Here’s a scouting report on a 23-year old pitcher:
…His stuff is exceptional: blazing fastball, inhuman slider, outstanding command of the strike zone. Tough, hard-nosed, intelligent. Healthy. If you can find a hole in his statistical record, please drop me a line. He has great control, he gets lots of strikeouts, he doesn’t give up many hits. His strikeout-to-walk ratio was the best in [Double-A] last year, 195 percent above league average, and it didn’t deteriorate very much when he moved up a level. Think about command and control of that magnitude, combined with his stuff. Everything in his record indicates that [he] will be a star…
Joba Chamberlain? Nope, it’s from the STATS Inc. 1996 Minor League Scouting Notebook. It’s a report on Paul Wilson (then of the Mets).
Here’s a scouting report on a 22-year old pitcher:
…[He] is probably the best pitching prospect in baseball, and will earn a rotation spot [this season with his big league team]. [He] has everything you look for in a young pitcher: velocity, control, intelligence, a record of success. He was bothered by bicep tendonitis in spring training but when he took the mound at [Triple-A], he was outstanding. He was named the Best Prospect in the International League by Baseball America. [He] has a 94-MPH fastball, a very good slider, a good curve and a pretty good changeup. He throws them all for strikes, and there were no dents in his numbers; his K/BB in particular was wonderful at +125 percent…
Phil Hughes? Nope, it’s from the STATS Inc. 1998 Minor League Scouting Notebook. It’s a report on Carl Pavano (then of the Expos).
Here’s a scouting report on a 21-year old pitcher:
…He has the complete package: 90-MPH fastball, curve, slider, changeup, command, control, intelligence, and good mechanics. His stats at [Double-A] were great: K/BB +108 percent, K/IP +53 percent, H/IP +23 percent, all near the top of the scale for [Double-A] pitchers. He was named the league’s No. 2 prospect by Baseball America and was rated the best pitching prospect and the pitcher with the best control in BA’s midseason survey of managers. He also has a good move to first base…
Ian Kennedy? Nope, it’s from the STATS Inc. 1999 Minor League Scouting Notebook. It’s a report on Bruce Chen (then of the Braves).
Where am I going with this? Just some food for thought.
A pitching prospect can have a great pedigree – and can be dominant in the minors – and appear to be ready to contribute at the big league level, immediately, and for the long term. But, then, something happens. Maybe they get hurt? Maybe they just can’t translate that minor league success to the major leagues on a consistent basis?
I can discount what Phil Hughes did in the minors during 2004 and 2007 because we’re talking about just a handful of games in those seasons. But, without question, from 2005 to 2006, Hughes was the king of minor league pitchers. The numbers that he posted, and his age, scream out that he was dominant – as dominant as dominant can be on the mound. But, still, that was 43 games worth of pitching – half of them in A-ball.
Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, in 2007, were like Hughes in 2005-2006. The numbers that they posted, and their age, scream out that they were dominant – gain, as dominant as dominant can be on the mound. But, 2007 was Chamberlain’s first and only season in pro-ball – and that was only 112 innings pitched on the year. Kennedy did pitch in 2006 – but, that was only one game. Basically, he’s like Joba – with 2007 being his first and only true season in pro-ball. And, last year, Kennedy threw 165 innings on the year.
Think about this for a minute. Based on 43 games in the low minors from Hughes, one season and 112 innings pitched from Chamberlain, and one season and 165 innings from Kennedy, many Yankees fans are willing to take the “dominance” from those minor league experiences and label these pitchers as being major league stars in the very near future.
By doing so, are they making the same mistake that some once made with Paul Wilson, Carl Pavano and Bruce Chen?
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that Chamberlain, Hughes and Kennedy are the next Wilson, Pavano and Chen. And, if they do turn out to be the next Wilson, Pavano and Chen, it would be a nightmare for me – as I am a Yankees fan. But, still, I think we, as Yankees fans, have to realize that it is possible that one, two, or maybe all three of these prized prospects of ours just may end up injured and/or not able to repeat their brief minor league “dominance” at the major league level for a prolonged period of time.
At one time, Paul Wilson, Carl Pavano and Bruce Chen, based on their great pedigree and dominant numbers in the minors, appeared to be ready to contribute at the big league level, immediately, and for the long term. It didn’t happen. At that time, very few expected that it would not happen for them. How could anyone, then, have expected it? There were no clues. They were as close to “can’t miss” as you can get – in terms of young pitching prospects. But, they missed.
Hey, it’s great to believe in young arms. Heck, it’s great to believe in anything. But, at the same time, one should always try and learn from the past – even those situations which seemed like they were impossible probabilities. Anything is possible.
And, any Yankees fan who doesn’t realize that anything is possible, good, great, bad or terrible, when it comes to the big league careers of Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes, and Ian Kennedy is living on that famous river in Eygpt, Denial.