Results tagged ‘ Baseball ’

Pre-Hype Prospect – Archie Bradley

The 2011 Major League Baseball Rule IV Draft was widely considered to be one of the best drafts in recent memory, if not all time.  Although there was no consensus “generational” talent that would go #1, such as 2009’s #1 Stephen Strasburg or 2010’s #1 Bryce Harper, the depth of top-flight talent would be the calling card of the 2011 draft.

There were five elite pitching prospects that went in the first seven picks; college pitchers Gerrit Cole (#1, Pirates), Danny Hultzen (#2, Mariners), and long-tossing Trevor Bauer (#3, Diamondbacks); and Oklahoma High School pitchers Dylan Bundy (#4, Orioles) and Archie Bradley (#7, Diamondbacks).   Each of the first four picks have generated significant buzz: Cole for his blazing fastball and ace projection in High A; Hultzen for his absolute dominance of college hitters while at Virginia and continued dominance in AA; Bauer for his routine of 500-foot long-tossing, throwing his first warm-up pitch off the backstop, dominance at UCLA, and continued dominance in AA; and Bundy for his 100-mph fastball and ace projection, coupled with his near perfect dominance of Low A hitters thus far (64 batters faced over 20 innings, allowing only two hits and two walks, while striking out 33.

Perhaps the best one of them all, and the one generating the least buzz, has been the #7 pick: former Broken Arrow Tiger Archie Bradley.  Bradley’s tale started long before he was drafted.  After to transferring to Broken Arrow High School before his junior year, Bradley quickly became a multi-sport star as the starting quarterback for the football team and the ace pitcher for the baseball team.  After Bradley’s junior season, he was named to the 2010 Aflac All-American Baseball Classic as a pitcher for the West team.

Prior to the 2011 baseball season, there was considerable buzz surrounding Bundy and Bradley.  As often happens with elite athletes who play in the same area, Bundy and Bradley becoming friends when they were roommates for the Dallas Baseball Academy of Texas (D-Bat) Mustangs, an amateur team that played in the DFW Metro Scout League and in the Connie Mack World Series, the premier tournament for high school-age baseball players.

During Bradley’s senior season, he led his team to a 36-1 record and the Oklahoma 6A State Championship, Broken Arrow’s first since 1991.  Bradley pounded the strike zone with his mid-to-upper 90s fastball and power curveball, striking out 14 and only allowing two hits.  Three of Bradley’s strikeouts were by Owasso’s star pitcher Dylan Bundy, who was playing third base (he pitched the previous day).  Bradley finished the season with a 12-1 record, allowing only three earned runs across 71.1 innings, while striking out 133 (16.8 K/9).

In February, Bradley committed to play both football and baseball at the University of Oklahoma.  Bradley, a big Sooner fan, was going to redshirt his freshman year in order to acclimate to college.  Bradley, when asked about his choice to go to Oklahoma or play professional baseball, said:

It’s going to come down to what I really feel is best for me. I’ve used this analogy a bunch: Andrew Luck staying at Stanford proved that money isn’t everything. I have to make a decision that I can be happy with. I’ll weigh it out, whether it’s OU or pro ball is right for my future. It’s gonna be a big decision.

On June 6, the Arizona Diamondbacks selected Bradley with the #7 overall pick of the draft.  Bradley had a choice: go to Oklahoma to learn, play football and baseball, and hope to improve his draft stock in three years; or sign for guaranteed millions with the Diamondbacks.  Before the draft, Bradley and fellow Oklahoman Bundy had made waves with their pre-draft comments about expected signing bonuses, as reported by Baseball America’s Jim Callis:

Callis later said that:

Neither Bundy nor Bradley will top Strasburg’s [$15.1 million] contract. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if Bundy equaled or surpassed Beckett and Porcello [both $7 million], or if Bradley topped the $5.25 million two-sport deal that quarterback/right hander Zach Lee got from the Dodgers in 2010.

Just minutes before the deadline, Bradley signed a contract worth $5 million, spread out over five years due to his two-sport abilities (players who could play multiple sports in college are eligible to have their signing bonuses spread out over a number of years, while one-sport athletes must get theirs all at once).

After signing, Bradley was sent to the Missoula Osprey, the Diamondbacks’ Rookie Level affiliate in the Pioneer League.  Bradley appeared in two games for one-inning each, allowing one hit, zero walks, and zero runs, while striking out four.  In 15 innings with the Diamondbacks during instructional league play, Bradley gave up four runs, walking four, giving up just five hits, and striking out 22.

