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Prospecting: The Lefties

The Phenom The  First Round Pick

Considering that their major league roster is home to arguably the third most accomplished lefthander in baseball, and that an Astro had the second-greatest season by a lefthander in the twentieth century within recent memory, it's got to be a little ironic how weak the organization has become when it comes to lefties.  It was a weakness that was partially addressed, at any rate, last June, when the Astros with their first pick took. . .

  • Brian Bogusevic At the Ryan Camp; In Sickels' book
          Number Nine on
    Baseball America's organizational list

0 - 2, 7.59 at Short A Tri-City in 2005; 17K/9BB/30H in 21-1/3 IP
Yikes. Those are scary numbers for your first round draft pick, and the man to whom the Astros gave the second largest bonus in their June draft history.  Sickels isn't panicking, saying that the Astros kept Bogusevic on a short leash, and that he was tired after pitching 130-1/3 innings at Tulane AND playing rightfield for the Green Wave on the days he wasn't pitching.  

Fair enough, but I might note that Jason Hirsh threw 100 innings for Cal Lutheran in 2003, then went 3 - 1 with a 1.95 over 32 innings with the ValleyCats that summer.  I don't imagine that the hamstring injury Bogusevic suffered during the first half of the 2003 NCAA season became chronic; I guess I don't imagine anything bad at all.  I guess I agree with Sickels and the Astros, and expect to see Bogusevic light it up at Lexington.

  • Mark McLemore At the Ryan Camp
5 - 6, 2.81 at AA Corpus Christi in 2005; 65K/34BB/59H in 73-2/3 IP
McLemore spent 2004 at the inaugural Ryan camp, and he responded to the organization's confidence in him with his best season by far.

McLemore has always had a decent fastball, but a slider first implemented at Salem in 2004 helped McLemore emerge as one of the elite lefthanders in the Texas League in 2005.  The slider is not a hammer, but it stays down, and while it doesn't bring the big K numbers, it helps keep the ball in the park for McLemore.  To wit, he had the second best ERA at Corpus Christi among those who had any starts, but was only tenth in K/9IP. He was seventh in WHIP, but fourth among regulars in HR/9IP.  

This would all be great news, except that he had surgery to repair his shoulder in June.  Rotowire had it as a torn labrum, but the hometown Caller-Times had it as bicep tendinitis, and I'm going with that.  

Assuming that McLemore can recover from his injury, he appears to project as a middle reliever because of his low power totals.  But it is at the least interesting, the marked increase in success he has seen since becoming a starter midseason 2004.

  • Troy Patton At the Ryan Camp; In Sickels' book
          Number Two on
    Baseball America's Organizational List
5 - 2, 1.94 at A Lexington in 2005; 94K/20BB/59H in 78-2/3 IP
1 - 4, 2.63 at High A Salem in 2005; 38K/8BB/34H in 41 IP
Like a nervous compulsive gambler who can't enjoy his hot streak because he fears the inevitable "corrective," the only thing that worries me about Troy Patton is that it's gone almost too perfectly.  

Drafted in the ninth round of 2004, but signed with third round money to defray his UT scholarship trump card, Patton pitched six games at Martinsville that summer, and shortly thereafter found himself tagged number five in the organization.  Another summer gone by and he's at number two. Another year at this pace, and Troy'll find himself declared "savior of the organization and East Texas" by none other than Drayton McLane.

You're afraid the wave is gonna break and roll back, you know?

But enough silly superstition.  So far in his professional career, Patton has given up six homers in 147+ innings of work; has struck out 164 while walking 33, and has given up a paltry 35 runs.  Patton has a low 90's fastball, a curve, a slider, a mien of subtle ferocity, plus a changeup he's trying to develop. The only thing he hasn't got is major league service time, and that should come soon.

If you're looking for dark horses among lefties (and I bet you might be, given the dearth of talent), you might also check out Philip Barzilla, who did good work for the Hooks after McLemore went down, and Josh Muecke, who appears to be something of an innings-eater, and spent 2005 at Salem. . . .