April 16, 2008 | By Alex Eisenberg
Continuing our 2008 Prospect Preview Series, I suspect the next this list will generate the most negative feedback from fans. Below are pitchers that make up who I think are among the most overrated pitching prospects in baseball. Most of these prospects are among the top-150 prospects in baseball. Not all talent evaluators rate these players high, but many do and I want to examine why they do.
With that said, let's get started.
There are several reservations I have about Lofgren:
His K-rate was slighly above average last year and has dropped each and every season since beginning pro ball, so I do question his ability to miss enough bats at the big league level.
His control has also been inconsistent throughout his minor league career:
2004 - 5.24
2005 - 4.16
2006 - 3.48
2007 - 4.18
It should be noted how he has improved over time, but last year he regressed. He was only slightly above league average in his best year. The last thing you want is mediocre control to go along with a lack of ability to miss bats.
I've seen reports that have called Lofgren's command excellent (granted this was before last year), but the numbers at the time suggested Lofgren's command was only decent. The numbers now indicate sub-par command.
Lofgren hasn't demonstrated a plus skill in terms of missin bats or control/command, but perhaps he keeps the ball on the ground? Not the case. His GB% was 40% and 42% the last two years, so he is a fly ball pitcher as well. Fly ball pitchers with average K rates and averge control don't typically do well in the majors.
Fastball - high 80s to low 90's fastball that has some movement, but lacks oomph. However, it does play up because of a solid-average change-up. He needs to do a better job of spotting this pitch or hitters will make him pay at higher levels.
Grade: 45 - 50
Curveball - his curveball is thrown anywhere from 73 - 79 mph. The pitch has decent bite to it, but can't be described as an out pitch. The pitch has a slurve-like action.
Grade: 50 - 55
Lofgren also has a slider and change-up to work with that can also be described as average. So while Lofgren has four at least average (or close to it) pitches, he does not have one plus offering to really offer though his curveball comes closest.
Mechanically, Lofgren has some interesting qualities. He has a decent tempo and a pretty short arm action, but he also doesn't scap load well. He doesn't load and unload his shoulder into release. He also short arms the ball a little bit, which could add some deception to his pitches.
Let's take a look at his lower body action. The below side shot should give us a better view:
Lofgren employs a step over move that is supposed to kickstart an aggressive hip rotation, but I'm not sure this is the case with Lofgren. You'll notice at the end of the animation that he twists his knee slightly to further quicken his hip rotation, but it takes away what should be an aggressive move into foot plant.
Also notice the hip/torso/shoulder separation. I don't see too much separation between Lofgren'ts torso and mid-section and as a result Lofgren leaves velocity on the table. When there is separation, the torso uncoils toward home plate and brings the arm along with it.
Lofgren has already filled out his frame pretty well, so I'm not sure how much projection he has left, but he is a good athlete by most accounts and could make the mechanical adjustments necessary to add more velocity. But as always, mechanical changes are much easier said than done.
Lofgren is liked by many because of his mental make-up. He is intelligent and has a great "feel" for pitching and many think his stuff plays up because of this. I completely appreciate the need for a pitcher to have a strong make-up and a great feel for pitching, but when it becomes the central argument for putting Lofgren among the better pitching prospects in the game, you lose me.
As of this moment, Lofgren he looks like a 5th starter or long reliever out of the bullpen.
6 Upside, Average Probability
4 Downside, Average-High Probability
Hochevar has very ordinary numbers for a former #1 pick. His K-rate was decent enough in AA, but dropped off in AAA. The walk rate was solid, but also dropped off when promoted to AAA. However, it is not his K and BB ratios that scare me, though they don't help. One thing Hochevar has consistently shown throughout his college and professional career is that he struggles to keep the ball in the park.
2003 (Ten.) - 1.04
2004 (Ten.) - 1.00
2005 (Ten.) - .58
2006 (A) - 1.15 (only 4 starts over 15 innings)
2007 (AA) - 1.24
2007 (AAA) - 1.71
The HRs are not just a because he is a fly ball pitcher, but because many of the fly balls hit against him become HRs. His HR:FB ratio in AA was 12.5% and in AAA it ballooned to 18.1%. There isn't any way a pitcher can get away with that at the major league level. Making matters worse is that Wichita and to a lesser extent Omaha, are mostly pitcher's park.
The numbers could be more acceptable if Hochevar had the stuff to make up for it. While Hochevar has solid stuff, it isn't top-level.
Fastball - his fastball sits in the 91 - 93 mph range and bores into right handed hitters. However, it's when he leaves the pitch up in the zone that he gets into trouble. I'm surprised he doesn't get more ground balls given the type of action the pitch takes.
Curveball - can be plus at times, but it lacks a sharp break and he is prone to hanging it. Overall, the pitch is inconsistent, similar to his fastball.
