Madison Bumgarner is a hyped pitching prospect who fantasy owners have been waiting on since the day he was drafted tenth overall in 2007. With a 27-5 record to go along with a 1.65 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in 273 minor league innings, who can blame them?
The Giants seemed reluctant to push the 19-year-old to the major leagues in 2009, but when the opportunity presented itself, it was hard to resist. He made four appearances (one start), showing just what all the hype was about. He posted a 1.80 ERA and 1.10 WHIP, striking out ten batters while walking just three.
It was just a taste of what he could potentially bring to the table, but it certainly was enough to make all the doubters salivate over what could be.
He’s ranked by Baseball America as the team’s second best prospect heading into 2010, but that’s only because of the presence of all world catching prospect Buster Posey. In almost any other organization he’d be considered the top prospect.
Baseball America recently described his strengths saying, “At his best, Bumgarner has shown a mid-90s fastball, a slider with good tilt and an average changeup. His heater has late giddy-up and he has advanced command of it. His easy, three-quarters delivery adds deception. He works the ladder, loves to throw upstairs and gets the ball inside against lefties and righties alike.”
The speed on his fastball was down upon his debut in the majors, averaging just 89.2 mph. Obviously, it was late in the season and he could have just been wearing down a bit. It’s little to worry about at this point.
One thing that should be watched closely, however, is the fact that he threw 64.5 percent fastballs in his 10 innings of major league work. Baseball America also noted that he “defaults to his fastball when he gets in jams.” That’s something that needs to be changed.
You cannot go up there and be predictable, especially when working with people on base. Major league hitters study film and trends. If they can go up there and anticipate what you are going to throw, it’s not going to matter how good your stuff is. You are going to get hit, and likely, you are going to get hit hard.
He needs to work on his secondary pitches. He needs to gain confidence in them to throw them when he is in a jam. Considering how he’s pitched at this point, it makes you wonder just how dangerous he could become with a little more time under his belt.
Some people think the ceiling is pretty high, like the manager of the Augusta Green Jackets, Andy Skeels, who told mlb.com, “I’m running out of superlatives. I’ve never seen a player do the things he’s done. I’ve never seen a player grow that fast and quickly. What he did was staggering...That’s an unstoppable force, when you have that kind of talent and that kind of desire to get better. I think he’s going to be a very special player for a very long time at the Major League level.”
With his stuff you can easily believe that, but his attitude makes him seem like he could be so much more. In the same mlb.com article (where he was ranked as the sixth best prospect in baseball heading into 2009), Bumgarner was quoted as saying, “If you don’t believe in yourself, you’re not going to be able to get it done...There’s a lot of improvement to make. Even if I had a 0.50 ERA, there’d still be room to improve.”
That sounds like a pitcher who is going to continue to work hard, continue to look to improve. With the stuff that he’s already shown, that combination makes him awfully scary.
While it’s likely he gets another opportunity to show off his stuff in 2010, he’s could ne ticketed to open the year in Triple-A. At this point, his only experience above Double-A was the ten innings in the major leagues last season. With the growth he needs to make, focusing more on his secondary pitches, that’s something to learn in the minors instead of against the best hitters in the game.
Before long, he’s going to get his chance, however. Those in long-term keeper leagues should already have him stashed. If you are in a yearly league, monitor his progress in Spring Training and early on in 2010. As soon as he’s ticketed for the major leagues, do not hesitate to grab him.
What are your thoughts on Bumgarner? Is he someone worth stashing? How good could he be?
Make sure to check out the 2010 projections we’ve already posted: