Continuing the story of never enough pitching: (FINALLY!!!!)
Part 1 – looked at what we need on a roster and our 40 man roster
Part 2 – looked at what’s available in our AAA and AA teams (future starters?)
TINSTAAP (there is no such thing as a pitching prospect…..)
I was thinking the other day that our ace, Roy Oswalt, one of the 10 best pitchers in the NL 4 years running, was a 23rd round draft pick in 1996. Funny, isn’t it? And Wade Miller was picked 3 rounds earlier.
That year, our first round pitcher was Mark Johnson (who?), 2nd round John Huber (who?), 4th round Bryan Braswell (who?).
In 1996, the first round pitchers were, in order, Kris Benson (now being ridiculously overpaid by the Mets), Braden Looper (same), Billy Koch, John Patterson, Seth Greisinger, Matt White, Adam Eaton (better than you think), Bobby Seay, Todd Noel, RA Dickey, Eric Milton (about to be ridiculously overpaid by the MFY), Jake Westbrook, Gil Meche, Sam Marsonek, Josh Garrett, Nick Bierbrodt, Corey Lee, Matt McClendon, Chris Reitsma and Jason Marquis.
Roy is better than anyone on that list. Not even “arguably.” Hands down.
How do you (scouting people, GMs, etc.) pick out a pitching prospect?
1) Well, he’s gotta be tall. Because guys like Pedro, Roy, Mike Hampton and Billy Wagner can’t possibly succeed in the bigs. And guys like Ryan Anderson sure nuff will.
2) He’s gotta have a “pitcher’s body” (I think that means big beefy ass) - you note that guys like Julian Tavarez, Pedro, Juan Cruz, Roy, Big Unit etc can’t pitch in the bigs with their skinny legs and tiny butts..
3) He’s gotta have velocity. You see that guys like Wakefield, Maddux, Moyer and Glavine can’t succeed in the bigs. And guys like Colt Griffin and Matt Anderson sure nuff will. You can always teach control, right?
But seriously, a ML starting pitcher has to have excellent command of the fastball, both inside and out, a slider/change (fastball look alike at a slower speed) or a forkball/curve, throw them for strikes and be able to get guys out when pitching from the stretch. AND he should be able to pitch at LEAST 5 innings (100 pitches/start.) A reliever, on the other hand, only needs 2 pitches. So I think that a prospect should be able to show good command of the fastball - you can always teach him another pitch. And most guys do learn another pitch in the minors.
Let’s take a look at the Stros drafts of pitchers from 92 – 02 (won’t be no one up from 03 or 04 yet) and see how we’ve done. Stats courtest of the Baseball Cube.
(by the way, we will ignore all non-drafted FA like Johan Santana - thinking about how we let him get away makes me feel absolutely sick, even though I can understand why no one thought real too much of him at the time, seeing as how it was the Twins who helped him develop that changeup.)
(Pitchers only – draft picks in 1-5 and others who made it to MLB)
1992 – #2 Kendall Rhine (who ), #4 Chris Holt (did well for us for a few years) and #13 Hector Mercado (pitched for Reds in 2000)
1993 – #1 – Billy Wagner (in fact this year, only one other guy, #44 – Bryant Nelson even made it to MLB)
1994 – #2 – Scott Elarton, #2 – Dan Locke (who), #4 – Paul O’Malley (who), #5 – Mike Gunderson (who) and #23 – John Halama
1995 – #1 – Tony McKnight (looked like he was gonna be a star – traded to Pitt for relief and he sank like a stone – wonder what happened) #2 – Eric Ireland (AA) #4 – Brian Sikorski (who) and #24 – Jeriome Robertson (didn’t do well at the Indians AAA club this year poor guy. After that good record and 5. something ERA in 03, too…)
1996 #1 – Mark Johnson (now at AAA LA) John Huber (who), Brandon Byrd (who), Bryan Braswell (AA) and of course, Wade Miller #20 and Roy #23.
1997 – no pitchers 1-5, #20 -Tim Redding
1998 – #1 – Brad Lidge (guess that worked out), #2 – Mike Nannini (still stuck in AAA for the As) #3 – Brad Busbin (A)
1999 – #3 – Travis Anderson (AA at Col) #4 – Jimmy Barrett (A) and #6 – Mike Gallo
2000 – #2 – Chad Qualls, #3 – Anthony Pluta (A) and #30 – Mike Burns (AA Astros)
2001 – #3 – Kirk Saarloos (now with the A’s), #4 – Phillip Barzilla (AAA)
2002 – #1 -Derrick Grigsby (A), #2 – Mitchell Talbot (A), #3 – Rory Shortell (A), #4 – Mark McLemore (on our 40 man roster) and 16th – Jared Gothreaux (on our 40 man roster)
For each year from 92 to 01, we have at least one pitcher from each draft (11 total) who contributed to the Astros big league club – let’s see the draft ranks:
4,1,2,1,24,20,23,20,1,6,2 – interesting that all 3 #1 draft picks were relievers.
And so, I still wanna know, how do you pick out a prospect and WHY did only 6 of 23 round 1-5 prospects make it to the majors? WHY do these highly rated guys fail? Maybe if we knew why they were so highly regarded in the first place and compared it to why they didn’t get anywhere.
I do know that there is a personality factor involved, but still…..
I wrote most of this column 2 weeks ago – I stopped because I thought I should be able to give some sort of answer to the question I asked – WHY do so many of these highly rated players fail?
I had absolutely no idea what to say until I got an email about my blog from an “English teacher” who ripped me a new one – I had the wrong grammar (or something) and didn’t write well and my sentences were all wrong. Or something. Who the hell did I think I was? Well, I THOUGHT I was a high school dropout who finally learned to read and write (as best I can) AFTER I dropped out, by the way, and got the courage (from Dave Pinto, who ROOLZ) to write down my opinions. I remembered, after reading the “helpful” teacher’s email, why I had flunked for so many years and finally quit, realizing I was a stupid, hopeless retard who couldn’t ever do anything right. I remembered why one of the happiest days of my life was my 16th birthday, when I could finally get out of jail, finally get away from all the teachers, whose goal in life, it seemed to me, was to hurt as many peoples’ feelings as possible so they could celebrate when they finally hurt someone so bad they finally agreed they wasn’t no damn good, wasn’t ever gonna amount to squat and they up and quit.
What does this have to do with anything? Well, baseball players aren’t like football or hockey or basketball players – they don’t come out of school ready for the pros – they need years of TEACHING in the minor leagues. I wonder if they fail because they run into a few too many “English teacher” like – people who only seem to want to show them how they ain’t no damn good and spend all their time putting them down and happily pointing only to failures and mistakes. I know that a lot of people think that ballplayers are just a thing, an object, a card full of statistics, but they are really human beings, people, and maybe after being told they ain’t no damn good or can’t do nothin right for too long, they either start to believe it, or, worse, refuse to listen to someone who actually might could be different and is trying to HELP them because they have been defending themselves for so long against so many “teachers” who are trying to put them down.
I know that there are some people, like Barry Bonds, who seem to respond best to criticism and contempt, but there are many others who do better with help and encouragement – maybe the minor league clubs need to hire BOTH kinds of instructors – unless their real goal is not to produce as many quality major leaguers as possible, but to produce major leaguers who either produce in SPITE of hostility, contempt and criticism or because of it…..