Saturday, April 17, 2004

John Sickels on the Ranger pitching prospects 

In his mailbag this week, John Sickels analyzes Danks, Hudgins, Littleton and Lorenzo. Those were the four pitchers the Rangers took in the first five rounds of the 2003 draft.

Perhaps the most interesting comment has to do with Danks, taken #10 overall by the Rangers, as Sickels says that "[s]couts like his personality and aptitude for pitching, and he has the highest ceiling of this quartet."

That's an interesting comment about a high school pitching draftee...as Grady Fuson has made clear, he generally steers clear of high school pitchers in the first round, although he is willing to make exceptions in special cases. Jeremy Bonderman, of course, was one of those special cases, which incurred the wrath of Billy Beane...Bonderman, however, has turned out extremely well thusfar.

What makes Danks such an interesting case study is that what he brings to the table is much different from what you normally see in high school pitchers taken at the top of the first round. Most highly-touted high school pitchers are flame-throwers, guys like Scott Kazmir, Colt Griffin, Zack Grienke, Josh Beckett, Kerry Wood...guys who have incredible arms, and who just need to learn to pitch.

Fuson's hallmark has been looking for pitchers who have "pitchability"...the ability to command a couple of pitches, a certain maturity and presence, a knowledge about how to pitch. That is going to lead you, most often, to college pitchers, who also have a much better track record of success than highly drafted high schoolers.

Danks, though, is not your typical high school pitcher. He doesn't hit 96 mph...instead, he sits in the low-90s. However, he also has, by all accounts, a tremendous curveball, along with an aptitude for pitching which most 18-19 year olds don't possess. Fuson has also commented several times about Danks "clean" delivery, which would seem to be crucial for a high school draftee, in light of the research that suggests that good pitching mechanics significantly reduces the chance of injuries which is the main bugaboo of high school pitchers.

So really, Danks, despite being a high school draftee, seems to have the repertoire and mentality of a college pitcher...and in particular, of the type of college pitcher that Fuson generally targets.

Virtually every report I've read from people who have watched Danks has been extremely positive...and while I still question the wisdom of taking a high school pitcher so high, it will be interesting to see if this, like the Bonderman pick, is another Fuson gamble that pays off.

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