Grade: 45 - 50+
Hochevar also features a slider, which is a solid-average pitch for him, and a change-up that can be classified as average as well. So while Hochevar has a full assortment of decent pitches, he doesn't have that single out pitch, which is bascailly the same complaint I had about Lofgren.
The first thing I notice is the "tall-and-fall" attribute in Hochevar's wind-up. He doesn't really get those hips moving toward home plate and doesn't build momentum by drifting through his balance point. Hochevar is essentially stopping his wind-up and then starting again, which takes away much of the momentum he builds up before reaching his "balance point" and the end result is the quality of his stuff is lessened.
On the plus side, Hochevar does have a short arm action and a relatively late hand break to go along with a decent scap load, but the potential for more velocity is there if he can pick up his tempo somewhat and get those hps moving toward home plate before reaching his balance point.
Also worth point out is Hochevar's numbers pre-AAA, which do show him with good K and BB rates, so he perhaps was adjusting to a new level. While his BABIP of .350 in AA made him look very hittable, he was much better in AAA (.259) indicating perhaps he ran into some bad luck in AA.
Hochevar seems to be the beneficiary of his draft status right now. His upside is a #3 starter, but more likely profiles as a back of the rotation type or a long man out of the bullpen. The fact he is 24 years old gives him much less time to develop as a pitcher.
7 Upside, Low Probability
5 Downside, High Probability
Reynolds doesn't wow anybody with his numbers. He does exhibit plus control, but he doesn't miss bats as much as he needs to. As a starter at Stanford, he had a K-rate over 7 the year he was drafted. In A+ Modesto, his K-rate was below 6 and while it improved in AA, his K-rate was still just 6.22.
Reynolds relies on getting ground balls and while he does a good job getting them, the amount of ground balls he throws (57% and 53% the last two years) doesn't make up for the lack of strkeouts.
Fastball - sits around 88 - 93 mph, but his velocity was slightly down last year and that may partly be due to a shoulder injury in which Reynolds had to undergo exploratory surgery for. His fastball can be fairly straight at times, but it does have pretty good sink to it. He also has excellent command of the pitch and can spot it on both sides of the plate.
Grade: 45 - 50+
Change-up - viewed as Reynolds' lone plus pitch. Below you can see the change-up on the left and the fastball on the right. Keep in mind these clips are of Reynolds' draft video and don't take into account any adjustments he has made.
You see very similar wind-ups, similar actions on both pitches, and little evidence that Reynolds is tipping off his pitches. The difference in velocity is 7 mph, but they look to be coming in at similar speeds. His change-up also allows him to get out both lefties and righties at an equal rate.
Grade: 55 - 60
Reynolds also has a curveball that he needs to continue to tighten. His stuff plays up because of his command, but overwhelming his stuff is not. The biggest issue for Reynolds is that he doesn't have any projection left. He is essentially a finished product because he already displays plus command and an advanced feel for pitching. The only thing left for him to do is continue to refine his curveball.
Reynolds doesn't do anything that really jumps out at you. Like Hochevar, he is a little too "tall-and-fall" for me, but his tempo is faster than Hochevar's. He also gets himself into a more athletic position (more compact) than Hochevar which helps in terms of repeating one's delivery. He also does a good job of firming up his front side, which is what gives him much of his command.
The crux of the matter with Reynolds falls directly into whether he can miss enough bats at the major league level to be successful, which is compounded by the lack of projection left in Reynolds' body. The upside of an average #3 starter is there, but he more likely profiles an average back of the rotation starter.
6.5 Upside, Low-Average Probability
5 Downside, High Probability
Harrison might be the most overrated guy on this list, but he isn't as highly regarded as the others. His K-rate has been in the 6's for most of his career, and was 6.02 in AA last year. He doesn't help himself too much by keeping the ball on the ground because his GB% has usually been between 46% and 50%, which only makes him slightly better than league average at generating GBs. His stuff isn't overpowering and he doesn't have one out pitch, but he does throw 4 pitches for strikes as control is his best attribute. Harrison also has little projection left. His upside is of back of the rotation/swing man in the majors.
Mulvey was just traded to the Minnesota Twins in a blockbuster deal for Johan Santana. He is another pitcher that lacks real quality stuff, but can generate ground balls at a solid rate. Overall, his control is good though it doesn't rate as plus. His fastball is in the 91 - 94 range and has some sink to it. Like many of the others on this list, there isn't much projection left for Mulvey. While many rate Mulvey as a "safe" bet to make it as a major leaguer in some capacity, I would rather have a guy with better stuff and a higher upside even though they may be a riskier bet because of something like more aggressive mechanics or due to a lack of "polish", but that is just one way of viewing things. Others may disagree.
Check back for Part 2 of the most overrated prospects in baseball as we look at the hitters' side of the equation in the 2008 Prospect Preview Series.
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