Wednesday, February 13, 2008

What Happened to Todd Van Poppel?

I posted an article about Todd Van Popp el on Wax Heaven about a month ago, and I recently got a request to re-post it here on The Prosp ect Corner. Originally, I wrote about Van Poppel because of a previous article I had written about Joba Chamberlain that was picked up by The Baseball Think Factory, where it was listed under the title Joba Chamberlain: The Next Rocket or the Next Todd Van Poppel? In the article I had mentioned that Chamberlain matched up well with Clemens, but I didn’t include anything about Van Poppel, so I wrote this article as a follow up to clarify my break down of Joba. Anyways, here’s the Van Poppel bit…

I was about 10 years old when the Van Poppel craze began, so naturally I don’t remember much about that event in baseball history. However, looking back at his stats, it’s difficult for me to imagine what all the fuss was about. Van Poppel’s A- number were good, but after that his BB/K ratios completely fell apart and he never put up any kind of “elite” numbers that would have given any support to the hype surrounding him. Even if I had remembered to include Van Poppel on my “bust” list, his stats are not at all comparable to Chamberlain’s.

Apparently, when the A’s signed Van Poppel, they signed him to a major league contract and not a minor league contract. Consequently, the A’s could only use a limited number of minor league options on Van Poppel, so they had to rush him through the minors and he never really had time to develop. In scouting reports, Van Poppel was described as having a blazing fastball with no movement, which helps explain the discrepancy between his A- numbers and the rest of his career. I’m not sure what other pitches he developed, but they obviously weren’t good enough to compliment his fastball. Van Poppel also suffered from set-backs due to injury, and that probably added to his demise.

Looking at Van Poppel’s stats got me thinking about a few other pitching “busts” of the last 20 years and one of the first names that came to my mind was Brien Taylor.

Taylor was signed the year after Van Poppel, and had similar hype surrounding him. After his year at AA ball, Taylor suffered a torn labrum in a fight and his numbers only got worse after his stint in rookie ball at the age of 23. His labrum tear was supposedly one of the worst ever seen by doctors and considering that the success rate today for labrum tear surgeries is about 70%, it’s easy to assume that 15 years ago the success rate was much lower. In a sense, Taylor was a bust, but really he was just a kid that lost it all due to one bad decision in a heated moment.

While I feel more assured in my analysis of Joba Chamberlain (at the very least we know he most likely will not be the next Todd Van Poppel), I am interested to know if there are other pitchers out there that I missed that posted similar numbers to Chamberlain but went on to have mediocre careers. I’m sure they are out there, so if you find any, let me know.


Anonymous said...

Thank God for Van Poppel's father. Because of his arrogance the Atlanta Braves selected Chipper Jones instead of Van Poppel :-))))).

Anonymous said...

I don't think Todd Van Poppel's lack of experience in the minor leagues had a thing to do with the fact he wasn't any good. He had something like a dozen years to learn his craft at the major-league level, and you can't get any better experience than that. He never did get much better. There are some guys who can throw 95, but still don't have the ability to pitch well in the major leagues. Todd Van Poppel was just one of those guys, and for a dozen years, teams just refused to accept that fact because of his early reputation. Scouts don't like to admit they were wrong all along.

Anonymous said...

He had a couple of really good years as a reliver for the Cubs. His pitches just didn't have enough movment to trick major league hitters. If it's straight they will always catch up to it.