There was some talk about Santana, but frankly I found it boring. So, I decided to talk about a different popular story from today. Baseball America took a look at 2002's hardest throwing starting pitcher prospects. And surprise, surprise, most of them have been below league average to this point.
2002's list of hardest throwing prospects includes the likes of Erick Threets, Colt Griffin, Sean Henn, Ben Howard, Seth McClung, Nick Neugebauer and Anthony Pluta. All of those prospects hit at least 98 mph on the radar gun. And most of the successful hardest throwing prospects found major league success as relievers. Bobby Jenks, Francisco Rodriquez and Brad Lidge would fall into this category.
Carlos Zambrano was on the list as well. I've never thought of Zambrano as an elite pitcher, but that's probably unfair. While I think Zambrano's pitching style is more conducive to National League success, he's been one of major league's best starters for the past five years. Over that time, he's always provided over 200 innings, usually posting an ERA in the low 3's.
Hard throwing prospects can be sexy. Chicks dig the long ball and GM's dig the 98 mph fastball. But could it be possible that an extremely hard fastball actually hurts the development of pitchers? Why work hard to develop your secondary pitches when you've been able to get by with just a fastball for most of your baseball career? Why polish your location when you can blow it by young hitters regardless of location? And these flame throwers do seem to be at a higher risk for injury than the typical pitcher.
Many flamethrowers do suffer from spotty location. Baseball America compiled a list of 23 current prospects whose fastball has been registered at 98 mph or faster. 18 of them have pitched in the minors and eight of those 18 have allowed at least a walk for every two innings of work. Red Sox propsect Daniel Bard was on the list, but I'd be surprised if he's ever a successful major league starter. Hope you see this Daniel, I'd love for you to prove me wrong.