Diamond Cutter Scouting Report: David Price

December 29, 2012
David Price is one of the best young pitchers to enter the league in years (keithallisonphoto.com).

David Price is one of the best young pitchers to enter the league in years (keithallisonphoto.com).

Name: David Price | Organization: Tampa Bay Rays
Position: Pitcher | Drafted: 2007 1st Round (1st Pick)
Bats: Left | Throws: Left | Height: 6-6 | Weight: 215

When the Tampa Bay Devil Rays once again had the number one overall pick in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, it was no surprise when they chose a lanky-lefty from Vanderbilt. The 6-foot-6 college star named David Price was a shoe in to be the first overall pick in the draft. This kid is not only good, he’s the best pitcher to come out of college in many, many years. So what makes him so special?

History: David Price has been dominating hitters for as long as anyone can remember. His stellar career started off in the small town of Murfreesboro, Tennessee pitching for Blackman High School where he would compile a 0.43 ERA and 151 strikeouts. Price would also win many, many awards for his efforts including the Rutherford County MVP Pitcher in 2003 and 2004, the Co-District 7AAA Pitcher of the Year in his senior season, the Rutherford County Male Athlete of the Year in 2002, 2003, and 2004, and also received the honor of playing in the 2004 High School All-American Game his senior season. All of this success at such a young age was only the beginning for Mr. Price.

Just as Price had set records and won awards for his brilliance on the mound in high school, he would continue this as he attended Vanderbilt University. As a freshman, Price received the honor of being named a Freshman All-American by both Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball after posting a 2-4 record, a 2.86 ERA, and racking up 92 strikeouts in only 19 games and 69.1 innings. The following season Price didn’t have as dazzling of a stat line, but he did set a school single season record with 155 strikeouts (he also only gave up 43 walks for a 3.6 K/BB ratio) including one game with 17 against Arkansas.

As impressive as his first two college seasons were, he definitely saved the best for last. In his junior season (which would be his last collegiate season) Price would go 11-1 with a 2.63 ERA and would shatter his old school record as he lead the nation with 194 strikeouts (his K/BB ratio this time was an unbelievable 6.26). Price would win many awards that season but none greater than his winning of college baseball’s top honor, the Golden Spikes Award. As sad as Vanderbilt’s team was to see him go, it was time for him to move on.

Before we get into the 2007 draft, it is important to note Price’s great work while playing for our country. In 2005 Price was a member of the United States National team where he went 2-0 with a 1.26 ERA and 39 strikeouts. Then in the summer of 2006, Price helped the United States win the gold medal in the World University Championships in Cuba. Price would post impressive numbers again going 5-1 with a minuet 0.20 ERA. The world was now on notice of just how good this kid really was.

With a laundry list of awards, achievements, and records attached to his name, David Price had pretty much made a fool-proof case for himself to be drafted first overall in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft. So with Tampa Bay possessing the first overall pick, it was a no-brainer for them to choose the dominating lefty. Price would go on to sign his first ever contract on August 15, 2007 for six-years and $8.5 million. This of course came with a $5.6 million signing bonus which stands as the second highest bonus in MLB history behind Justin Upton’s $6.1 million following the 2005 draft. This was the third highest guaranteed contract ever for a draft pick and was well worth the money for such a special talent.

To see what this much money gets you (other than the obvious that we just covered) is a player with a glimmering scouting report. The Diamond Cutter scouting report that I have built shows not only how talented this kid is but, as scary as this sounds, show’s he still has a little room for improvement.

Scouting Report: Price’s money pitch has always been his dominating plus-fastball which sits at about 90-94 mph (it can sometimes reach upwards of 95). As a lefty, what makes him even more difficult to hit is that his fastball has excellent tailing action that moves away from right-handed hitters. This really gives no one, right or left-handers, any advantage. The two other pitches he mixes in are a 77-79 mph slurve and a plus-slider that ranges around 84-86 mph. He uses his slider very well in two-strike counts making it very difficult for hitters expecting a fastball. Price is also working on a changeup pitch to add to his arsenal (one of the areas for improvement I mentioned). Right now it is average at best but if he can work on not tipping it off by dropping his arm slot when throwing it, he could develop it as a third plus-pitch making him even more difficult to hit. This is one area the Devil Rays organization will be working very closely with him on.

