San Francisco Giants pitching prospect Madison Bumgarner has only pitched one season in the minors, but he might have to buy another trophy case if he keeps his current pace up.
In a group of some of the most talented pitchers in all of the Minor Leagues, the 10th overall selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft was voted as the minors' Starting Pitcher of the Year by a Tim Lincecum-like margin by you the people, earning 46.3 percent of the votes.
Fellow highly touted Giants pitching prospect Tim Alderson finished second in the voting with 20.7 percent.
Bumgarner, who was the South Atlantic League's Most Outstanding Pitcher and was a Topps Class-A All-Star with Alderson, had one of the most dominant seasons in recent history, going 15-3 and led all of the minors with a 1.46 ERA. He also recorded 164 strikeouts in 141.2 innings to claim the SAL's pitching triple crown.
Did we mention he did this while being one of the youngest players at the Low Class A level?
That's right. Pitching most of the year at 18 years of age, Bumgarner, who seemed to win the SAL Pitcher of the Week honor almost every other week, has now established himself as one of the best prospects in all of the minors.
On a team loaded with talented prospects, Bumgarner was the headliner every fifth day he hit the hill. Down the stretch when his team needed him the most, MadBum recorded a 38-inning scoreless streak.
In the playoffs he kept things rolling, going 2-0 in 14 postseason innings. En route to not allowing a single run on Augusta's way to claiming the Sally League title, Bumgarner led the way, striking out 16 batters.
However, when he struggled to start the 2008 season, it seemed as though the end result was not possible, allowing 10 runs in his first three outings.
"It didn't start out too smoothly," Bumgarner told mlb.com. "I couldn't imagine having a better pitching coach [Ross Grimsley]. I learned a lot from him. I don't think I could have had the kind of year I had without him.
"My slider and curve got a lot better. I didn't really have a breaking ball coming into the instructional league last year. It just got better and better [as the year went on]. It just kind of clicked. You just have to have confidence in what you're doing. If you don't believe in yourself, you're not going to be able to get it done."
The development of the slider and the curve over the next year will be the key to Bumgarner's rise through the Giants' system.
The knock on Bumgarner, especially when he was drafted by the Giants, was that he was too reliant on his heater, which can top out in the high 90s. As he moves up the ladder, the hitters will obviously get tougher, but they will also get smarter.
If he wants to keep batters from just sitting on his fastball, the progression of his breaking stuff will have to come quickly.
But undoubtedly MadBum is one to watch. Who knows—if he keeps pitching like he did in 2008, it might be sooner rather than later that he takes the hill at AT&T Park in the orange and black.