If you had to pick a pitcher for a big game tomorrow, who would you take? How about a big game in 2015? Some MLB execs weigh in with their choices.
On the surface, the question seems like an easy one: if your team were playing in a championship game tomorrow, and you could have any starting pitcher to pitch that game for you, who would it be? Your choice is of any ace in the game, but for some it's not just about statistics, it's about comfort and mitigating risk. The question was posed to 12 industry insiders, ranging from pro scout to general manager, and those twelve generated five different responses.
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These guys are so good, they cut glass. They're razor sharp.
The 2012 minor league season has lived nearly half its life, and over the course of the last two and a half months, provided us with the sensational sights, sounds, and smells of the player development machine. We follow closely to monitor the progress of the supermen of tomorrow, their triumphs celebrated and their failures analyzed in graphic detail, a highly invasive process in which we so eagerly participate. The storylines are vast highways of entertainment, often too complex to appreciate in proper detail, but tantalizing enough in their abstract form to keep us content with snapshots. The following are snapshots of the first-half, painted with a wide and often clumsy brush, as I lack the time or the tools to document the blow-by-blow accounts of the campaign with an ultra-fine point. However, along those same lines, I’m going to use quotes from one of my favorite movies in order to set the scenes of the season, and hopefully add some insight through the vehicle of entertainment. “Too many things too many things too many things... I wanna go for a walk. Let's go for a walk.” -Amber Waves
“Start down low with a 350 cube, three and a quarter horsepower, 4-speed, 4:10 gears, ten coats of competition orange, hand-rubbed lacquer with a huplane manifold….Full f*ckin' race cams. Whoo!”
It’s only taken half of a season, but Dylan Bundy has quickly emerged as one the top prospects in the game. Seen by many as the best player available in the historically stacked 2011 draft, Bundy fell to the Orioles with the number four overall pick, and has shoved it ever since, using a plus-plus fastball, a nasty cut fastball, a curveball, and a very promising changeup to carve up the competition. In his first 11 starts in the minors, the 19-year-old native of Oklahoma has only allowed 18 hits in 45 innings pitched, sending 58 down on strikes and issuing an anemic 6 walks. “Aces” are the blue diamonds of the game, and it doesn’t take a keen scouting eye or a Rolodex full of industry sources to realize that Bundy has all the necessary characteristics to reach the lofty ceiling.
This year's amateur draft will see a weaker draft class subject to new financial rules, and not everyone--Scott Boras included--thinks that's a good thing.
The general consensus is that this year is a weak draft class, especially when compared to last year's monster collection of talent. For many, the most interesting aspect to this year's draft might not be the usual who is selected by whom, but rather what happens in terms of negotiations between the picks and the teams relative to the new July 13 signing deadline. That deadline isn't the only new rule, as with assigned bonus pools, strict penalties for exceeding them, and the removal of major-league contract offerings, we're entering uncharted waters.
This weekend saw Trevor Bauer make his Triple-A debut, Dylan Bundy doing it again (with "it" being almost indescribable) and Tim Alderson regaining prospect status.
Tim Alderson, RHP, Pirates (Double-A Altoona)
Alderson was once a hot commodity. A first-round pick by the Giants in 2007, the six-foot-six right-hander burst onto the prospect scene by putting up a 2.79 ERA in the California League as a 19-year-old thanks to average velocity and fantastic command, but the velocity began to slip, and his career seemed to go downhill after a trade to the Pirates for Freddy Sanchez. After a six-plus ERA in 2010 and a move to the bullpen last year, he was all but off the radar. Except a funny thing happened this year, as Alderson changed his approach and took up an arm conditioning program that included long-tossing, and this spring his 85-88 mph suddenly jumped to 90-92. After dominating out of the Altoona pen, he moved to the rotation this month, and on Sunday he fired seven shutout innings while allowing just two hits and touching 93; at just 23, and after a Sunday promotion to Triple-A, he's suddenly a prospect again as a potential back-end rotation piece.
We talk about great pitching prospects being Future No. 1 starters, but what does that really mean?