Another area that can sometimes hamper Price is his control. While it doesn’t happen much, occasionally he can lose control of the strike zone and start allowing walks to pile up. This happens when his mechanics begin to get shaky and he loses his fluid delivery. He very rarely walks hitters which can be seen with his very low BB/9 ratios so as long as he can keep his rhythm going with this delivery he will be just fine.

Price has the make-up, the athleticism, the overpowering stuff, and mentality to be a frontline starter in the Majors for many, many years. Once he harnesses his developing changeup as a third plus-pitch, he will be virtually unstoppable and one of the elite pitchers in the game.

With a glowing resume like this its no wonder that once Tampa Bay learned they had the first overall pick that they knew they could put their feet up and relax. Because when a star like this falls into your lap it tends to make your job very, very easy.


Hughes to Start, Joba to Set-Up?

February 3, 2010

Is Chamberlain Heir to the Closer Throne in NY? (Keith Allison/Flickr)

Joel Sherman of the NY Post states that the New York Yankees appear to be set on how to use their two prized young pitchers.

According to Sherman it will be Phil Hughes who will be taking the fifth spot in the Yankees rotation and not Joba Chamberlain as many were expecting. Chamberlain looks headed to the bullpen to be the set-up man for Mariano Rivera and perhaps getting him ready to take over once the future Hall of Famer finally hangs up his nasty cutter.

One thing that confused me a bit was this statement from Sherman:

Because aren’t the 2010 Yanks much better if both Joba and Hughes are in the bullpen? Think about it.

I thought about it and yes, the idea of it would be magical. But you know what? Eventually the Yankees have to decide what exactly it is they are going to do with these guys. Moving them in and out of the rotation and holding them to silly “rules” or pitch counts is only going to hurt them in the long run. Figure out what they are best fit for, make your decision and stick to it.

I analyzed the move of Joba to the rotation last June and Phil Hughes bullpen vs. starter debate last July over at BDD.

If you look based on numbers, both are best fit to be relievers. As a starter Joba loses a lot of velocity and doesn’t appear to have the stamina to get far into games (of course this could be attributed to being bounced around from the rotation to the bullpen). Then Hughes seems to lack the ability to adjust his approach as he faces hitters a second and third time through the lineup.

Either way you slice it, the Yankees need to figure these two out now before its too late and two fantastic arms are not allowed to live up to their potential and essentially wasted.


Sheets Signs with Oakland

January 27, 2010

By now you’ve heard about Ben Sheets’ one-year, $10 million contract he just signed with Oakland. But what you may not know is what makes Sheets such a special pitcher. Here’s my scouting report on the right hander:


NAME: Ben Sheets
POSITION: RHP
BORN: 7/18/1978
AGE: 31
BATS: Right
THROWS: Right
COLLEGE: Northeast Louisiana
MLB DEBUT: 4/5/2001

2008 MLB STATISTICS
GM IP W-L ERA SO K/PA BsRA9
31 198.1 13-9 3.09 158 19.5% 3.56

When Ben Sheets is on the mound he’s been fantastic. The problem over his career has been keeping him healthy enough to be on the mound. Although he has missed time, the number of games has gone up each of the past three seasons. In 2006 he appeared in only 17 games, 2007 he found the mound in 24 games and a career high 31 times in 2008. So while the trend has gone up, the lingering worry still hangs over his head. Just ask the Brewers and their fans.

Although when Sheets is on the mound he’s a true ace. Sheets has a 3/4 arm slot delivery which produces an impressive fastball. The fastball sits in the low to mid-90’s with great life both up and down in the strike zone. Sheets also has the ability to locate his fastball consistently on both sides of the plate and even can add a little cut motion to it. The former Brewer also possess a huge plus-power curveball with a fantastic downward drop and a changeup with solid fading action which he disguises well with an arm speed similar to his fastball.

As you can see when Sheets is on and healthy he can be one of the best pitchers in the game. Sheets is also a great competitor and wants to win with everything he has. This makes him a great addition to any club. I’ve always enjoyed watching the righthander on the mound and I highly suggest trying to find an archived game somewhere on MLB.com or iTunes and checking him out.