After the season, the prospect prognosticators repeatedly stated how much they liked Bradley’s potential, with Baseball America ranking Bradley #2 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #25 overall, Baseball Prospectus’ Kevin Goldstein ranking Bradley #3 in the Diamondbacks’ organization and #37 overall, and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com rated Bradley #18.  John Sickels stated that it is “[h]ard to say that a guy picked #7 overall is a “steal,” but he may very well be.

The glowing reports came in during Spring Training, with the buzz focusing on Bradley’s velocity and power curveball.  One of the people commenting was Diamondbacks starting catcher, Miguel Montero:

I wanted to see what he had.  I don’t believe what people say, so I wanted to see it. I saw the real deal right there. The ball was coming out of his hand like he was throwing 200 mph, an explosion. Those kids had no chance. Then I’m like, ‘He’s got just a fastball,’ and then he threw a hammer [curveball]. I was like, ‘Wow.’ He’s only 19, but if he stays healthy the way he is, he’s going to be here probably sometime next year. I guarantee that.

Montero continued, discussing Bradley on a personal level:

He’s a good kid. He has a great personality; I like it. Seems like a great teammate. He’s dedicated, he wants to get better and he wants to play in the big leagues soon.

Bradley’s pure stuff has been the focus of the attention with his blazing fastball, as was stated by Diamondbacks’ minor league pitching coordinator Mel Stottlemyer, Jr.:

You know how some hitters, there’s a different sound off the bat?  It’s a different look on how that ball comes out of his hand.  We’ve got some other good arms out there; take nothing away from them.  But this is different.  We stay out of his way.

Bradley’s curveball has also gathered attention, as it was called a “knockout curveball” by Jim Shonerd at Baseball America and a “power curve” that is an above average pitch by Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com.  The most hyperbolic was Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus, stating that Bradley’s “power curve is an executioner pitch, thrown with impressive velocity and achieving a very late and heavy break. Scouts have not been shy about throwing a future 7 on the offering, saying it could miss bats at any level of professional baseball right now.”

After spring training, Bradley was assigned to the South Bend Silver Hawks of the A Level Midwest League.  Bradley, the third youngest pitcher (only Raul Alcantara and John Barbato are younger) and 11th youngest player in the league, immediately began dominating the league.  In Bradley’s first six starts, Bradley has gone at least five innings and allowed no more than two runs.  Even after a poor seventh start (4 innings and 5 runs – 3 earned – against the Great Lakes Loons while giving up his first home run), Bradley’s statistics are imposing: 4-1 record and a 2.57 ERA with 38 strikeouts and only 13 hits over 35 innings.  While Bradley has walked 21 batters, his 0.971 WHIP shows just how dominating he has been in his brief time in professional baseball.

So what should we expect from Bradley?  Unless you are a fan of the Diamondbacks or in an exceptionally deep keeper league, Bradley probably will not be of relevance until late 2014, if not 2015.  Bradley’s ability, coupled with his size (6’4″ and 225 pounds) and simple, easy delivery make him a top prospect based upon current ability, and he has the potential to become even better.  In order to become the top of the rotation starter the Diamondbacks envisioned when they drafted him, Bradley will have to improve his command, sharpen his power curveball, and turn his average-at-best curveball into a solid third pitch.

Of course, so much could go wrong, as Dan Strittmatter of AZ SnakePit put it in his Diamondbacks’ top 30 prospect write-up:

[T]here’s still so much that could go wrong with Bradley’s development. … Lower-level arms are tantalizing to dream on, but the odds of them panning out as planned are disturbingly small, which is something to remember before declaring Bradley as a sure-fire bet to anchor the D-backs rotation in 2014.

But don’t sell Bradley short just because he was the 5th pitcher taken in the 2011 draft – he may have the most potential.

Until next time, or to ask a question, follow me at @HypeProspect (or follow Archie Bradley at @ArchieBradley7)

Sources:

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/early-draft-preview/2011/2611239.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round&draft_round=1&year_ID=2011

http://aflacallamerican.com/teamRosters.asp

http://www.tulsaworld.com/sportsextra/highschool/article.aspx?subjectid=229&articleid=20110514_229_B1_CUTLIN794610

http://www.tulsaworld.com/blogs/sportspost.aspx?/Bradleys_pitching_ranks_No._1_in_recent_state_title_game_history/26-11418

http://blog.newsok.com/ou/2011/02/02/chat-recap-broken-arrow-qb-and-ou-signee-archie-bradley/

http://blog.newsok.com/ou/2011/08/02/ou-signee-archie-bradley-still-undecided-on-future/

https://twitter.com/#!/jimcallisBA/status/70240446764421120

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/ask-ba/2011/2611753.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=bradle000arc

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/92342

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16090

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16020

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2012/index.jsp

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120323&content_id=27554534&notebook_id=27555768&vkey=notebook_ari&c_id=ari

