Selected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2007 draft, David Price enjoyed a meteoric rise to the major leagues after beginning his professional debut at High-A Vero Beach. While he would ultimately serve as a late-inning presence in the Rays’ bid for a World Series later that season, it was clear that the left-hander’s highest ceiling was as a starter.
With a three-pitch mix consisting of a plus fastball, plus slider and an above-average to plus changeup, Price has been one of the game’s top pitchers in each of the last three seasons.
The 6’6” southpaw enjoyed his best season in 2012, as he was 20-5 with a league-leading 2.56 ERA and 205/59 K/BB in 211 innings. In addition to being named to his third consecutive All-Star team, the 26-year-old also received the American League Cy Young award for his superb season.
Not surprisingly, if one looks to the minor leagues, it’s difficult to identify another left-hander with the polish, arsenal and ceiling of Price. However, here are five pitching prospects in which I see at least some similarity.
Scouting Report: The 6’6” left-hander projects through the roof, but it may take him a while to get anywhere close to his high ceiling. Despite a long, lanky frame, Owens repeats his mechanics better than any stats suggest. He has huge stride toward the plate that aids his overall deception and, in turn, makes his entire arsenal play up. I like his arm angle and ability to deliver on a downward plane.
He's a strikeout artist with an impressive three-pitch mix. His fastball typically sits at 88-92 mph and can be difficult for hitters to pick up out of his hand. He will occasionally flirt with 94-95 mph.
His breaking ball flashes above-average potential and he’s adept at adding and subtracting when necessary. He needs to use it to back-foot right-handed hitters with more consistency.
His changeup is his best secondary pitch and projects as a legitimate plus offering. His command of his overall arsenal is shaky at the moment, but his athleticism and mechanics suggest it will improve as he develops.
Scouting Report: He has a highly projectable frame at 6’3”, 165 pounds with plenty of room to add strength. The 21-year-old left-hander has superb pure stuff, but still hasn’t learned to harness it. He registered a 3.93 ERA and .191 BAA with 107/76 K/BB in 126 innings last season for High-A Charlotte.
Fatigue may have played a part in his rough second half of the season when he walked everything in sight. He's arguably the biggest wild-card prospect in the Rays’ talented system.
Romero’s fastball is explosive and ranges anywhere from 92 to 97 mph, as he’s still more of a thrower than pitcher who will gladly let it rip. His curveball has flashed plus potential due to its velocity and downer break. Once he develops a feel for his changeup, I like its upside given his fastball velocity and fast arm.
This coming season may be his final chance to prove he belongs in the starting rotation. If not, his fastball-curveball combination could land him a spot in the Rays’ bullpen.
Scouting Report: He's an underrated southpaw who may be a steal as a former sixth-round draft pick. He's a tall, physically mature pitcher with repeatable mechanics, deception and a deep arsenal. I expect him to start moving quickly this next season as he’ll be 23 with considerable experience.
He's adept at adding and subtracting from his 88-95 mph fastball and commands it well to both sides of the plate. His changeup is a second plus offering thrown with deception, especially when used off his well-located fastball.
His slider has the makings of a legitimate out pitch and he’s comfortable using it to back-foot right-handed hitters. His curveball has some depth and he’s comfortable using it to get ahead in counts.
Scouting Report: The 6’2” left-hander had an inconsistent full-season debut in 2012. Stuff-wise, he ranked among the best in the California League; statistically, not so much.
He struggled mightily after an excellent opening month, lost a feel for the strike zone and was relegated to the bullpen, eventually working his way back into the rotation to finish the season. The 22-year-old finished with a 4.93 ERA and 5.08 BB/9, though he led the Cal League with 11.04 K/9 in 122.1 innings.
He has highly impressive pure stuff but lacks the control and command to make it truly effective. His mechanics lack fluidity and are choppy. The ball comes out of his hand with ease, but everything else involves effort. His finish is inefficient and could be simplified or at least modified.
His fastball sits in the low-to-mid-90s. He can reach back for a few more ticks in shorter stints. He manipulates the pitch in both directions by mixing in two-seamers and cutters.
His slider is filthy, a potential plus-plus pitch with a sharp, wipeout break. He induces whiffs from both right- and left-handed hitters. It's nearly a big-league ready pitch that also projects favorably out of the bullpen.
His changeup is present and improved over the course of the 2012 season. It has the potential to be a third at-least-average offering. Development of both command and control will ultimately determine whether he sticks as a starter or is expedited to the major leagues as a reliever.
Scouting Report: This 6’4” southpaw was a closer at Stanford but has been developed as a starter since turning pro. Despite the lack of mileage on his powerful arm, the Dodgers have been careful not to overwork him but haven’t shied away from aggressively moving him up the ladder.
Reed's only plus pitch is his fastball which register in the low-to-mid-90s and will occasionally scrape 96 mph. His two-seamer comes in a few ticks slower and has lots of late life to the arm side. He throws a hard slider in the mid-80s with late, downer bite, though he struggles to throw it with a consistent, tight spin.His changeup has the makings of an above-average offering and is especially deceptive when he’s locating his fastball.
If his slider and changeup develop as the Dodgers hope, Reed’s ceiling as a No. 2 or 3 starter is realistic. However, he’s progressed slower than expected and is still a ways away from the big leagues despite spending the entire 2012 season at Double-A.
It seems more likely that he’ll return to the bullpen at some point over the course of the next year.