Thursday, March 26, 2009
Everybody loves a good strikeout performance, and these guys can do it with the best of them. Whether it's a 3 digit fastball or a ridiculous curve, batters just don't seem to be able to keep up.
Before we get started, I want to clarify that this list is not meant to reflect the minor league players with the most strikeouts in 2008, or the pitchers that I think will have the most strikeouts in 2009. This list is a ranking of the players that I feel have displayed a capacity to become average to great major league strikeout pitchers. The factors considered included stats, scouting reports, age, competition level, and comparable players.
(*As with my power and contact hitters list, this list excludes all players that either have not played in the minors, or have sample sizes that are too small for analytical comparisons. If you would like, you can consider Stephen Strasburg the #1b pick considering his recent performances and elite scouting reports.)
Ok, now for the good stuff.
1. Neftali Feliz -- Big time stuff, with decent control to boot. At just 20 years old, Feliz can top out at a cool 100 mph with his fastball, and he struck out 33% of the batters he faced at A ball in 2008.
2. Madison Bumgarner -- For a while, Bumgarner was a pure fastball pitcher, but has since developed some decent secondary offerings. At just 18 years old, his fastball had been clocked at 95 mph, and with a 6'4", 215 lbs frame there's reason to believe he could add a bit more velocity in the coming years. Finished out A ball by striking out 42% of the batters he faced over his last 32 innings.
3. Tommy Hanson -- Though his fastball was in the low 90's as recently as last April, Hanson has been in the high 90's range for the past several months, and has been throwing a nasty slider as well. Past stats aren't great, but perhaps the best is yet to come.
4. Christian Friedrich -- Friedrich had a great professional debut in '08, striking out over 12 batters per 9 innings pitched. His fastball usually stays around the 89-92 range, but he also throws a very good curve ball that misses a lot of bats. At just 20 years old,
5. Dellin Betances -- At 6'9", Betances can be a very intimidating guy. Toss in a 98 mph fastball (although it usually doesn't break 95 in games), and a promising knuckle curve, and it looks like the Yankees might need to make room for Betances in another couple of years.
6. Gio Gonzalez -- Although his stint in the majors didn't go so well (7.68 ERA, 1.68 WHIP in 34 innings), Gonazalez still struck out a batter an inning. He's got the stuff to be a major league pitcher, and at just 23 years old he still has plenty of time to develop.
7. Jeremy Jeffress -- Depending on the radar gun, Jeffress has been clocked as high as 102 mph, and while control remains an issue (both on and off the mound), he's got tons of talent and youth on his side. At 20 years old, Jeffress struck out 30% of the batters he faced at A+ ball, and has a career K/9 or 10.4.
8. Chris Tillman -- While control remains an issue for Tillman, he put in some very nice performances at AA last year as a 20 year old, averaging 10.2 strikeout per 9 innings. Tillman tops out around 94 mph, and mixes in a curveball and change-up to keep batters guessing.
9. Trevor Cahill -- Cahill shares several qualities with Tillman, managing to dominant at times, and lose control at others. He usually works in the low 90's, mixing in several other pitches, including a knuckle curve at times, as well as a change up and slider.
10. Will Inman -- Inman had great stats at A ball in 2006 and 2007, but doesn't quite yet have the pure stuff to blow hitters away on a regular basis at higher levels. Average fastball, decent curve, lots of time to work on both, and a future career in the pitcher friendly confines of San Diego.
Almost made the list:
Jake McGee (Tommy John victim) -- likely would have made the top 5
Cole Rohrbough (ankle surgery) -- should be good to go in '09
Nick Barnese -- good stuff, but needs to perform above short season A ball
Michael Bowden -- control has steadily improved, but strikeouts have steadily dropped
Brett Anderson -- AA stats were impressive, but previous stats suggest an emphasis on control rather than strikeouts
Henry Rodriguez -- has struggled with consistency
Brad Holt -- also needs to prove himself against advanced hitters
Jeremy Hellickson -- great stuff, just missed the list
Brett Cecil -- great overall pitcher, not dominant strikeout guy (yet)