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/early-draft-preview/2011/2611239.html

http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2012/index.jsp

http://www.minorleagueball.com/2011/6/9/2215797/2011-mlb-draft-arizona-diamondbacks-draft-review

http://www.azcentral.com/sports/diamondbacks/articles/2012/03/14/20120314arizona-diamondbacks-archie-bradley-putting-work.html

http://www.baseballamerica.com/blog/prospects/2012/04/d-backs-archie-bradley-keeps-rolling/

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120112&content_id=26330142&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=16843

http://www.milb.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=605151

http://www.ktul.com/story/18237951/bradley-surrenders-first-career-home-run

http://www.fangraphs.com/statss.aspx?playerid=sa597753&position=P

http://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=sa597753&position=P&season=2012

http://www.fangraphs.com/statsd.aspx?playerid=sa597753&position=P&season=2011

http://www.azsnakepit.com/

http://www.azsnakepit.com/2011/12/2/2535945/az-snakepit-top-30-prospects-list-for-2011-1-5

Hamstring Issues Stall Middlebrooks

By Chuck Vanderbilt

Texas native Will Middlebrooks left AAA Pawtucket for Boston earlier this month and made an immediate impact for the Boston Red Sox. Through his time in the minors, Middlebrooks has had his fair share of optimists and critics. Of course, many of the naysayers have been a bit harder to hear lately.

The fifth round pick by the Red Sox in 2007, Middlebrooks has been widely considered to be the top prospect in Boston’s farm system. During his time with Pawtucket this season, Middlebrooks batted .333 with 9 home runs and 27 runs batted in. The right-handed third baseman has shown a balanced bat that’s potent against both right-handed and left-handed pitching alike. Middlebrooks got the call from Boston when Kevin Youkilis injured his back necessitating a trip to the DL and the 23-year-old has thus far made quite an impression on the Red Sox faithful.

Through five games with Boston, Middlebrooks continued to show offensive potency. With 22 plate appearances at the Major League level, Middlebrooks has 9 hits, 4 of which are doubles and 3 being home runs. However, despite the 6’4″ third baseman’s hot start to 2012, the Red Sox have not been able to string together wins. Since Middlebrooks’ call up, the Red Sox have gone 1-4 and currently occupy the basement of the AL East sitting 6.5 games out of first.

To add to Boston’s woes, Middlebrooks appears to be battling issues with his left hamstring. Middlebrooks was taken out of the line up this past Saturday due to the hamstring and again Tuesday after aggravating it. The Red Sox have Middlebrooks listed as day-to-day and his appearance in the line up today is questionable due to the nagging injury.

Despite Middlebrooks’  strong performance at the Major League level, general manager Ben Cherington has reportedly stated that Kevin Youkilis will return to third base when his back issues straighten out. The question is, with the poor start to the 2012 season, can the Red Sox afford to send the hard-hitting Middlebrooks back to Pawtucket when the time comes.

Follow Chuck on Twitter @ChuckVanderbilt

Post Hype Prospect – Bobby Abreu

When the Angels placed Bobby Abreu on waivers on April 27, I wondered if this would be the end of the line for one the most successful players in baseball history.  Fortunately, or unfortunately if you watched Abreu leave three runners on base in two at bats on May 4, the Dodgers picked him up and immediately placed him on their major league roster.
In the interest of full disclosure, Bobby Abreu has always fascinated me.  He never really looked like a great athlete (though he clearly is in great shape), he never looked like he was trying, and he never put up monster numbers, but at the end of nearly every season for 13 years he ended up with at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases.  He drove in at least 100 eight times, scored 100 another eight, and went 30/30 twice. He was a great right fielder, but was notoriously allergic to walls, and stole bases whenever the pitcher was not paying enough attention.  In the end, Bobby Abreu was a truly singular baseball player whose talents were never fully appreciated – unless you were playing fantasy baseball.

Bob Kelly Abreu was signed by the Houston Astros as an international free agent out of Venezuela in August 1990, just months after his 16th birthday.  Assigned to the GCL Astros of the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, Abreu put up an amazing 301/358/372 line.  While that line may not look amazing at first blush, had Abreu been born in the U.S., Puerto Rico, or Canada, Abreu would be about to start his senior year of High School, not playing professional baseball.  In 1992, Abreu was assigned to the Astros’ full season A Level Southern Atlantic League affiliate, the Asheville Tourists.  Abreu more than held his own, putting up a 292/375/402 line as the third youngest player in the Southern Atlantic League.  Tough Abreu only hit eight home runs in 549 plate appearances, he displayed a mature approach by walking 63 times and hit 21 doubles.  Baseball America took notice after the season, ranking Abreu the #95 prospect in all of baseball despite being 18 and having just completed his first full season of professional baseball.

