Results tagged ‘ draft high-school pitchers ’
Will he ever make it? Is he still a prospect?
There probably has been no Oriole more disappointing over the last three seasons than Chris Tillman. After being acquired from Seattle in the Erik Bedard trade, he pitched well at AA Bowie at age 20, and then pitched dominatingly well at AAA Norfolk at age 21 in 2009. Since then, he has pitched poorly in the major leagues and has pitched steadily worse in AAA, culminating with a 5.19 ERA at Norfolk in 2011.
There’s some hope for optimism. First, Tillman’s 2011 major-league performance, while on the surface as bad as his 2009-2010 performance, showed some improvement. His walk rate dropped from 2010′s 5.2 per nine innings to 3.6, and his strikeout rate jumped from 2010′s 5.2 to 6.7. His home runs alllowed rate dropped from 1.5 to 0.7. His first start of the season was quite good (six no-hit innings against Tampa Bay) and then, after he was sent down and brought back, his first start after being recalled was quite good.
It’s certainly possible that the Baltimore Orioles have put Tillman in a position where he can’t succeed. When he has one bad start, no matter what the circumstances, there’s immediate talk of pulling him from the rotation; they had him on a much shorter leash than, say, Alfredo Simon or Chris Jakubauskas. It’s almost impossible for a young pitcher to succeed if he believes he has to be perfect. He tries to make impossible pitches and loses all sense of how he was successful in the past. He was so ineffective at Norfolk in 2011 that he could just be completely messed up mentally.
On the other hand, pitching a baseball is a complicated activity, requiring the interaction of many mechanical actions. It’s well known that a slight injury can turn even the most successful pitcher into an ineffective tosser. I speculated last year that Tillman’s difficulties may be caused by simple physical maturation; that the particular actions and forces applied that led to his earlier success no longer do because he’s stronger, or not as strong, or more flexible, or less flexible. I’m not a scout or a biomechanics expert, so I have no way of testing that theory. But if it’s true, then that’s another argument against drafting immature (i.e. high-school) pitchers in the early rounds
I think that if Tillman does pitch well long enough to accumulate some “credit”, he’ll be a good pitcher for a fairly long time. I think it’s unlikely that he’ll do so with the Orioles, a team that won’t help him succeed; but he could blossom if he gets traded to a team that will help him succeed.