This is a new feature on the site, mainly because we're still in the doldrums of prospect season and we want to get discussion going. We'll be going through the alphabet in October and November to pick one prospect a day before our top prospect coverage starts in December. There's no real rhyme or reason to who we'll talk about, and we're open to suggestions for some letters.
Before the season, it seemed that Montgomery could boast arguably the best rotation in the minors, headlined by Matt Moore and Chris Archer and with Nick Barnese and Joe Cruz ready to break out. But while Moore exploded onto the season to pitch seven shutout innings in Game 1 of the ALDS, the other three failed to take off.
After finished 2010 in the Southern League as a member of the Cubs organization, Archer was primed for a mid-season jump to Durham. But he struggled with his control: 86 walks, 10 hit batters, and 18 wild pitches in 134.1 innings with the Biscuits, and got bumped to Durham only for his final two starts. In some ways, it wasn't surprising. With Tennessee in 2010, he had walked 5 batters per 9 innings; his overall "improvement" in that department was solely from his time in the Florida State League.
Additionally, Archer's strikeout rate was a career-low 7.9 per innings. The good news here is that he's still got the potential to dominate. His fastball and slider both rate as at least plus pitches, though unsurprisingly he needs to do a better job of getting ahead with the fastball so he can unleash the slider. His change-up made some progress but still grades out below-average. He showed what he can do in his final start of the year, in the playoffs with Durham, when he struck out 11 in 5.2 innings.
One comparison that jumps to mind is Edwin Jackson. The two have similar stuff (hard fastball, power slider, iffy changeups), both are athletic, and both had trouble throwing strikes. Jackson did limit the walks to 3.2 per 9 as a 19-year-old in the Southern League, but obviously had some issues at other points in his career. He made the big leagues at age 20, but wasn't a regular starter until age 23 and probably wasn't truly "ready" until age 24. I think you'll see the same thing with Archer. He'll pitch all of next season at age 23 and be ready for a big-league spot in 2013 as a 24-year-old.
What do you guys think of Chris Archer?