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#3 Prospect - Chris Tillman - RHP


Tony-OH

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I really question whether any scout can pinpoint whether a pitcher's ceiling is a no. 1 vs. a no. 2. That's a very fine distinction, and different people mean different things when they refer to a "no. 1 starter" or a "no. 2 starter" anyway.

Just by example, what has Kenny Rogers been in his career? Jamie Moyer? Mike Mussina? Cliff Lee? Andy Pettitte?

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I really question whether any scout can pinpoint whether a pitcher's ceiling is a no. 1 vs. a no. 2. That's a very fine distinction, and different people mean different things when they refer to a "no. 1 starter" or a "no. 2 starter" anyway.

Just by example, what has Kenny Rogers been in his career? Jamie Moyer? Mike Mussina? Cliff Lee? Andy Pettitte?

This is why I prefer top of the rotation starter. Some people get all bent out of shape if you say a guy is not a #1, but a #1 pitcher can mean different things to different people.

To me, a true number one ace is a guy who usually has a dominant fastball, and two other plus pitches with command who will normally get you seven innings. There are always guys like Maddux who don't fit the dominate fastball category yet have had true number ace seasons, but they are normally few and far between nowadays.

BTW, to me all the guys you listed above have been number two starters at best. Remember, there's nothing wrong with being a number two starters in the major leagues.

I prefer to list guys as top of the rotation, middle of the rotation, and 5th starter type.

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I really question whether any scout can pinpoint whether a pitcher's ceiling is a no. 1 vs. a no. 2. That's a very fine distinction, and different people mean different things when they refer to a "no. 1 starter" or a "no. 2 starter" anyway.

Just by example, what has Kenny Rogers been in his career? Jamie Moyer? Mike Mussina? Cliff Lee? Andy Pettitte?

I think there is a clear distinction in the scouting world between a true #1 and a #2. The confusion is that there are a lot of pitchers at the top of their rotation that aren't #1 guys from a scouting perspective. Also, scouting projections are never set in stone. You tend to see a fair number of pitchers with #1 ceilings, but a much fewer number actually projected to be #1s.

Kenny Rogers was never a #1 by scouting standards.

Mussina was a #1.

Lee is not a #1, though his stuff bumped up a bit this year. I doubt he repeats.

Moyer was not a #1.

I definitely agree there is confusion in how fans tend to use the term "#1 starter" and agree with Tony that it's safer in general to just say "front-end".

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I think there is a clear distinction in the scouting world between a true #1 and a #2. The confusion is that there are a lot of pitchers at the top of their rotation that aren't #1 guys from a scouting perspective. Also, scouting projections are never set in stone. You tend to see a fair number of pitchers with #1 ceilings, but a much fewer number actually projected to be #1s.

Kenny Rogers was never a #1 by scouting standards.

Mussina was a #1.

Lee is not a #1, though his stuff bumped up a bit this year. I doubt he repeats.

Moyer was not a #1.

I definitely agree there is confusion in how fans tend to use the term "#1 starter" and agree with Tony that it's safer in general to just say "front-end".

Your answer is along the lines I would have expected and it illustrates the ambiguity here. Take Moyer for example. He was in the top 10 in the league in either wins, ERA or both in 7 different seasons. He's 48th all-time in wins and 5th among active pitchers. So, how is he not a no. 1?

Well, the answer is he didn't scare anybody with his fastball. Therefore he didn't have a "high ceiling."

Tim Hudson - 6th rounder

Brandon Webb - 8th rounder

Jake Peavy - 15th rounder

Chris Carpenter - 15th rounder

Were any of them said to have a "no. 1 ceiling" when they were drafted?

My point is not to criticize the scouts. My point is to say that the term "ceiling" is very misleading IMO. There are many, many pitchers who exceeded their so-called ceiling. In which case, the term ceiling makes no sense at all.

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I'm sorry, but what, exactly, was Bavasi smoking before he agreed to that trade?! :scratchchinhmm: Adam Jones and one of the top 5 pitching prospects in all of baseball? And, Butler, Mickolio, and Sherrill - who could still end up turning into another prospect. Crazy.

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Your answer is along the lines I would have expected and it illustrates the ambiguity here. Take Moyer for example. He was in the top 10 in the league in either wins, ERA or both in 7 different seasons. He's 48th all-time in wins and 5th among active pitchers. So, how is he not a no. 1?

