Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Prospect Smackdown: Jason Knapp vs Jordan Lyles (vs Clayton Kershaw vs Felix Hernandez)

Hey everyone, I don't have a lot of time today, but I wanted to draw some attention to Jordan Lyles and Jason Knapp who are both currently pitching at A ball in the Southern Atlantic League. Both were supplemental first round draft picks (I might be wrong on that, so let me know if that isn't right), and both have been toasting the competition all season long despite only being 18 years old.

Knapp and Lyles both have their strengths and weaknesses, and I won't go into details at this moment, but they both also have a ton of raw talent. Just to give everyone an idea of how good these guys have been this year, check out the following stats.

To make things simple, Knapp has essentially produced about as well as Scott Kazmir or Clayton Kershaw's A ball numbers despite being a year younger, and Lyles' stats fall somewhere between Matt Cain, Madison Bumgarner, and possibly Felix Hernandez (although it sounds like a bit of a stretch, if we just use Lyles' May and June stats -- 12.95 K/9 with a 1.67 BB/9 and 52% ground ball rate -- we could reasonably argue that he is closer to Hernandez than anyone else on the list).

I foresee both of these guys easily making just about every top 25 prospect list next spring, and possibly making their way to the majors before they turn 21. The Phillies don't have enough quality starters to keep Knapp from rising quickly through their system, and the Astros have virtually no one standing between Lyles and the majors.

So, who's the better prospect? At the beginning of the season, I would have said Knapp. He throws in the high 90's and seems to have the most up side. However, Lyles has really turned it on over the past 6 weeks, and he seems to only be getting better with every start. For now, I'm going to pick Lyles, but I wouldn't be surprised if Knapp begins to put up 10 or more strikeouts per start on a regular basis in the second half and nab the top spot. Regardless, both are going to be very good.

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