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Prospect Retro: Roy Oswalt

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Roy Oswalt (ESPN photo)

Prospect Retro: Roy Oswalt

This is one of my favorites.

Roy Oswalt was drafted by the Astros in the 23rd round in 1996, from high school in rural Mississippi. Scouts were aware of his arm strength, but many teams were skeptical about him since he is not a tall pitcher. He went to Holmes Community College, then signed as a draft-and-follow the following spring. He made his pro debut in '97, going 1-1, 0.64 in 5 starts in rookie ball (28/7 K/BB in 28 innings), then 2-4, 4.53 in 9 starts in the New York-Penn League (44/15 K/BB in 52 innings). This was before I did much work on short-season players, and he was not in the '98 book. Retrospectively, I would have given him a Grade C or C+ due to his K/BB ratio.

Oswalt split '98 again between the Gulf Coast League and the NY-P, and again he pitched well. He went 4-5 but with a 2.18 ERA in 11 starts for Auburn, with a 67/31 K/BB, allowing only 49 hits in 70 innings. I put him in the book, without a letter grade, but with the notation that he could "come on real quick" in '99.

He did just that, going 13-4, 4.46 in 22 starts for Class A Michigan. Now, you look at the 4.46 ERA and think "that's not that great," but in this case his W/L record was actually more representative of how well he pitched. He posted a strong 143/54 K/BB in 151 innings. I gave him a Grade C+ in the '00 book, but again praising him as a sleeper to watch.

Oswalt broke through in '00, starting off 4-3, 2.98 in 8 starts for Class A Kissimmee, then going 11-4, 1.94 with a 141/22 K/BB in 130 innings for Double-A Round Rock. "Buy Roy Oswalt stock," I wrote in my book for '01, giving him the coveted Grade A rating and ranking him as the ninth-overall prospect in the game. Among RHP prospects, I ranked him 4th, behind Ben Sheets, Josh Beckett, and Jon Rauch (ooops!)

Oswalt began '01 in Triple-A, posting a 34/6 K/BB in his first 31 innings and earning a trip to Houston, where he went 14-3, 2.73 in his Major League debut. He has been one of the best pitchers in the National League ever since.

Comparable Pitchers to Roy Oswalt, based on Sim Score and PECOTA, no active pitchers included.

David Cone
Don Newcombe
Freddie Fitzsimmons
Kevin Appier
Bob Welch
Bill Monbouquette
Jack McDowell
Dennis Leonard
Jose Rijo
Don Sutton

Wow. When the worst pitchers on your comp list are 20-game winners Bill Monbouquette, Jack McDowell, and Dennis Leonard, you have a bright future. Not bad for a 23rd round draft-and-follow pick considered too short to be an early draft choice, eh?