In 1993, Abreu was sent to the High A Osceola Astros of the Florida State League where he put up a 283/352/430 line across 530 plate appearances.  Abreu’s line for 1993 is, to say the least, fascinating.  He hit 21 doubles, 17 triples (which lead the FSL, but the home park may have been a factor, as Abreu was one of six Oscola Astros who had at least six triples), and five home runs (down from eight in 1992).  Abreu stole 10 bases, but was thrown out 14 times.  Abreu walked 51 times (17th in the FSL out of 100 players with at least 149 PA), but struck out 90 times (tied for 9th most).  Abreu was still viewed as a top prospect, but was not ranked by Baseball America in their top 100.

In 1994, Abreu broke out – putting up a great 303/368/530 line across 451 plate appearances for the Jackson Generals of the AA Texas League.  Though his walks further decreased to 42, Abreu hit 25 doubles, 9 triples, and 16 home runs – finally appearing to realize his power potential.  Abreu’s stock as a prospect was spiking, as Baseball America rated him the #52 prospect in baseball.

In 1995, Abreu spent the entire year playing for the Tucson Toros of the AAA Pacific Coast League, putting up a solid, if not spectacular, 304/395/516 line while hitting 24 doubles, 17 triples, and 10 home runs.  He still got caught stealing too much (14 in 30 attempts), but there was significant offensive growth and actualization.  Baseball America rated Abreu the #29 prospect in all of baseball (and immediately ahead of Jermaine Dye) with many prospect prognosticators praising his plate approach and defense, along with his power potential.

Despite the Astros’ mediocre outfield in 1996 (Brian Hunter, Derek Bell, and James Mouton had the most plate appearances, with significant playing time from Derrick May and John Cangelosi), Abreu returned to Tucson for another season in AAA.  Abreu put up a 283/389/459 line, showing improved plate discipline (83 walks in 573 plate appearances) and a better approach to base running (24 stolen bases in 42 attempts), with 14 doubles, 16 triples, and 13 home runs.  Abreu was called up to the Astros in September, putting up a 227/292/273 line across 24 PA.  While the overall line does not look good, it is important to note that, at 22 years old, Abreu was one of the youngest players in the major leagues and, more importantly, 24 PA is such a tiny sample size that it is statistically insignificant.  Unconcerned with the poor big league showing, Baseball America rated Abreu the #38 prospect in all of baseball after 1996, behind Eli Marrero.

In 1997, Abreu began the season with the Astros, appearing in 20 out of the Astros’ first 26 games, putting up a 271/386/457 line while primarily playing right field.  Abreu struggled in May, and went on the disabled list on May 25 with a fractured right hand.  Abreu was on the disabled list until July 3, when he returned to the Astros for almost two weeks, putting just seven plate appearances across five games.  Abreu was sent down to the minors, where he put up a combined 262/329/379 in AA and AAA (the AA portion appears to be part of his rehab, but I cannot find game logs to confirm this).  Abreu returned to the Astros on September 1, putting up a 294/333/471 line over 14 games to close out the season to finish with a 250/329/372 line at the major league level.  All told, 1997 was not a successful year for Abreu.  Despite spending most of the 1997 season with the Astros, he had not performed particularly well and missed significant time with an injury.

On November 18, 1997, Major League Baseball held an expansion draft in order to put major league players on the rosters of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and the Arizona Diamondbacks.  Each team was allowed to protect a number of players, and the Astros decided to protect Richard Hidalgo instead of Abreu.  With the 6th overall pick, the Devil Rays selected Abreu and, immediately after the draft, traded him to the Philadelphia Phillies for Kevin Stocker.  The Devil Rays GM, Chuck LaMar, wanted Stocker, who was known for his strong defense and complete lack of offensive ability, and was willing to give up the soon-to-be 24 year old Abreu for the soon-to-be 28 year old Stocker.  The Phillies’ GM, Ed Wade, should be commended for this move.  Though the 1998 Phillies would have to use Desi Relaford as their shortstop, Abreu would hit from day one (literally, he went 2/6 on Opening Day against the Mets) for the Phillies.

In 1998, Abreu put up an impressive 312/409/497 line (with 14 intentional walks), beginning his long and successful career.  Abreu has put up an OPS+ of at least 104 in every season from 1998 through 2011, but has struggled so far in 2012.  Playing without a position for the Angels, Abreu put up a 208/259/333 line in eight games before being released.  The Dodgers picked up Abreu, with formerly-mustachioed Manager Don Mattingly stating that Abreu “gives [the Dodgers] a chance to be a little bit better.”

