Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Top 15 Pitchers: #5 Mitch Talbot

Mitch TalbotMitch Talbot
6'2" 175 lbs. DOB: 10/17/83
Right-Handed Starting Pitcher
Bats: Right | Throws: Right
2008: Durham/Tampa Bay
Acquired: Trade with Houston for Aubrey Huff
Originally drafted: 2002 Draft, 2nd Round, 70th Overall

In 2006, the Rays traded Aubrey Huff to the Houston Astros for Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot. Talbot was an alright prospect with Houston, but he mowed down Southern League hitters for 10 regular-season starts, and then threw two complete game shutouts in the playoffs to help Montgomery win a title. He was bumped up for Durham for 2007, where he struggled, posting a 4.54 ERA.

He was sent back there in 2008 as a 24-year old, where he fared much better. In both seasons at Durham, he went 13-9 and pitched 161 innings. But from 2007 to 2008, Talbot's BB/9 fell from 3.3 to 2.0, his K/9 rose from 6.9 to 7.9, and his WHIP fell from 1.42 to 1.24. He also saw some time with the big-league club, but he struggled mightily, allowing 12 runs in just 9.1 innings. Still, 2008 was a successful season, and he will almost definitely get another crack at things in the majors at some point in 2009.

One of Talbot's flaws is that he's susceptible for games or even innings where he just doesn't "have it." I can't find a game log to officially back this up, but I remember Talbot putting more crooked numbers on the scoreboard than anyone else. It would vary wildly from start to start: He'd throw 7 shutout innings, then allow 6 runs in the first inning his next start. Then he'd have three straight quality outings only to follow it with 8 runs allowed his next time out. This showed up in his spring training start against the Phillies, when he gave up a 5-spot in the 1st inning and then threw up two scoreless frames after it.

Talbot has a pretty wide array of pitches, but his best two are his sinking fastball and his changeup, which was named best in the Rays' minor leagues by BaseballAmerica. His struggles have come when he's lost command of the fastball, either leaving it up in the zone to be hit or missing the zone altogether. He can also sometimes lose his composure and fight himself on the mound, which could exacerbate some of those big innings he's prone to.

In an organization as saturated with starting pitching as the Rays, Talbot's future here is probably in the bullpen. He'll start 2009 back in Durham, but if he can show good command of his sinker and change-up, and maintain the curveball or slider as a third pitch, he should be among the first in line for a call-up to the bullpen. My perfect-world scenario for Talbot is an 8th-inning set-up type. Of course, that depends on him proving he can get major-league hitters out, something he's yet to really show(small sample size alert and all).

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