"Pitching has got to be the foundation in the organization. Everybody wants a good pitcher. The more pitchers we have, the stronger our organization will be."
- Dayton Moore, Kansas City Royals General Manager

Friday, October 5, 2007

Organizational depth reports: TOP 10 Pitchers under 25 years old

my philosophy for evaluating young pitchers is based on three assumptions:

1) Age is unimportant. i don't much care about age as a standalone evaluator of talent. there are too many chris sampsons, too many chris carpenters, and too many jason schmidts, gil meches, and tommy johns for me to exclude or downgrade a pitcher's stock based solely on age. that being said:

2) in terms of stuff, all pitchers peak from ages 18-25. that qualifier means more than the statement in my mind, but i feel that this assumption creates an accurate approximation for timing a young minor league pitcher's arrival to the major leagues.

3) innings are a warning sign, not an asset. when i see a 21 year old that has thrown 300+ innings in his first two professional seasons, i cringe. it is not a sign of durability, it is a sign of overuse.

that being said, using innings as a proxy for determining overuse is about as effective as cost plus pricing has been in iraq.

cole hamels is an amazing athlete, but just as amazing as his athleticism is the way that he developed into being an excellent pitcher. he did not pitch as a junior in high school because he broke his arm before the season started. he threw only limited innings as a senior as he recovered, and after being drafted, he did not throw any innings in short season ball.

in his first full season in the minor leagues, hamels threw only 101 innings, and was limited by soreness in his back. in his second full professional season, he was limited to 16 IP because of back and elbow soreness. before his third professional season he broke his pitching hand in a bar fight, and once healthy, was limited to 35 innings, again due to back soreness.

going into 2006, hamels had an interesting track record. he had thrown ~150 minor league innings with an era ~2.00. he had an injury history a mile long, but when he was on the mound, his potential was staggering. he was going to be 22 years old, 4 years removed from high school, with a devotion towards a training, stretching, and throwing regime that can only be cultivated by having your future flash before your eyes as you lay on a table in the trainer's room getting treatment for your ailing back.

nothing interesting happened between the end of the 2005 season and the start of spring training in 2006. hamels was the same as ever, only healthy, and with the determination to stay that way. he started the year in high A clearwater for the 3rd straight season. he was there for all of 20 innings before he was promoted to AAA. at AAA it was more of the same, his fastball-change combination was electric, and he was near unhittable for the 23 innings he spent there before getting called up to the show.

since then he's thrown 315 innings, with more than a 3:1 K:BB ratio, and more than a K/IP. he's been the best starter in his division since the time he was called up.

what does this narrative have to do with my third point of innings being a warning sign, not an asset? sometimes a feel for pitching can only be learned on the field, but in my opinion, the most important lessons are learned off the field. nursing a kid through his first seasons as a professional is a lesson that i don't see exhibited by many organizations.

if you draft an 18 year old high school pitcher, what is more important than him throwing 160 innings in his first three minor league seasons, taking his lumps at the minor league level, learning to harness his stuff when it's at his best, and how to pitch like a veteran when it's not?

these organizational depth reports will be my takes on each of the 30 major league baseball teams. i'll try to feature one player in each organization and give my honest take on what i like, or what i don't. i'll try to outline one sleeper in each organization. for the most part these sleepers will be guys in the mold of chien ming wang and aaron laffey, guys who exhibit strong ground ball tendencies and low BB rates. organizations like the mets and the mariners might not have a sleeper indicated, but teams like the white and red sox have a few guys that i feel are underrated. if i've seen these pitchers throw i'll include a scouting report that is what i see, not what i've heard. for the most part, such pitchers will be guys on the fringe of the 25 man roster, not the cream of the crop, such as scott kazmir or cole hamels.

for the most part, 2007 draftees will not be included, however guys that i really like (blake beaven and david price) or guys that are flat out dominant (adam mills and dan duffy) will be included.

after i go through all 30 orgnanizations, i will publish my top 75 pitchers under the age of 25. these will be the cream of the crop, the guys who will dominate baseball for the next decade.

so, with all that being said, the first list, which will be published monday afternoon, will be the texas rangers.

No comments: