before finishing the season back with Sacramento for another start, which he won with six innings of one-run ball against Fresno.
Drafted in the fifth round of the 2013 Draft out of the University of Notre Dame, Slania attributed his turnaround to establishing command of his off-speed pitches, a task that grew easier as a starter.
"It allowed me to work counts," said Slania, who struck out 111 and walked 35 in 119 2/3 innings in 2016. "Instead of being a thrower, I became a pitcher."
Slania possesses a balanced four-pitch repertoire, featuring a fastball, split-finger,curveball and slider. He said he relies on his fastball when he needs to get an out, but it's several other pitches that have impressed those around him.
"That split-finger, it can get hard to catch sometimes," Giants catcher Aramis Garcia said. "It has a pretty vicious drop."
"His slider comes in harder, with late break," Kline said.
Slania's big body helps him impart force and movement on his pitches.
"Being able to drive off the mound and push forward, and being able to get that downward action, that's what I use my size for," said Slania, the Giants' No. 21 prospect per MLBPipeline.com. "That helps out more than anything."