[Photo courtesy of: Scott Abelman/Flickr]


Thome Slugging in Target Field?

January 22, 2010

Jim Thome has been the biggest Twin killer of them all over the past decade (Keith Allison/Flickr).

I’ve seen numerous reports this afternoon popping up around the Internet that the Minnesota Twins may be close to signing the veteran slugger Jim Thome.

Not only would this type of a signing be uncharacteristic of the normally frugal Twins, but it would also make a very left handed heavy lineup even heavier. The Twins currently have an abundance of lefties including Denard Span, Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Justin Kubel in their starting lineup.

It’s unclear whether Thome would slide into their DH role (which would surely bump Delmon Young to the bench) or if he would simply play a major role off their bench.

The Twins have most likely jumped in on Thome due to the declining dollar amounts in the free agent market and possibly the fact that Thome has been a Twin killer over the years. In only 662 career at-bats against the Twins, Thome has posted a .311/.410/.628 line with 57 HR and 142 RBI. Now that’s a vicious thrashing he’s given them over the years.

The bottom line is as a lifetime die hard Twins fan, a Jim Thome signing would shock me only to follow that up with a big smile.


Phillies, Blanton Avoid Arbitration with 3-Year Deal

January 21, 2010

Blanton has been "Mr. Consistency" during his stretch with the A's and Phillies (scot2342/Flickr).

Philly.com: “The Phillies just announced the team has reached a three-year extension with pitcher Joe Blanton worth $24 million. Blanton, who was set to be a free agent after the 2010 season, had requested $10.25 million in salary arbitration.”

Diamond Cutter Spin: Well I can’t argue with this decision as the Phillies make a solid baseball decision by locking Joe Blanton (12-8, 4.05 ERA, 163 K in 31 starts) down for three more years. The nice thing about Blanton is that not only is he an innings eater (averaging 203.2 innings per year over past five years since becoming a starter) which the Phillies desperately need due to their weakened bullpen but he is also the model of consistency winning between 12-16 wins four of past five seasons with an ERA right around four.

Blanton is the type of pitcher every club should clamor for. He’s as solid a number three guy in your rotation as you can ask for and has been healthy ever since becoming a starter with Oakland back in 2005. Plus this also solidifies their rotation for the next three seasons as their top four starters are all locked up through 2012.

The Phillies are definitely the team to beat in the NL East once again in 2010.


Is 2010 Clay Buchholz’s Year?

January 20, 2010

Buchholz can handle the pressure of the big stage.

So is 2010 finally the year that Clay Buchholz takes that big step towards super stardom?

I feel funny asking that question of a guy who threw a no hitter in his second big league start. But then again, the way hyped-up prospects have a way of occasionally fizzling out, it may never happen.

To me I don’t think this will be the case. I don’t see Clay Buchholz being another big name, sure-fire, can’t miss prospect that dwindles away into obscurity. Not this kid. I just see too much potential in him and too much talent in the that right arm for him to not make some sort of impact in baseball.

I have scouted many players up close and from a distance during my time as a fan and a writer and Buchholz is one of those guys I have watched extra close. This is because I have been impressed with him and what he can do on the mound. Here are some of the detailed notes on Buchholz as a pitcher that I have taken over the past few years of watching him throughout the minors as well as in a Red Sox uniform…

Pitch Repertoire

The Fastball
• Buchholz has a nice combination of a two and four-seam fastball that sit anywhere in the low to mid-90’s. His two-seamer has the better movement and can bust in on lefties while the four-seamer could use a little more movement on it to make it more effective. He also works his large arsenal of pitches off of his fastball very well thanks to the great movement on his secondary pitches.

The Change-up
• Right off the bat Buchholz has a major weapon with this pitch due to the fact that he has one of the best change-ups in baseball. The pitch settles in right around 80 mph which he uses as one of his two out pitches and is almost unhittable when he is on with it. What makes it so hard to hit is that he disguises it so well with his normal delivery that it becomes very deceptive and keeps hitters off balance when expecting a fastball.

