There are 3 teams in MLB that I follow closely. The RedSox, Braves and Yankees.
The Sox because I grew up in the burbs of Boston, the Braves because I have lived in Atlanta since 1990, the Yankees just to keep tabs on the rivals.
All three teams have exceptional starting pitching prospects currently.
For the Sox, Clay Buchholz:
Buchholz threw a no-hitter in 2007 as a rookie. Last year was a disaster, 2-9 record with a 6.75 ERA. He went into the offseason with work to do to regain confidence and find his approach again. He was lights out in spring training but ran into a wall of starters ahead of him. In AAA Pawtucket (Redsox) he is 5-1 1.94 so far this year and has been quoted as getting impatient in his quest to make it back to Boston. The added time in the minors has not been a bad thing for Buchholz as there will be some doubters when he does make it back to the majors. He needs to continue to improve and be absolutely ready when his chance comes up.
His chance may come up sooner than later. The big unknown for the Sox is what will John Smoltz bring to the mound tomorrow (6/25) against the Nationals in his first start in over a year. With DiceK going on the DL, Buchholz is one injury away from getting called up. If Smoltz doesn't continue to be healthy or anything pops up on the other starters Buchy is next in line.
I would expect him to be called up before too long, it is too much to ask that the rotation stay intact for the season.
For the Yankees, Joba Chamberlain:
Joba remains a mystery to me. The hype is huge, he is huge (not CC huge though). Chamberlain remains on a innings/pitch count to protect against further shoulder injuries. In 2008 he was 4-3 2.60 in mostly relief (setup). 12 of his 42 appearances were starts. In 2009 he began and remains as a starter and is 3-2 with a 3.89 ERA. Some would say that is what they would hope for as he progresses. I wonder whether the innings/pitch counts coupled with his increase in walks this year are keeping him from performing better. He has 37 walks through 69 innings pitched this year, last year he ended with 39 walks through 100 IP. Chamberlain at some point will need to be given the ball like they have done with Sabathia. It won't be this year but he needs to become the type of pitcher that pitches into the 8th inning with the dominating stuff he has it is getting underutilized as he pitches 5 or 6 innings now. The upside is huge for Chamberlain, whether he builds the stamina and control to allow him to get there remains to be seen. The last thing on Chamberlain I want to comment on is his maturity. He goes over the top when he gets a strikeout, often yelling/screaming and pumping fists. The Yankee fans will point to Jonathon Paplebon of the RedSox and say "same thing". I get that, don't like it for Paplebon either but there is a difference when a closer in the 9th does it, and does it against a rival or in a tight spot vs. a starter doing it in the 4th inning. Maturity may be the key for Chamberlain both in his control and pitch count as well as overall poise on the mound.
For the Braves, Tommy Hanson:
Last night Tommy Hanson pitched his 4th game in the majors, he shut the Yankees out through 5+ innings and got his 3rd win against no losses. He hasn't pitched well yet but has wiggled out of jams he has put himself into. His walks are way up compared to his minor league stats and he hasn't found a rythym yet in the majors. Watch out when he does. Like Chamberlain, he can throw 100 mph and has nasty breaking stuff too. While Hanson is in Atlanta to stay (no reason to move him back down to AAA) he will be monitored over the season most likely on success and confidence. He seems very poised for a 22 yr old. He is pegged as the anchor of the Braves staff for years to come. Chipper Jones was quoted on the radio yesterday as being amazed that Hanson is so poised and doing well without yet pitching the way he is capable of pitching. Quite high praise from a hall of fame hitter.
With each of the three teams I follow closely having a stud young pitcher it will be exciting to follow their careers. While the Sox and Yankees will get more attention because they share a division, I hope the Braves can again soon be contenders to give Tommy Hanson the spotlight I think he will deserve.
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