Friday, February 20, 2009

Top 15 Pitchers: #10 Alex Cobb

Alex CobbAlex Cobb
6'1" 180 lbs. DOB: 10/7/87
Left-Handed Starting Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2008: Columbus
Acquired: 2006 Draft, 4th Round, 109th Overall

One of the lone prospect bright spots on a pretty barren Catfish team, Cobb went 9-7 with a 3.29 ERA in 25 starts(139 innings) plus an appearance in the South Atlantic League All-Star Game.

Drafted in the 4th round out of Vero Beach High School, Cobb throws a fastball, curveball, and changeup. His stuff is actually rather pedestrian compared to some of the other guys on this list. His fastball sits a tick above 90, and while his curveball is probably his best pitch, it's not a true strikeout offering. In fact, Cobb's K/9 rate was just 6.3 in 2008, which is generally lower than you'd want from a good prospect. Combine that with 16 home runs allowed, and his FIP was 4.52, more than a full run higher than his actual ERA.

On the other hand, Cobb does a lot of things right. For one, his groundball rate is actually fairly solid(57%), and he only allowed 4 home runs in 81 innings in 2007, so perhaps his 2008 HRA number will prove to be simply an anomaly. In addition, Cobb does a good job of limiting walks: He issued just 35 free passes this past season, or 2.3 per 9 innings.

Moving forward, the two stats to watch with Cobb are going to be strikeouts and walks. If his strikeout rate continues to decline, it's going to be tougher for Cobb to succeed as he advances. A low strikeout rate doesn't necessarily preclude success, it decreases the odds. If he can stabalize the K rate where it is or even improve it to around 7 per 9 innings, then it won't be as worrisome. If we assume that his strikeout rate does hold steady, then he's going to need to maintain(and possibly improve) his walk rate. There was a pitcher in the majors last year with a 5.4 K/9 and a 2.2 BB/9 who had a 3.78 ERA in exactly 200 innings.

Give up? It's Kyle Lohse, and the point is to reinforce that a high strikeout rate isn't compulsory for success, even at the major league level. Now, it certainly helps, as the less strikeouts you get, the more you're generally relying on luck and a good defense. So while a bump in his strikeouts in 2009 would be nice to see, he doesn't completely fall off the prospect map if he doesn't do that.

The other thing Cobb has working in his favor is age. He'll play the entire 2009 seaosn at age 21, where he'll be bumped up a level to Port Charlotte. His ceiling is as a #4 or 5 SP, but more than likely he'll be in the bullpen when/if he makes the majors.

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