Josh Hancock was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fifth round in 1998, out of Auburn. He pitched 17 strong innings in his pro debut for the GCL Red Sox and Lowell in the New York-Penn League, but would rate as a Grade C prospect, lacking exceptional stuff and needing to show what he could do at higher levels.
Hancock started 25 games for Augusta in the Sally League in 1999, going 6-8, 3.80 with a 106/46 K/BB ratio. He allowed 154 hits in 140 innings. His K/BB was good, but his K/IP was mediocre and he gave up a lot of hits. At this point he was still a Grade C prospect, lacking exceptional stuff and needing sharp command to survive.
Moved up to Sarasota in the Florida State League in 2000, he went 5-10, 4.45 in 24 starts with a 95/37 K/BB in 144 innings, 164 hits allowed. Similar performance to '99, slightly weaker ratios as you'd expect from better competition. He faced the Double-A transition, which would make or break him as a prospect. Still Grade C.
Hancock adjusted well to Double-A in 200, going 8-6, 3.65 with a 119/37 K/BB in 131 innings. He still gave up more than a hit per inning, but his strikeout rate rose and he had no problems adjusting to the better competition. I gave him a Grade C in the 2002 book, noting that he was "capable of sneaking up on people."
Returning to Trenton in '02, he posted a 3.61 ERA in 14 starts and earned a promotion to Triple-A, where we went 4-2, 3.45 in eight starts although his K/BB deteriorated. He made three appearances for the Red Sox that summer and pitched well, then was traded to the Phillies for Jeremy Giambi during the winter. I was starting to like him more at this point, increased his grade to C+ and wrote that while he didn't have exceptional stuff, he knew how to pitch and could make an effective long reliever or spot starter.
Hancock spent most of 2003 in Triple-A, going 10-9, 3.86 in 27 starts with a 122/46 K/BB in 166 innings. He pitched well in two games for the Phillies. Again I gave him a C+, and again I wrote that he could be a decent utility pitcher if someone gave him a chance.
2004 was a split season between Triple-A Scranton, Philadelphia, and Cincinnati. He made nine starts with the Reds, going 5-1, 4.45. He split '05 between the Reds and Triple-A, then earned a spot in the Cardinals bullpen in '06 and was an important contributor.
Hancock is a good example of how a Grade C/C+ pitching prospect making adjustments and taking advantage of an opportunity when it finally came along.
Career Minor League Record: 46-50, 3.98 in 878 innings, 668/255 K/BB.
Career Major League Record: 9-6, 4.25 in 165 innings, 101/54 K/BB.
Rest in Peace, Josh.