As if seeing themselves only one game behind the Yankees in the first days of August isn't exciting enough for Tampa Bay Rays fans, tonight will mark the initiation of the Jeremy Hellickson era.
Hellickson's first start is easily one of the most anticipated in the Rays brief history—right up there with David Price.
"Hellboy's" debut is long overdue.
It's a no-brainer to say, that if he were in the farm system of a team without such an arsenal of starting pitchers, he'd have had a spot on almost any other teams five-man rotation.
Like Price in 2008, he most likely will get the majority of his 2010 action out of the bullpen. Unlike Price, he will take the grand stage and start in his MLB debut.
Hellickson came into the season ranked by Baseball America as the Rays No. 1 pitching prospect, ahead of fellow Rays' rookie Wade Davis who is older than Hellickson and had a taste of the big leagues as a September call-up in 2009.
Going into 2010, he ranked as the magazine's No. 18 prospect, and the sixth overall pitcher.
The 23-year old Des Moines, Iowa born and raised right-hander, signed with the Rays in 2005 after the team drafted him out of high school in the fourth round. He didn't go sooner scouts mistakenly did not look past his lack of size or a flaming fastball.
Listed at 6'1", and 185 pounds, he wasn't exactly the 2005 prototypical first round pick. However, the emergence of Mike Leake seems to have changed the way some teams look at drafting pitchers.
In another five years, if a team is still drafting based on raw stuff rather than command, they'll most likely be looked at as old fashioned.
So what's the kid got that has everyone so riled up? Short answer: He has great deception and rarely misses the dish.
He can run his heater somewhere between 89-94. Not exactly overpowering, but it has tremendous action and accuracy. He will confidently throw it to either side of the plate, and it has great sink.
The fastball sets up Hellickson's out pitch, a wicked changeup that comes from the same arm slot as all of his pitches.
Like the fastball, he is precise and will place it on either side.
He also owns a plus curve, giving him three very solid pitches.
Like Leake, Hellickson never looks like he's pitching with max-effort, one of the most impressive aspects of his game and a main reason that creates the deception of his pitches.
Unless you get Tampa Bay or Minnesota games, it's highly recommendable that you check out Baseball Tonight and/or SportsCenter for highlights of tonight's "Hellboy" debut versus Carl Pavano and the white hot Minnesota Twins.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!