Well, the answer is he didn't scare anybody with his fastball. Therefore he didn't have a "high ceiling."

Tim Hudson - 6th rounder

Brandon Webb - 8th rounder

Jake Peavy - 15th rounder

Chris Carpenter - 15th rounder

Were any of them said to have a "no. 1 ceiling" when they were drafted?

My point is not to criticize the scouts. My point is to say that the term "ceiling" is very misleading IMO. There are many, many pitchers who exceeded their so-called ceiling. In which case, the term ceiling makes no sense at all.

As stated, Mussina had #1 potential and I think he reached it. Your statement that Moyer wasn't a #1 because "he didn't scare people with a fastball" is a little simplistic. He wasn't a #1 because he couldn't miss enough bats. Maddux generally didn't scare people with his fastball but he could miss bats.

I honestly don't remember the stated ceilings of those players you listed. I think Webb was a 2-way guy at Kentucky and was solid. I'm not sure anyone expected his sinker to become plus-plus with plus-command, but I don't know.

Peavy was a solid HS arm that dropped due to signability.

I don't know about Carpenter.

I greatly disagree with your last two sentences. The number of players who fail to reach their ceiling is exponentially larger than the number of players that blow through their ceilings, generally. Further, it matters when you're stating a ceiling. Stating a ceiling for a 23-year old AA arm is easier than a 16-year old kid from Venezuela. I think you're generalizing a bit and I don't think it's an accurate depiction of the scouting world, or the use of "ceiling" or "#1".

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As stated, Mussina had #1 potential and I think he reached it. Your statement that Moyer wasn't a #1 because "he didn't scare people with a fastball" is a little simplistic. He wasn't a #1 because he couldn't miss enough bats. Maddux generally didn't scare people with his fastball but he could miss bats.

I honestly don't remember the stated ceilings of those players you listed. I think Webb was a 2-way guy at Kentucky and was solid. I'm not sure anyone expected his sinker to become plus-plus with plus-command, but I don't know.

Peavy was a solid HS arm that dropped due to signability.

I don't know about Carpenter.

I greatly disagree with your last two sentences. The number of players who fail to reach their ceiling is exponentially larger than the number of players that blow through their ceilings, generally. Further, it matters when you're stating a ceiling. Stating a ceiling for a 23-year old AA arm is easier than a 16-year old kid from Venezuela. I think you're generalizing a bit and I don't think it's an accurate depiction of the scouting world, or the use of "ceiling" or "#1".

I certainly agree with you that there are way more guys who fail to reach their projected ceiling than guys who exceed it. But I do think there is an inherent bias in the way most people (not necessarily you, or even most scouts) use the term. It seems like to most people, if someone can throw 98 mph they have a high ceiling, even if they have no idea where the ball is going. Whereas if someone throws 90 mph and has pinpoint command, they can't have a high ceiling, and at best they are a no. 2. The concept seems to be that velocity can't be taught, but command can be acquired through good coaching and practice, and that a guy who has great velocity but mediocre to poor command has a better chance of gaining the command he needs to become a great pitcher, than does a pitcher with mediocre velocity but very good command. But I'm honestly not sure that's the case. The road is littered with the Daniel Cabreras of the world, and if I had a dime for every time I heard about his "high ceiling" I'd be a millionaire.

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I certainly agree with you that there are way more guys who fail to reach their projected ceiling than guys who exceed it. But I do think there is an inherent bias in the way most people (not necessarily you, or even most scouts) use the term. It seems like to most people, if someone can throw 98 mph they have a high ceiling, even if they have no idea where the ball is going. Whereas if someone throws 90 mph and has pinpoint command, they can't have a high ceiling, and at best they are a no. 2. The concept seems to be that velocity can't be taught, but command can be acquired through good coaching and practice, and that a guy who has great velocity but mediocre to poor command has a better chance of gaining the command he needs to become a great pitcher, than does a pitcher with mediocre velocity but very good command. But I'm honestly not sure that's the case. The road is littered with the Daniel Cabreras of the world, and if I had a dime for every time I heard about his "high ceiling" I'd be a millionaire.