In the end, Bobby Abreu pretty much turned out to be the player he was projected to become, with a career 293/396/480 slash line (129 OPS+), with 284 home runs, 393 stolen bases, 2390 hits, 1414 runs, and 1330 RBI.  Abreu’s ability to hit line drives and patience at the plate have been his calling card, racking up 558 doubles in his career, good for 25th all time and 2nd amongst active players (only 3 behind Todd Helton).

So is this the end for Abreu?  At this point, Abreu has become a “lefty bat off the bench” who can occasionally play the outfield.  While he has put up great career numbers, he lacks the “wow” factor that voters often require when voting someone into the Hall of Fame, and he was only elected to two All Star Games, awarded one Silver Slugger, and awarded one Gold Glove.  This lack of awards, despite winning the 2005 Home Run Derby, will doom Abreu to being part of the Hall of Very Good – which is quite an accomplishment.  Abreu is currently 98th with 9,703 career plate appearances – a place surrounded by Hall of Famers and legends, such as Ted Simmons (100), Willie McCovey (99), Julio Franco (97), and Richie Ashburn (96).

How will Abreu be remembered?  As a very good player who put together a long, successful career in baseball and the fact that he has made in excess of $115 million in his career while flying under the radar.

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=abreu-001bob

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/a/abreubo01.shtml

http://www.baseballamerica.com/statistics/players/cards/11785

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/HOU/1996.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/mayde01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/huntebr02.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/b/bellde01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/m/moutoja01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/cangejo01.shtml

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/1997-expansion-draft.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/s/stockke01.shtml

http://www.draysbay.com/2009/7/13/947812/revisiting-the-kevin-stocker-bobby

http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/phillies/In-defense-or-at-least-partial-defense-of-Ed-Wade.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=abreubo01&t=b&year=1998

http://www.minorleagueball.com/2005/6/26/195036/333

http://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/PHI/1998.shtml

http://www.usatoday.com/sports/baseball/nl/dodgers/story/2012-05-04/Dodgers-sign-veteran-Bobby-Abreu/54748720/1

http://www.baseball-reference.com/leaders/PA_career.shtml

Run Billy Run

By Chuck Vanderbilt

There aren’t many managers in the Major Leagues that can say they have a player in their line up that can help them get a win on the field, in the batter’s box and on the base paths. Those that can, surely consider themselves fortunate. Currently residing at Cincinnati’s Class A Advanced Bakersfield is 21-year-old Billy Hamilton. If you’re not familiar with the name, you soon will be. The “toolsy” shortstop is already making a firm impression on the 2012 baseball season.

The Reds selected Hamilton out of high school in the second round of the 2009 MLB Draft and it has become clear that the switch hitting shortstop has found his stride. In just 26 games Hamilton has stolen 31 bases for the Bakersfield Blaze. This statistic has to bring joy to Reds fans and fear into the minds of opposing pitchers and catchers. If Hamilton is on first, and with his .458 on base percentage he tends to be, the pitcher, the catcher, and everyone in the stands knows Billy is about steal second. The simple fact is, there’s very little anyone can do about it.

With his bat, Hamilton is clearly more potent versus right-handed pitchers with a .450 batting average. However, Hamilton is currently hitting a respectable .286 against lefties. Of Hamilton’s 39 hits, 12 of them have been for extra bases with 7 doubles, 4 triples, and 1 home run. An interesting split through the 2012 season is Hamilton’s offensive numbers on the road compared to home games. With 13 games played away, Hamilton is batting .500 while just .269 at home.

Hamilton is considered to be one of the organization’s overall top prospects and undoubtedly the fastest. If Hamilton continues to excel at all facets of the game, it will be difficult for GM Walt Jocketty not to promote him to AA Pensacola.  Certainly Bakersfield has enjoyed watching this youthful talent so far in 2012. However, with Hamilton’s offensive production, that pleasure will surely be stolen from them soon. Like Hamilton’s time on first base, his time in a Blaze uniform is sure to be brief.

Follow Chuck on Twitter @ChuckVanderbilt

 

Post Hype Prospect – Phil Humber

On Saturday, Phil Humber threw the 21st perfect game in Major League Baseball history, throwing only 96 pitches to retire all 27 Seattle Mariners.  Despite once being a top prospect, Humber’s path to the perfect game was filled with injuries, demotions, a blockbuster trade, demotions, being released, and finding success for the Chicago White Sox.

Humber grew up in Nacogdoches, Texas and attended Carthage High School in Carthage, Texas.  In the Texas University Interscholastic League Class 4A semifinals, Humber struck out six, walked one, and allowed three hits.  Humber was drafted in the 29th round of the 2001 Rule IV Draft by the New York Yankees, a pick Humber considered more of a “draft-and-follow,” than anything else said Humber.  Humber continues, “I wasn’t mature enough to go into pro ball then. They made a pretty decent offer to try to sign me away from Rice, but I’m glad I chose [Rice].”

