Prospect Smackdown: Justin Masterson vs. Michael Bowden

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Prospect Smackdown: Justin Masterson vs. Michael Bowden

BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES

Masterson: Justin Masterson was drafted by the Red Sox in the second round in 2006, out of San Diego State. His early amateur career was mixed; he was not a top prospect in high school and began his career as a catcher, but he took a huge step forward in the Cape Cod League in 2005 and solidified that in '06. Scouts like his work ethic and fearlessness on the mound; he doesn't get down when things go badly, obviously a positive attribute in a pitcher.

Bowden: Michael Bowden was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2005, out of high school in Aurora, Illinois. He was one of the best cold-weather high school pitchers available that year, and was well-known to Midwestern scouts. Like Masterson, Bowden has a strong work ethic and is known for his competitive fire and confidence.

ADVANTAGE: Looks pretty even to me. Both have good personality factors and neither had an abusive workload as an amateur.

PHYSICALITY and TOOLS

Masterson: Masterson is 6-6, 250 pounds, a right-handed hitter and thrower, born March 22nd, 1985. His fastball is an 89-92 MPH pitch but has ungodly sinking action. HIs slider is also very good. His changeup is still a work in progress, but it's improved. His command is a major asset, and he generates ground balls by the bushel. Many tall pitchers have trouble with their mechanical consistency, but he's had no major injury problems and appears to be very durable. He's a good athlete for his size.

Bowden: Bowden is 6-3, 215 pounds, a right-handed hitter and thrower, born September 9th, 1986. His fastball has average velocity at 88-92 MPH. It doens't sink like Masterson's, but Bowden commands it well. His curveball and changeup are both very good, and his command and control are generally very strong. He is more of a fly ball pitcher than Masterson but hasn't been overly vulnerable to the home run yet. Although his mechanics are a bit unconventional, he's had no major injury problems and appears to be very durable. He is a good athlete.

ADVANTAGE:  They are different. Neither one burns radar guns consistently, but I think you'd have to rate Masterson's fastball better than Bowden's due to the sinking action. Bowden's curveball is probably better than Masterson's slider. Bowden has a better changeup. Both throw strikes. Neither of them are super-projectable physically in the sense that they aren't going to develop much beyond where they already are physically: they aren't going to start throwing 98, but they don't really need to.

PERFORMANCE and SKILLS

Masterson: Masterson entered 2008 with a career mark of 15-9, 3.74 with a 148/42 K/BB in 185 innings, including a 4.34 ERA with a 59/18 K/BB in 58 innings for Double-A Portland last year. Though still working on the secondary pitches, he has a feel for his craft and isn't a thrower. He posted a 2.46 GO/AO ratio last year, statistical confirmation of his ground ball tendency. He has been brilliant in 2008 thus far: 23/5 K/BB in 19 innings, 0.95 ERA in Double-A. 

Bowden: Bowden entered 2008 with a career mark of 20-12, 3.44 with a 259/77 K/BB in 261 innings, including a 4.28 ERA with an 82/33 K/BB in 96 innings for Double-A Portland last year. Like Masterson, he has a good feel for his job and isn't a raw thrower. He posted a 0.74 GO/AO ratio in 2007, showing a much stronger fly ball tendency than Masterson. He has been OK in 2008, with a 3.29 ERA and a 13/8 K/BB in 13.2 innings for Portland.

ADVANTAGE: Both have a good measure of pitching skill, but I think Masterson has a slight edge statistically due to his GO/AO ratio. He won't have to worry so much about home runs at higher levels, as long as his command remains intact.

PROJECTION

Masterson: Masterson projects as a number three inning-eating, sinkerballing starter if his changeup comes around. He may end up in the bullpen, though, and he has the confidence and mentality to be a closer if necessary.

Bowden: Bowden projects as an efficient number three type starter, eating innings and throwing strikes. He reminds me of Jeff Suppan.

SUMMARY

I gave both Bowden and Masterson Grade B ratings in the book this year. Overall I give Masterson a slight edge due to his sinker, rating him as the Number 40 Pre-season pitching prospect with Bowden clocking in at Number 50. I like both of them a lot. I do have a personal stake in Bowden as he was a Shadow Draft guy for my farm system back in 2005, so I root for him.

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