I generally agree with this. I think part of the issue is that someone who throws 98 inherently has a high ceiling. They have one attribute that makes them a good candidate to be a #1 starter. However, this ceiling has to be taken into context by examining the likelihood that the player reaches that ceiling. Personally, I handle this by setting a ceiling of "front-end" and projecting to a specific starter #. Generally, the difference between a #1 and a #2 is command and the quality of a third pitch (and that is very general). These are usually among the last to develop so it's hard to start projecting #1 until a player is at AA at least (unless it's truly a special talent -- Price, Strasburg and Porcello are recent cases).

Looking at it in practice, I've made it through the Orioles, Rangers and White Sox farm systems so far in my review. I have 18 (I believe) starters with front-end ceilings. The floors and projections range all over the place:

Floors (general explanation of what the projection means to me)

Closer (potentially dominant closer) - 1

Bullpen (2-inning guy or low-leverage arm) - 12

Middle-relief (7th inning to set-up arm) - 1

Late-inning relief (potential set-up or closer) - 2

Back-end (#4 or #5 starting pitcher) - 1

Mid-rotation (#3 or #4 starting pitcher) - 1

Projections

#1 starter - 1

#2 starter - 4

#3 starter - 8

Late-inning reliever (high-leverage reliever; setup or closer) - 2

Power arm (7th inning guy to closer depending on command, usually) - 3

Now, if I were important enough to have a chat on ESPN and someone asked me what sort of upside any of these 18 kids had, I'd could say #1 starter, depending on the phrasing of the answer. I think people read chats and articles and quick write-ups and cling to ceilings without taking the full picture into account.

Anyway, that was long and rambling -- apologies. That's where I'm coming from on this issue.

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Why wouldn't Mussina be a #1 starter?

You can certainly build an argument that Mussina was an ace at one time, but he's a tinman who never wanted the pressure of being the guy. He's the guy who pulled himself out of close games here in Baltimore and then would pout when the bullpen blew his wins.

Part of being a true number one ace is attitude as well. There are lots of very good pitchers like Mussina who have had number one starter season, but that doesn't mean they were true aces.

Really a lot of this is semantics. Mussina had a plus fastball back in the day and two plus pitches in his knuckle-curve and changeup. I guess if I take away the fact that he left a team to become a number 2 or 3 starter on another team, then you can build a better case for him as an ace in my opinion.

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Going back to Tillman, I could give him a #1 ceiling if I saw more velocity or better command of his pitches, but since he doesn't get a plus-plus in either catcgory, it's hard to give him that ceiling.

To me he's got a plus fastball and plus curveball and average change. to reach his ceiling of a number two starter he'd have to develop better command of all three pitches and be able to his change to be a plus pitch as well.

That's why a lot of scouts see a number three starter which is a guy with two plus pitches and decent command.

Now, if he suddenly starts sitting at 93-95 and touches 96-97 he now has a plus-plus fastball and with improved command, his ceiling would move up.

Basically he needs plus-plus something.

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You can certainly build an argument that Mussina was an ace at one time, but he's a tinman who never wanted the pressure of being the guy. He's the guy who pulled himself out of close games here in Baltimore and then would pout when the bullpen blew his wins.

Part of being a true number one ace is attitude as well. There are lots of very good pitchers like Mussina who have had number one starter season, but that doesn't mean they were true aces.

Really a lot of this is semantics. Mussina had a plus fastball back in the day and two plus pitches in his knuckle-curve and changeup. I guess if I take away the fact that he left a team to become a number 2 or 3 starter on another team, then you can build a better case for him as an ace in my opinion.

You are entitled to your opinion, though I definitely feel you have some bias because you didn't like him personally and felt betrayed when he left the Orioles.

I just don't agree at all with your statement that he was a "tin man." Mussina had 10 full seasons with the Orioles. In those 10 years he was in the top 10 in IP six times (including a 1st, 2nd, 4th and 5th) and the top 10 in complete games 5 times.

Have a look at his 1995 season. That year he threw games of 140, 138, 134, 133, and 130 pitches, and 8 other games over 120 pitches. If an Oriole pitcher throws even one game like that now we're ready to call the manager insane!

In those 10 years Mussina received Cy Young votes in 7 of them, and was an all-star 5 times. If that isn't a no. 1 starter then the term is meaningless.

P.S. -- Have you read Living on the Black, John Feinstein's nook that follows Mussina and Glavine through the 2007 season? Pretty interesting insight into Mussina's personality.

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