As Humber said, he went to Rice University, where he was part of one of the greatest pitching staffs in college baseball history, teaming with Jeff Niemann, Wade Townsend, and David Aardsma to come in 5th in the 2002 College World Series, win the 2003 College World Series, and come in 11th in the 2004 College World Series.  To say Humber was dominant in college is an understatement.  Humber put up a 2.78 ERA across 110 innings with 130 strike outs in 2002, a 3.30 ERA across 128 innings with 138 strike outs in 2003, and a 2.27 ERA across 115 innings with 154 strike outs in 2004.

Going into the 2004 draft, Humber was considered a top prospect and rumors swirled regarding which team would pick Humber.  Matt Bush was picked #1 overall by the Padres and twice flamed out spectacularly.  Justin Verlander was picked #2 overall by the Detroit Tigers, and has done very well, including two no hitters, Rookie of the Year (2006), Cy Young (2011), and MVP (2011), and four All Star Game appearances.  The Mets were focusing on three college pitchers, Jered Weaver, Humber, and Verlander.  Then-Mets General Manager, Jim Duquette, said that “[e]verybody who went in to see [Humber], including myself, thought he was going to be a 200-inning, year-after-year type of pitcher.  [Humber] had a good frame and a lot of the elements you’d look for in a top-of-the-rotation starter.”  The Mets passed on Weaver and took Humber with the #3 overall pick, with Weaver falling to the Angels at #12 due to bonus demands.

Humber was not the only Rice Owl to be picked in the first round of the 2004 draft, as teammates Jeff Niemann (#4 overall to the Devil Rays) and Wade Townsend (#8 overall to the Orioles, though he didn’t sign) were also selected, the first time three teammates were selected with the first eight picks of the draft.

Humber signed a 5-year major league contract with the Mets in January 2005 worth $4.2 million, including a $3 million signing bonus.  Ranked the #50 prospect by Baseball America before the 2005 season, Humber immediately clashed with Mets’ pitching coach Rick Peterson, who wanted Humber to change his mechanics and stand taller on the mound.  Humber was assigned to the high-A St. Lucie Mets of the Florida State League, where he put up a 4.99 ERA across 70.1 innings with 65 strike outs.  Promoted to the AA Binghamton Mets of the Eastern League, Humber made one start on July 11, allowing three runs and four hits over four innings while striking out two.  Humber left the game early due to pain in his elbow and was quickly diagnosed with bone spurs and a torn ulnar collateral ligament.  Humber underwent Tommy John surgery and missed the rest of the season.  Humber returned to action in under 12 months, being assigned to the Rookie level GCL Mets on June 22 for one start, then being sent back to the St. Lucie Mets, where he made seven starts over 38 innings, striking out 36 and putting up a sparkling 2.37 ERA.  Promoted to AA Binghamton on August 4, Humber kept the good times rolling, putting up a 2.88 ERA across 34.1 innings while striking out 36.  As a reward for his season, Humber was called up to New York, where appeared in two games and did not allow a run.

Humber reappeared on Baseball America’s top 100 list, ranking #73 with the comment: “Blew out his elbow 15 starts into his pro career in 2005, but bounced all the way back last year.”  Humber began 2007 pitching for the New Orleans Zephyrs, the Mets’ AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League and performed reasonably well, putting up a 4.27 ERA across 139 innings, striking out 120.  While these numbers do not seem particularly good, the PCL is notoriously hitter-friendly.  Promoted to the Mets in September, Humber appeared in three games, including one start, and put up a (small sample size alert!) 7.71 ERA across seven innings.

In February 2007, Humber was dealt by the Mets, along with Kevin Mulvey, Carlos Gomez, and Deolis Guerra, to the Minnesota Twins for Johan Santana.  The Twins assigned Humber to the Rochester Red Wings, the Twins’ AAA affiliate in the International League. In 2007, Humber put up a 4.56 ERA across 136.1 innings, striking out 106.  Humber received his annual September call-up and appearing in five games as a reliever, putting up a 4.63 ERA across 11.2 innings.  In 2008, Humber broke camp with the Twins as a reliever.  After putting up a 12.46 ERA across 4.1 innings, Humber was sent down to Rochester.   After putting up a 5.34 ERA across 119.2 innings as a starter, Humber was recalled by the Twins, where he put up a 3.86 ERA across four relief appearances over 4.2 innings.

