Last night, two No. 1 overall picks faced off at Tropicana Field. And going into the Kansas City Royals and Tampa Bay Rays game, their place in the draft was just about all Luke Hochevar and David Price seemed to have in common.
Price is a success story for the No. 1 pick. The first selection in the 2007 draft out of Vanderbilt, Price was in the majors by 2008. In fact, he had the single greatest highlight in the history of the franchise by coming out of the bullpen and saving Game Seven of the 2008 ALCS, eliminating the defending World Champion Boston Red Sox.
By 2010, he was a Cy Young runner up. He is a three-time All-Star who currently leads the American League in wins and ERA. He is everything a team could hope for in an ace pitcher.
He is everything that Luke Hochevar has not been in his career. The first pick a year before Price, Kansas City selected him in 2006 over players like Evan Longoria, Tim Lincecum and Trevor Cahill.
He was in the majors by 24, but clearly was not ready. Posting ERAs of 5.51 and 6.55 in 2008 and 2009, he looked like a bust.
He went into last night's game with a 7-11 record and a 5.24 ERA; yet another disappointing year for the 28-year-old.
Last night's matchup of Price and Hochevar looked like a mismatch and another win for the charging Rays.
Price was indeed brilliant, throwing eight innings of three-hit, shutout ball, striking out eight and walking none. Against a pitcher with an ERA north of 5.00, that would probably win 19 out of 20 games.
But the other No. 1 pick drafted from a Tennessee college (UT at Knoxville) was up for the challenge and his place in the draft. Hochevar matched Price's eight innings, striking out 10 and letting up a single hit.
Unfortunately for Hochevar, he would not get a decision for his efforts. But by keeping Tampa Bay off the board and negating Price's efforts, the Royals were able to win the game in extra innings and keep Tampa Bay from pulling within three of the Yankees.
There is hope for Hochevar. His ERA was 9.00 after his first six starts this season and he looked like a candidate for a release.
Since then, his ERA is now finally under 5.00. He has had seven starts of seven innings or more, plus five more starts of six innings.
Plus, he seems to rise to the occasion against Tampa Bay as he had in last night's terrific performance and a complete game shutout on June 25th to his credit.
Maybe he is coming into his own. Perhaps, he may never be an ace. But if he can become a solid starter for the rest of this year and next, Kansas City might finally have some value for their pick.