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Prospect Retro: Jeremy Bonderman

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Per reader request, a Prospect Retro for Jeremy Bonderman

Jeremy Bonderman was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the first round (26th overall) in 2001, out of high school in Pacso, Washington. Bonderman was the first player drafted and signed after his junior year of high school, being eligible because he had his GED and was already 18 years old. Bonderman's selection was somewhat controversial in Oakland's front office. Athletics GM Billy Beane reportedly threw a chair against a wall after Bonderman's name was called. Bonderman's last high school campaign was erratic, marked by control problems and nagging injuries. He signed too late to pitch in '01, so based on the scouting reports I gave him a Grade C+ entering '02, noting that he had a lot of physical potential but that we needed to get some objective data about him.

That data came in 2002. Bonderman was impressive in the spring, and Oakland assigned him directly to the California League. He went 9-8, 3.61 in 25 starts, with a 160/55 K/BB ratio in 145 innings, allowing 129 hits. His component ratios were all safely above average, and he impressed scouts with his low 90s fastball, slider, and changeup. His slider and changeup were considerably improved from his last year of high school, and he made major strides with his command. Despite all this, Bonderman was traded to Detroit in August, to complete the three-way Ted Lilly/Jeff Weaver/Carlos Pena trade with the Tigers and Yankees. Bonderman pitched in a pair of games for Class A Lakeland after the trade, going 0-1, 6.00. I was impressed with his overall performance and gave him a Grade B+ in the 2003 book, rating him the Number Nine pitching prospect in baseball.

The Tigers promoted Bonderman directly to the majors in 2003, skipping Double-A and Triple-A entirely. This kind of decision carries a large risk of backfire with the psychological health of a young player. Although Bonderman pitched terribly in 2003 and almost lost 20 games, he retained confidence in himself. His '04 and '05 seasons were qualified successes, as he emerged as a .500 pitcher with an ERA slightly below league average. Given his age, that's certainly acceptable, and scouts remain very high on his future.

Similar Pitchers to Jeremy Bonderman

Bob Friend
Red Ruffing
Pedro Ramos
Jose Rijo
Mel Harder
Rick Wise

Ruffing turned into a Hall-of-Famer, while Friend, Ramos, Rijo, Harder, and Wise were all solid pitchers.

If Bonderman gets through the next 2-3 years without destroying his shoulder, I think he will be quite similar to guys like Friend and Harder.