After the 2009 season, Humber’s career took a number of unexpected turns.  In October, Humber was granted free agency, as the Twins did not offer Humber a contract.  Humber was signed as a free agent by the Kansas City Royals in December.  Assigned to the Omaha Royals of the PCL, Humber appeared in 21 games (21 starts), putting up a respectable 4.47 ERA across 118.2 innings.  Humber appeared in 8 games for the Kansas City Royals, primarily as a long reliever, though he did start one game, logging 21.2 innings to go with his 4.15 ERA.  In December 2010, Humber was selected off waivers by the Oakland Athletics, then in January 2011, the Chicago White Sox selected Humber off waivers from the Athletics.

Humber opened the season with two relief appearances (and a 9.00 ERA after two innings), but the White Sox, led by Manager Ozzie Guillen, showed patience, giving Humber time to find his way.   Humber responded with a great showing, holding a 2.69 ERA after his seven inning start against the cross town rival Cubs on July 2.  Humber seemed to struggle after that start, putting up a 7.52 ERA over his next five starts.  On August 18, Humber was struck in the face by a line drive and immediately taken out of the game.  Humber was, largely, unscathed by the ball, as he only had a face bruise.  Humber made one rehabilitation start for the Charlotte Knights, the White Sox’s AAA affiliate, and returned to the White Sox for the duration of the season.  Humber returned with seven shutout innings against the Twins in his first start after being taken off the Disabled List, then made four more starts for the White Sox.  The 2011 season was a major success for Humber, as he put up a 3.75 ERA (112 ERA+) across 163 innings.

Humber opened 2012 as the #5 starter for the White Sox and has dominated.  After going 5.1 innings and allowing only one run in his first start against Baltimore, Humber threw just 96 pitches (67 strikes) in his way to pitching a perfect game against the Mariners over the weekend (if this is news to you then how did you find this article?).

So what is ahead for Humber?  No one knows.  Congratulations have come from all over, including former teammate, Mike Pelfrey, apparently every person who knows his cell phone number, and former manager Ozzie Guillen, but not White Sox fan President Barack Obama.

At this point, the best way to describe what Humber went through would be something he said in June 2011, when asked to discuss his career after being traded by or released from four different organizations:

“I’ve been through everything you can go through in baseball so far.  I’ve had Tommy John surgery, been the hot prospect, been a bust, been given a lot of opportunities and been given up on. You get to the point where you say, you know what, baseball’s not my whole life and if I’m going to play it I’m going to play because I enjoy it. That’s where I am.’

Until next time, follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/humbeph01.shtml

http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.cgi?id=humbeph01&t=p&year=2012

http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=humber001phi

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/profile.asp?P=Philip-Humber

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/all-time.html

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?year_ID=2001&draft_round=29&draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round

http://www.baseball-reference.com/draft/?year_ID=2004&draft_round=1&draft_type=junreg&query_type=year_round

http://articles.nydailynews.com/2011-04-26/sports/29494420_1_mets-phil-humber-major-league

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/teams/stats.asp?Y=2002&T=20032

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/teams/stats.asp?Y=2003&T=20032

http://www.thebaseballcube.com/teams/stats.asp?Y=2004&T=20032

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/22/sports/baseball/philip-humber-pitcher-of-perfect-game-was-mets-pick.html

http://www.minorleagueball.com/2011/6/23/2238292/career-profile-jered-weaver-los-angeles-angels

http://www.chron.com/default/article/Three-Owls-aces-among-first-8-draftees-1636559.php

http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/prospects/rankings/top-100-prospects/2007/263445.html

http://www.nbcchicago.com/news/sports/sox-humber-128098158.html

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-06-11/sports/ct-spt-0612-haugh-phil-humber-white-s20110611_1_sox-farmhand-ozzie-guillen-sox-uniform

http://newyork.mets.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120422&content_id=29383172&notebook_id=29391202

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/humber-savors-perfect-game-for-white-sox-takes-time-to-answer-more-than-100-text-messages/2012/04/22/gIQAQ08SaT_story.html

http://miami.marlins.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20120422&content_id=29388290&notebook_id=29388294&vkey=notebook_mia&c_id=mia

Post Hype Prospect – Jay Payton

Not all Post Hype Prospects flame out and don’t reach the majors.  Many Post Hype Prospects become useful major league players, even All-Stars, but fail to achieve prognosticated the level of success.  One of the many players who fall into this category is Jay Payton.

Jason Lee (“Jay”) Payton grew up as a multi-sport standout at Zanesville High School in Zanesville, Ohio.  Being named the Connie Mack World Series tournament MVP after his senior year in high school, Payton attended Georgia Institute of Technology (more commonly known as Georgia Tech) , where his teammates included Nomar Garciaparra and Jason Varitek.  In the 1994 College World Series, Georgia Tech lost in the championship game to an Oklahoma team led by Chip Glass (birth name David Jason), who was named CWS Most Outstanding Player.  In the first round of the 1994 draft, the New York Mets took Paul Wilson with the #1 overall pick (more on him in a later post, to be sure), Terrance Long #20 (as compensation for the Orioles signing Sid Fernandez), and Payton #29 (also compensation for the Orioles signing Fernandez) with the first pick of the supplemental first round.

