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Prospect Retro: Jon Garland

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Prospect Retrospective: Jon Garland

Jon Garland (AP photo)

Jon Garland was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in the first round in 1997, 10th overall, out of high school in Granada Hills, California. Sent to the Arizona Rookie League, he pitched quite well (2.70 ERA, 39/10 K/BB in 40 innings). I didn't give grades to first-round draft picks back then, but a retrospective grade heading into 1998 would have been Grade B.

Garland's first experience in full-season did not go particularly well: he posted a 4-7 record and 5.03 ERA in 19 starts for Rockford in the Midwest League. His velocity was reportedly way down, into the mid-80s on occasion. His stock with the Cubs sank quickly, from "untouchable" at the beginning of the year to being shipped to the White Sox for middle reliever Matt Karchner in a stretch run trade. He went 1-4 in 5 starts for Class A Hickory after the trade, with a 5.40 ERA. I gave him a Grade C in the 1999 book, concerned about his drop in velocity, low strikeout rate, and poor H/IP ratios (160 hits in 134 innings). I did make fun of the Cubs for trading him for Matt Karchner.

Garland rebounded in 1999, posting a 3.33 ERA and increased strikeout rate for Winston-Salem in the Carolina League. He went 3-1 in 7 starts after promotion to Double-A. The good news here was that he was quite young for Double-A (still just 19), although his ratios took a hit after the promotion. I gave him a Grade B heading into 2000, with the note that his career "could take any number of paths" and that the statistics were giving mixed signals. At least his velocity was back up.

Garland moved up to Triple-A in 2000, posting a 9-2 record and 2.26 ERA for Charlotte at age 20, fine performance no question. However, his K/BB was 63/32 in 104 innings. . .the K/IP being below league average, and a marker that he would likely struggle if promoted to the Majors. Indeed he did, going 4-8 with a 6.46 ERA in 13 starts for the White Sox.

The White Sox used him as a swingman in 2001, then he moved into the rotation full time in 2002. He went 36-36 with a 4.66 ERA over the last three years, basically an average pitcher. But he seems to have broken out this year and is on pace to have an excellent season.

Garland's minor league track record is marked by durability and adequate performance for a young pitcher at high levels. His K/IP ratios have never been particularly impressive, even in the low minors. His minor league track record, as mentioned above, gave mixed signals; many similar pitchers fail to develop.

Even this year, with a 5-0 record and 1.38 ERA, his 17/6 K/BB ratio in 39 innings isn't that great. . .the walk rate is low but the strikeouts aren't high. The big improvement this year has been in his control, as he's cut his walk rate significantly, thus reducing his ERA. He may be a bit hit-lucky right now, and will need continued offensive and defensive support to maintain his momentum.

Comparable Pitchers to John Garland, through age 24 (based on Sim Score and PECOTA)

Jim Bagby
Jerry Walker
Melido Perez
Bob Friend
Dan Petry
Kevin Gross
Matt Keough