Elite prospects who don't dominate out of the gates can fall off the radar. But there's a learning curve with any young ball player. I call the first year or two of learning in the big leagues Prospect Purgatory. There's a wide range of potential outcomes, and patience is paramount. Utilizing the qualification criteria listed below, this article is aimed at projecting how some of today's young, coveted arms will perform.
1. Age 23 or younger
2. Less than 125 career MLB innings pitched
3. Upside is as an above-average MLB starting pitcher
4. Has already pitched in the big leagues
Randall Delgado, RHP, ATL
I saw first saw Delgado two years ago in minor league camp. I loved his advanced feel for pitching, fastball movement and secondary. He's pitching with more velocity now and looks like a potential No. 2 starter. Pitching with some front-arm funk, he creates some up-front deception but he doesn't hide the ball well. His fastball sat around 93 MPH in the big leagues last year (sample size over 500 fastballs). He has a good feel for a changeup that could be above-average and his curve has progressed to the point of looking like an above-average pitch too. Delgado needs to pitch down with good angle to establish his fastball. It's not live or deceptive enough for him to leave out over the plate much.
Prediction: Though he has earned the opportunity to face big-league hitters at a young age, Delgado could have some ugly stretches this season. I like him as a No. 2-3 long-term.
Danny Duffy, LHP, KC
Quick, how many left-handed starting pitchers have fastballs that sit at 94 MPH or higher?
David Price, Clayton Kershaw, Derek Holland and C.C. Sabathia are among the few -- Matt Moore will likely be as well. Last year, Duffy's average fastball was just over 94 MPH (sample size: 1,000+ fastballs). Smooth and coordinated, he also has a curveball that will get swing-throughs and a changeup that could be above-average. He maintains a pretty good tempo and fits within the power pitcher mold stuff-wise.
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Prediction: Don't expect Duffy to be a top-of-the-rotation starter in 2012, but he could reach that plateau within a few years. Just know that he is a fly ball pitcher who will be inconsistent until he sharpens his fastball command.
Matt Moore, LHP, TB
Moore is the second best pitching prospect I've scouted in the last five years. Only Stephen Strasburg was better. He has a plus, mid-90s fastball and an outstanding breaking ball. His delivery is clean, simple and repeatable. MLB hitters swung through nearly a quarter of his fastballs last year, which puts him in Gio Gonzalez/Cliff Lee territory (elite). It's not unrealistic to project his fastball to be top three in baseball among starting pitchers over the next three years. His changeup is a pretty good pitch too. If you're looking for a weakness, he doesn't have a lot of deception, relying and velocity and location over a quick tempo.
Prediction: Already equipped with the arsenal to attack MLB hitters, Moore could make a smooth transition to the bigs and quickly surface as a top-of-the-rotation starter. It wouldn't surprise me if he pitches like a No. 2 in 2012.
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Jarrod Parker, RHP, OAK
Parker throws hard, has swing-and-miss stuff and does a good job keeping the ball down in the zone. It's only a matter of time before he gets his chance in the big leagues and shows flashes of dominance. He is smooth and balanced in his delivery, but he doesn't incorporate a lot of lower body, which, in addition to his injury history, doesn't make him the safest bet to have a long, durable career. But the stuff, arsenal depth and velocity are there. Parker missed all of 2010 after having Tommy John surgery in 2009. All things considered, he's risen through the minors very quickly (he was a high school draft pick and has less than 2.5 years of minor league experience).
Prediction: A victim of command struggles this spring, Parker has lost some of the shiny upside lore that once made him a household prospect name. That said, he's still plenty talented enough to be one of the best rookies in baseball this year. Don't sleep on him.
Drew Pomeranz, LHP, COL
Pomeranz slings the ball from a deceptive arm slot. It's not pretty or athletic-looking but it has been effective. Given his big frame and the buzz around him in college, I expected a different kind of pitcher. He's not smooth and easy, though he does have a very good curveball. His fastball gets on hitters quickly and he has shown mid-90s velocity in the past. Depending on the progress of his changeup, he may be a tempting option, ultimately, as a closer.
Prediction: Pomeranz was good enough to breeze through the minors, but I haven't seen the command or arsenal depth to feel comfortable projecting him as more than a No. 3 starter at this point.