The Curveball
• Almost as good as his change-up, Buchholz’s knee buckling curve freezes hitters in their tracks. It’s a hard breaking 12-to-6 overhand curveball that just drops right off the table. Like his change-up, he uses it as his out pitch (depending on which pitch is on that night) and will usually sit in the 76-81 mph range. With a solid fastball and one other out plus pitch, being a batter and worrying about a second out pitch can’t be easy.

The Slider
• As Buchholz’s fourth pitch, his slider comes in somewhere in the low to mid-80’s. Right now it is an above average pitch but shows the potential to be yet another plus pitch. As scary as that sounds, his slider has continued to improve over the past few years and isn’t far off from being yet another plus pitch to add to his bag of tricks.

Pitcher’s Makeup

Buchholz has a wonderful delivery (hubertk/Flickr).

The Delivery
• Buchholz’s delivery looks like you are watching an instant replay on a loop. He has a very repeatable motion after some great strides towards improving it over the course of the last couple of seasons. His delivery melds perfectly with his pitches as he’s able to throw his fastball and change from the same arm slot with the same motion to help make it that much more difficult to pick up. The only concern I have with his delivery is the high arm angle that he pitches with. It could be an issue down the road with injuries so it is something they will need to keep an eye on.

The Mechanics
• Just like his delivery, Buchholz is very much under control with his pitches. He has solid mechanics from the moment he starts his movement all the way until he releases the pitch.

The Big Game Factor
• Buchholz is built to be a big game pitcher for the blood thirsty Red Sox Nation. This kid does not rattle easily and has the presence on the mound to pitch in a very intense city like Boston.

FINAL GRADE

From what I’ve seen over the years is a young pitcher who is confident on the mound with some fantastic pitches at his disposal. Buchholz has a lot of pressure on him with big expectations from a very impatient fan base along with not a lot of room for learning on the job. The Red Sox need every win they can get in the ultra competitive AL East as well as a slew of veteran pitchers they bring in each year making it difficult for Buchholz to really feel comfortable.

Coming into 2010 I expected Buchholz to be a big piece to the Red Sox rotation. But with the signing of John Lackey this may make it difficult for him to get a spot once again. I do believe that before the end of the year, we will have seen Buchholz get an extended period of time on the mound and he will have seen that young kid from 2007 show us why he is a big part of Boston’s future.

And if you ask me that’s a pretty nice place to be.


Tommy Hanson 2010 Outlook

January 18, 2010

Hanson has arrived (Suss-Man/Flickr).

The history of stellar young pitchers developed through the Atlanta Braves organization is well documented. The Braves’ newest anointed future ace has already started his career off very strongly and looks to build on this success during his sophomore season.

With Tommy Hanson the Braves are hoping this tall, lanky right hander turns out to be that future ace. Hanson has a plus-fastball with good movement in the mid-90’s, a solid change, and a “knee-buckling” curve that is one of the best in the game today to top things off. He has a very commanding presence on the mound which when coupled with the ability to throw all his pitches for strikes makes him very difficult to hit.

After finally getting the call last June, Hanson went on to dominate in his starts which helped give the Braves a late season surge towards the National League wild card. While the Braves fell short of the playoffs, they got a glimpse into what kind of an arm this young kid has and how well he fits into their future plans.

So what can we expect from Hanson heading into his first full season in the big leagues? Here’s a look at how Bill James, CHONE and I, the Diamond Cutter, project his numbers to look:

2010 PROJECTIONS
LIST W-L ERA IP SO WHIP
Bill James 14-7 3.30 191 206 1.15
CHONE 9-8 3.91 152 158 1.30
Diamond Cutter 16-8 3.15 198 210 1.14

As you can see, I believe Hanson will have a very successful sophomore campaign for the Braves. CHONE doesn’t see Hanson pitch quite as much this year whether that means they see him skipped in the rotation or shut down early. For me I don’t think Atlanta will even have the option to shut him down as he will emerge as their best pitcher and I believe they will be in the wild card hunt through September. He will be that big of an impact in Atlanta.

The biggest deciding factor on Hanson’s success will be how he makes adjustments now that the league has seen him and will have even more exposure as the season goes on. This is such a telling time for a young pitcher as they learn how to adjust to the big leagues.

Luckily for the Braves Hanson is a very smart pitcher.


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