Payton signed quickly and appeared in 58 games for the Mets’ Short Season A affiliate, the Pittsfield Mets of the New York Penn League (in addition to the Mets’ affiliate being in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, there were also teams in New Jersey, Vermont, Pennsylvania, and Ontario), hitting a robust 365/439/498 with ten stolen bases and nine (!) HBP.  Payton was promoted to the Mets’ AA affiliate, the Binghamton Mets, for the final eight games of the season where he hit a gentlemanly 280/357/320.  Payton was rated the #96 prospect by Baseball America and assigned to the AA Binghamton Mets, where he mashed to a 345/395/535 slash line, primarily playing Center Field.  Payton was promoted to the Mets’ AAA affiliate, the Norfolk Tides, for the final 50 games of the season.  In Norfolk, Payton put up a lackluster 240/284/398 slash line.  After the 1995 season, Payton had his medial collateral ligament (MCL) surgically repaired after the 1995 season, a problem many felt was the reason for the poor AAA showing.

Baseball America took notice and ranked Payton the #21 prospect for 1996.  In 1996, Payton played only 71 games, with 55 of them in Norfolk, putting up an impressive 307/363/503 slash line while in Norfolk.  Payton had more injury troubles, thoroughly destroying us ulnar collateral ligament and hurting his shoulder, resulting in surgery on both his shoulder and Tommy John surgery on his elbow.   Despite the short season and injury concerns, Payton was rated the #34 prospect for 1997.  Unfortunately, Payton missed the entire 1997 season rehabilitating from his injuries.

In 1998, Payton played in 85 games, 82 of them in Norfolk, putting up a pedestrian 261/318/404 slash line while just trying to stay healthy.  He also put up a more impressive 318/348/364 slash line in a cup of tea during September.  In 1999, a healthy Payton put up a 389/437/674 slash line in Norfolk, appearing in 13 games with the Mets, hitting 250/333/375 while in the Majors.  Coming out of Spring Training, Payton appeared to be sharing the 4th outfielder role with Benny Agbayani, but Payton appeared in 124 games, putting up a respectable 291/331/447 while finishing third behind Rafael Furcal and Rick Ankiel (but ahead of Pat Burrell, Lance Berkman, and Juan Pierre) in the 2000 Rookie of the Year Award voting.

After a pedestrian 255/298/371 showing in 104 games in 2001 and a solid 284/336/415 showing in 87 games in 2002, Payton was dealt to Colorado with Robert Stratton and Mark Corey for Mark Little and John Thompson.  Payton put up a monster 335/376/606 for the rest of the year, taking advantage of pre-humidor Coors Field to the fullest.  In 2003, Payton put up another monster season, hitting 302/354/512, though he did lead the NL by grounding into 27 double plays, just one behind major league leader Paul Konerko (who was, incidentally, drafted with the 13th pick of the 1994 MLB draft by the Los Angeles Dodgers).  After the 2003 season, Payton signed a two-year contract with the San Diego Padres for $5.5 million (with a $4 million club option on the 2006 season with a $500,000 buy-out).

From 2004 through 2008, Payton appeared in 667 games with 2368 Plate Appearances, putting up a roughly league average 267/310/393 slash line (85 OPS+) while transitioning from being a CF to a LF.  In March of 2009, Payton suffered a shoulder injury while lifting weights and missed the entire season.  In January 2010, Payton signed a minor league contract with the Colorado Rockies, and put up a 323/365/469 slash line while primarily playing left field for the Rockies’ AAA affiliate, the Colorado Springs Sky Sox.  Called up to the Rockies in September, Payton made up for lost time, mashing a 343/361/514 line in 36 PA.    Faced with another off season shoulder surgery, Payton announced his retirement.

But what happened to Jay Payton?  Why was he unable to reach his potential?  It’s easy to say that injuries curtailed his career before it really got started or that he just wasn’t THAT talented.  I think it’s a combination of the two.  No one ever saw Payton as a future hall of famer, but it would not have been a stretch to see Payton hit 300 for a decade while playing a good center field.  It seems that the key to reaching potential is to avoid injuries, something that may involve more than a little luck.

Until next time, leave comments and follow me @HypeProspect.

Sources:

http://www.baseball-reference.com (http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/p/paytoja01.shtml, http://www.baseball-reference.com/minors/player.cgi?id=payton001jas, etc.)

http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2009/04/crasnick-on-remaining-free-agents.html

http://www.topix.com/forum/baseball-players/jay-payton/T6MUMML3RNFN12RVC

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