Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Montgomery Prospects - BA Southern League Top 20

David PriceA quartet of Biscuits pitchers make the list:

David Price at #2:
Price works off an electric fastball that sits at 93-96 mph and can touch 97-98. It's a plus-plus offering, as is his hard 85-87 mph slider, a swing-and-miss pitch with sharp break and tilt. He also has an average changeup, though he rarely used it in the minors. At times he sells the changeup well with his arm speed, while at other times he throws it too hard.
Wade Davis at #10:
Davis can overmatch hitters with his fastball and curveball. He has a four-seamer that sits at 93-94 mph and touches 96, and he also has a two-seamer. His hard 74-78 mph curve is a plus pitch with two-plane depth and tight 11-to-5 rotation that elicits swings and misses from both lefties and righties.
Jeremy Hellickson at #12:
Hellickson's fastball sits in the low 90s and touches 95 with good life within the zone, though scouts say he lacks a true out pitch. His curveball is solid-average and his changeup was average, and all of his stuff plays up because of his advanced pitchability.
and the injured Jake McGee at #16:
Before he got hurt, McGee sat at 92-93 mph and touched 97 with his fastball. His slider showed above-average potential, but it was inconsistent in terms of its tilt and the frequency with which he threw it for strikes. He also struggled with his release point, leaving pitches up in the zone too often.

McGee remained more thrower than pitcher. He often leaned on his velocity to try to blow his fastball by hitters rather than mix in his offspeed stuff. His changeup won't develop until he uses it more frequently, though he wouldn't need it as much if he became a reliever, which some scouts believe is his destiny.
It's hard to argue with anyone's placement on the list, though I am surprised Hellickson ranked so high since he struggled some in the Southern League after dominating the FSL. As for Jake McGee, my guess is that his arm was injured in some capacity all season, finally getting bad enough to get it looked at and to require surgery. Because of the injury, his velocity was probably suppressed a bit, so his ceiling was still being able to sit at 94-96 and dial it up to 99. Of course, you never know what you're going to get from a guy coming back from Tommy John, but I'd say there's a good chance he works exclusively out of the bullpen when he comes back, which will be sometime late next year(he could get back into games by August if all goes well, but the Rays might just hold him back, send him to instructionals next year, and have him back in games in 2010).

[Edit by Doug]:Since we don't need 2 articles on this, I deleted mine, Kevin's is better. I'll just add that Price lost out on #1 to Clayton Kershaw, which is a defensible choice. Davis over Hellickson still makes sense for this list, but next year Jeremy may pass him. I wouldn't have bothered with McGee on this list. Love the arm, but I believe he will become a reliever, and now a reliever coming off Tommy John. 2009 will be pretty much lost. He's still young enough to come back strong in 2010, but the combination of the uncertainty after the injury, the lost time, and possibly pitching out of the pen lower his value considerably in my view.

[Edit by Kevin]: It is a bit curious about McGee, particularly since the SL was strong this year and a guy like Aaron Poreda, who throws just as hard as McGee from the left side, didn't make the list. The success rate of TJ surgery makes the selection a little more defensible, but you just never know. Either way, he's going to have to develop some kind of breaking ball. Very few guys can get away with just a fastball(like Grant Balfour does), and by all accounts, McGee's fastball is as good as anybody's, but if he comes back from TJ throwing 92-93, just the heater isn't going to get it done.


  1. From the chat:

    Q: Jore from Brooklyn asks: Where would John Jaso have ranked? What is his upside?

    A: Ben Badler: Jaso did qualify, but reports on his defense made it hard to justify ranking him in a deep league like the SL. The Rays had him in Double-A to start the season instead of Triple-A because they wanted to emphasize that he needed to improve his defense. From seeing him earlier in the year and hearing reports from scouts I talked to, it just sounds like the progress isn't there. Teams didn't show much restraint running on him, and the blocking and receiving skills still have a ways to go. Sometimes catchers take a little longer to develop, but if he can't stick behind the plate, that's a huge blow to his value. But he's got a very good handle of the strike zone and excellent hand-eye coordination, so there's still a lot to like there if he can put it together defensively.

    Q: Grant from RI asks: Does Wade Davis have a shot at TB's rotation out of spring training, or is there absolutely no room for him? If not, what's the plan?

    A: Ben Badler: He'll get a chance. Just needs to fine-tune the command, which I think he'll do, and further develop either a changeup or a cutter to add a reliable third pitch. The latter is a bit more of a question mark, which is why I ran Hanson ahead of him, but I like Davis quite a bit.

    Q: Tony from Battle Creek asks: Even before he was sidelined, Jake McGee's stats were somewhat disappointing. When is he due back next year, and what are your thoughts as to his future role -- closer or (#2/3?) starter?

    A: Ben Badler: He'll probably be back at some point mid-to-late '09. He's going to still get a chance to start, but a lot of scouts think he'll be a closer, given the Rays' current depth of young starting pitchers, the injury and his skill set. McGee made the Top 20 in this league, but that might even be an aggressive ranking by me. He made some progress with his breaking ball, but he didn't use that or his changeup much, and he still needs to develop a better feel for pitching. If he were more polished, I'd be less concerned about the TJ. But now he's not really going to get the chance to practice learning how to pitch, to improve his breaking ball, etc. for another year, so it's a lost year of development for a guy who has tons of talent but really needs that developmental time.

  2. More from the chat:

    Q: Eric from San Jose asks: Kershaw vs. Price - pros/cons and who will be better in the end?

    A: Ben Badler: 1 and 1-A, for me. Fastball, breaking ball and changeup all grade out around the same, both athletic, both have clean arm action, both have great deliveries that they repeat, both should have above-average command, both get good reviews for their makeup, both have good size and good track records, both lefthanded. So there's a lot of similarities there. The two slight separators for me are that Kershaw is already having success in the big leagues and at a younger age, whereas Price has not. And perhaps slightly more important is that Price did miss six weeks or so in the beginning of the season with an elbow problem. Now, he's back to throwing mid-90s fastballs, but any elbow or shoulder injury is always worth remembering—and Price does throw a slider—so that's what set Kershaw just a tick above Price.

  3. Why is everyone so down on Hellickson? Even on this site I've heard people say his ceiling is a #3 pitcher. I disagree.

    He has Oswalt like build and stuff, and he pitches like Maddux (his idol). That screams future ace or #2 to me.

  4. Danny,
    Somewhere, and I can't find it quickly, I wrote something along the lines of your comment. It was about upside, and until Jeremy fails, his upside is at least a #2-type. All of his stats have been impressive as he progresses, SO/9, BB/9, only worry is the HR/9, but remember, he's sometimes throwing pitches that are not his best because he's working on something. If they want to work on your "insert pitch here" and it's new to you and you aren't comfortable with it, yep, HR's happen. The goal of the minors is to make the majors. At this point, my opinion is upside = #2, (there aren't may Ray Oswalt's), downside, he gets traded for bats and someone else gets to enjoy him. Hope the downside doesn't happen. And thanks for the comment Danny.