I figured we'd attack the prospects coming back in the Hunter Pence andMichael Bourn trades like we did the draft. Next up is Brett Oberholtzer, where we look at his ceiling, floor and ETA to the majors. This is the start of the return in the Bourn trade, which I was pretty openly disappointed in. Let's see if Obiehockey can change my mind.
What can two MPH do? It's the difference between taking a prospect like Brett Oberholtzer seriously and one like Dallas Keuchel for granted. It's the difference between Obie's 7.5 K/9 rate in his minor league career and Keuchel's 6.5 K/9 rate.
There's a lot more to it than just that, but the two pitchers of similar ages, having both gone to college and reached Double-A, are similar in most things but their velocity. Oberholtzer is considered the best prospect Houston got in the Michael Bourn trade, even though he's projected as a back-end starter or long relief guy. The reason for that is Obie's fastball is clocked from 87-92 MPH while Keuchel sits 86-88.
Because Obie has hit above 90 on the radar gun, there are people who are more bullish on him. But, if he cannot maintain a fastball around 90, his ceiling is much, much lower. His curve and changeup are both good pitches, but are not spectacular. They are solid pitches, which is a great description for Oberholtzer. He's a solid pitcher who presents a low ceiling but a fairly solid floor.
Oh, and he's got a bad body, but it doesn't seem like most people are concerned.
With three pitches and a pretty durable frame, Obie should be able to pitch either as a fifth starter or as a reliever. Obviously, he'll need some work to see if he can stand up to pitching on a relief schedule, but I can easily see him filling in the Aneury Rodriguez role from this season, or the role we envisioned for Ryan Rowland-Smith during spring training.
I don't have much hope for you here. In his big test this season pitching at Double-A, Obie's strikeout rate fell under 7 and his walk rate nearly doubled. He's still maintaining a fairly good ERA, but that's because of his ridiculously low home run rate. Even with a lowered K rate, his FIP is still about half a run lower than his ERA. The consensus (and I mean everyone) thinks Obie's ceiling is as a No. 4 or No. 5 starter. If you have thoughts that Obie may turn out like Jamie Moyer or Cliff Lee, don't. Both had higher K rates in the minors than Obie. To be more than a back-of-the-rotation guy, you have to miss bats. Doesn't seem like Obie can do that enough to be a star.
ETA To Majors
Plug in his ETA with his floor and there's a lot to like with Oberholtzer. He could be taking J.A. Happ's place in the rotation by next season (or Wandy's...or Myers'). He could also break camp as a long reliever in the bullpen if the team thinks he's made good enough progress in his time with Corpus this season.
Bibliography and video after the jump...
He works with an 88-93 MPH fastball, and has a solid slider and changeup combination, along with a decent curve a few times a game. He throws strikes and profiles as a number four starter. I had him a Grade C+ pre-season and see him in the C+/B- range right now.
Oberholtzer is the best part of a package that also included righthanders Paul Clemens and Juan Abreu and outfielder Jordan Schaefer. Oberholtzer profiles as a No. 3 or 4 starter as a lefty with three solid-to-plus pitches in a 90-92 mph fastball, slider and changeup.
For me, Oberholtzer was so overhyped that it became kind of comical when I finally made the trip to watch him throw. In Chattanooga, I saw a bad-bodied pitcher with a relatively flat fastball get hit around by a poor offensive team. Oberholtzer featured a good change, but I do not know how he will work enough counts to his favor to throw it effectively.
Oberholtzer is hardly sexy, but he's a 230-pound beast built to eat innings with three average pitches that he throws for strikes. He has the potential to reach the big leagues as a fourth starter at some point in 2012.
The best player coming back to the Astros is Brett Oberholtzer, a command-and-control lefty who'll pitch at 87-92 mph with an above-average cutter and changeup; he profiles as a back-end starter, maybe a fourth guy in a mediocre rotation.
The junior college product was having a solid year in the Southern League when he was included in the Deadline deal that sent Michael Bourn to the Atlanta Braves in July. He has the chance to have at least three above-average Major League pitches. His fastball is in the 87-92 mph range, he's got a solid cutter and his changeup is an above-average offering as well. He mixes his stuff well, and it all plays up due to his outstanding command and control. His ceiling is somewhat limited -- he's more of a pitchability type -- but he could be pitching in the middle or back end of a rotation by 2012.