With both Bryce Harper and Mike Trout getting the call to the big leagues recently, Dylan Bundy is now the official engineer of the Prospect Hype Train, and with good reason. He's faced 52 batters on the young season, and three have reached base, while 25 have struck out. That has prompted the inevitable questions—especially on Twitter—about whether Bundy can become a No. 1 starter. However, becoming a No. 1 starter takes more than just stuff, or more than just command; it takes something that is more than a little bit ineffable.
People don't think much can go wrong with Dylan Bundy, but how about the rest of the top Orioles prospects?
Prospect #1: RHP Dylan Bundy Background with Player: Industry sources Who: The fourth overall pick in the 2011 draft, Bundy was seen by many, including Kevin Goldstein, as the best player available in the entire class, which, if you haven’t noticed, has a chance of being historically incredibl. Bundy is the rare high school draftee that arrives on the scene with a combination of now stuff and slick polish. The 19-year-old native of Oklahoma has elite upside, with all the characteristics necessary to profile as an ace. His body is strong and mature, and his delivery is clean and repeatable. His fastball can work comfortably in the mid-90s and has touched triple digits. It’s a lively offering that Bundy shows preternatural command over, not only in the ability to locate the pitch but to change speeds and vary the movement (2/4/cut). The curveball projects to be a plus offering, and those who have seen it in person rave about its shape. High school arms don’t usually enter professional ball with plus changeups for a reason, but Bundy already has a changeup that grades out at that level, and some think it could be a 7 pitch at maturity. It’s very uncommon to find a pitcher with this combination of stuff, polish, and pitchability, and barring an unforeseen injury, Bundy looks like a future ace at the major league level. How many arms can boast that ceiling? This is a special arm.
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: We don’t know yet. Not passing the buck, but we haven’t been given a long enough look so far in 2012; Bundy is pitching with too much efficiency and having too much success, and the sample size is too small to really get a good picture of what (if any) holes exist in the skill set. It’s hard to breakdown how he will use pitch sequence multiple times through an order, or how he will respond when he doesn’t have his best stuff, or how he will respond to failure because he’s only thrown 13 innings and has crushed the competition like a major leaguer on a rehab assignment. In those 13 innings, Bundy has dropped 21 hitters on strikes, walked one, and has allowed a grand total of zero hits. The reality is that Bundy might not face a serious test until he reaches Double-A, and even then the test might be an easy one for him to pass. I’m not trying to overhype just to overhype, but there are some people in the industry who think Bundy has the necessary ingredients to pitch at the major league level this season. I can appreciate the excitement, but the developmental process is more than just finding success at your particular minor league assignment, and Bundy still has a lot to learn as a pitcher and as a person. This is going to be fun to watch over the season, and, with more looks and more innings, we will be able to paint a better picture.
We debut a new staff column that collects what talent evaluators in the industry are saying with a look at some scouting scuttlebutt about young pitchers with bright futures.
Many of our authors make a habit of speaking to scouts and other talent evaluators in order to bring you the best baseball information available. Not all of the tidbits gleaned from those conversations make it into our articles, but we don't want them to go to waste. Instead, we'll be collecting them in a regular feature called "What Scouts Are Saying," which will be open to participation from the entire BP staff and include quotes about minor leaguers and major leaguers alike. Welcome to the first edition.
Though we're just two weeks into the season, scouts have gotten to see quite a few performances from notable prospects (and one notable player in a big-league bullpen). Here's what they're saying:
A quick look at ten players with notable opening weekends in the minors.
Matt Adams, 1B, Cardinals (Triple-A Memphis)
Though he was last year's Texas League MVP, Adams still hasn't gotten a lot of love, as he was a 23rd round pick out of a small school in Pennsylvania and he looks more like a cleanup hitter for a 16-inch softball team than a professional baseball one. He gained more support from scouts with an impressive spring, and while he went 0-for-3 on Sunday, he's still off to one of the hotter starts around: after going deep in Thursday's opener, he hit another on Friday and just missed a third, and after initially getting an off day on Saturday, he ended up providing a pinch-hit three-run shot in the ninth inning. No prospect is going to make anybody forget Albert Pujols, but Adams could make the loss a little less painful for Cardinals fans in 2013, if not earlier.