6'1" 185 lbs. DOB: 4/8/87
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2008: Vero Beach/Montgomery
Acquired: 2005 Draft, 4th Round, 118th Overall
There is perhaps no pitcher with a bigger discrepancy between his stats and his national prospect "respect" as Jeremy Hellickson. After completely dominating the Florida State League as a 21-year old, Hellickson experienced some growing pains after a mid-season promotion to Montgomery. Still, Hellickson's 2008 was statistically better than anybody else on this list.
His numbers from Vero Beach were outstanding: 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA, but the real gem was his absurd 83-to-5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 76.2 innings. Suffice it to say, it's tough to be better than that. If you want to nitpick, you could point out his flyball tendencies and the fact that seven HRs allowed in 76.2 innings isn't exactly ideal.
But if 7 homeruns isn't ideal, then 15 homeruns in about the same number of innings is more or less a disaster. That was the case in Montgomery, where he threw 75.1 innings to the tune of a 3.94 ERA. His strikeout rate stayed almost the same(9.7 in VB to 9.4 in Montgomery), and at 1.8 walks per 9 innings, his control was still a plus. At the two levels combined, Hellickson struck out 162 and walked 20 in 152 innings.
And for his trouble... he didn't make the top 100 prospect list on either BaseballAmerica or BaseballProspectus. Here's the reason why: He's a short righty(that 6'1" is probably generous) with little or no projection remaining. He doesn't have a true plus pitch, and, as mentioned, the home run thing was kind of a problem.
And okay, that makes sense. But I'll be frank: A guy with an 8-to-1 strikeout to walk rate and two above-average pitches(his fastball and curveball) and a third average pitch(his changeup) sounds like a pretty fine prospect to me. At the very least, it's tough to believe that there are 100 better prospects out there.
That's not to say Hellickson doesn't need to improve. Obviously he has to find a way to limit the long balls. While he has exceptional control, limiting the free passes, he still needs to work on his command. In other words, he's throwing it in the strike zone with great consistency, but they're not necessary all quality strikes. This explains, in part, the difference between his high-A and AA experiences: the more advanced the hitter, the more likely he is to punish a pitch that hasn't been commanded well. He'll likely always be a flyball guy, but if Hellickson can work the lower half of the strike zone more effectively, the home run total will go down.
For 2009, Hellickson will be back in Montgomery for another crack at the Southern League. If he's not serving up as many home runs and he finds some better luck(his 2008 BABIP with the Biscuits was .358) then he's looking at a promotion to Durham around mid-season. He'll be added to the 40-man roster next off-season and should see action in some capacity for the Rays in 2010.