Wednesday, August 03, 2005

The Joy of (pro)Spects
By Zach

Tomorrow, if all goes well, will be the most exciting day for Mariners fans since Bret Boone "put on 35 pounds of muscle in the off-season." Prized minor league pitcher "King" Felix Hernandez will be making his big league debut in Detroit. At all of 19 years of age, he'll become the first teenage pitcher to start a game in the majors since Todd Van Poppel in 1991, and the second since Dwight Gooden in 1984.

In 88 innings this year for the Tacoma Rainiers of the (hitter-friendly) Pacific Coast League, Felix is 9-4 with a 2.25 ERA and 100 strikeouts. He has walked 48 batters, so there's at least one red flag. Stats can be found here.

The Baseball World in general has been drooling over this guy. 2 years ago, Baseball America said "Hernandez has scary upside. He’ll open this season as a 17-year-old and he doesn’t need to develop any more stuff."

He throws a moving fastball in the mid-to-upper 90s, a hammer curve at 82-84, and apparently has a slider that the team won't let him throw for fear of injury, but it apparently might be his best pitch.

Mariners fans were buzzing during spring training because he seemed to pitch well enough to at least merit some consideration as a potential starter for the club. Of course, that's not too impressive considering they started the year with Aaron Sele (released), Ryan Franklin (suspended), and Joel Pineiro (sucks) in the rotation. Still, the M's wisely sent him to AAA, where they could more closely monitor his innings, and give him some more time to develop.

But now he's getting his shot. I don't really remember Ken Griffey, Jr making his debut in 1989 (I was 6), and Alex Rodriguez was a call-up in the lost year of 1994. Needless to say, with the massive increase in available information about the minor leagues, this probably qualifies as the most anticipated debut in team history.

As recently as 2003, August was more about trying to make the playoffs then calling up prospects for the Mariners. But with the team in last place, it's nice to see do-nothing big leaguers like Aaron Sele, Pat Borders, Bret Boone, Ron Villone, Randy Winn, and others get traded, cut, or both to make way for the future of the team. Guys like Yuniesky Betancourt, Chris Snelling, newly acquired Yorvit Torrealba, Jorge Campillo, and the King make me a lot more interested in following this team. And you'd better believe I'll be checking the Gameday stats tomorrow at 1.


Blogger Pete Nussbaum said...

While King Felix' debut is highly anticipated, it's nowhere near the hype Griffey had in 1988. I was 16 in Seattle then, and Griffey had been awaited eagerly ever since he was the #1 pick overall a couple of years earlier.

I think the big difference is that the Mariners at that time had one highlight in 15 years - Gaylord Perry winning his 300th game. That was it. All those losing seasons meant that Griffey was our first shot at optimism in almost two decades. Felix is entering a team that has sucked for 2 years, but which is coming off a run of 10 years that saw plenty of playoff games, all-stars up to our eyes, and guys like Johnson, A-Rod, Boone, and, of course, Junior.

Sorry, youngster, but there's no comparison here.


6:00 PM  
Blogger Zachary Geballe said...

Hey, I'm not usually one to undersell my favorite player ever, but perhaps I should have been clearer. The King's debut will be the most anticipated in MY memory. I guess there are some perks to youth.

6:08 PM  

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