In the first Young Pitcher Symposium last spring, we covered the following pitchers:
Going back and reading what we wrote last year is very interesting. What does the future hold?
Beckett: Continued to pitch well, though durability remains an issue. Now in Boston. How patient will Red Sox Nation be? Will Beckett ever be durable enough to be a true ace? Current Comps: Steve Busby, Kevin Appier, Jim Palmer, David Cone, Jack McDowell, Jim Lonborg, Rick Rhoden.
Harden: Almost unhittable at times last year due to improved control, although strained oblique limited him to just 19 starts. If he continues to throw strikes, he's a Cy Young candidate. Current Comps: Andy Messersmith, Steve Busby, Bill Singer, Jim Maloney, Kevin Appier, Stan Williams.
Peavy: An exceptional pitcher who would be considered a superstar already if he pitched in a market with more national exposure. Only remaining question is long-term durability. Current Comps: Andy Benes, Ramon Martinez, Don Wilson, Kevin Appier, Camilo Pascual, Tom Seaver.
Zambrano: Third straight season with 200+ innings of very good-to-excellent work. Similar pitchers include both Ramon and Pedro Martinez, Dean Chance, Don Drysdale, Jose Rijo, and Jim Maloney.
Greinke: Fell apart last year, undone by a combination of poor run support early in the year, horrid team defense at all times, and apparently his own personal doubts and demons. Can he come back? If healthy I don't see why he can't physically, but emotional issues are impossible to predict. The biggest wild card on this list. Comps are all over the place: Larry Christenson, Roger Erickson, Joe Coleman, Catfish Hunter, Rick Rhoden, Red Ruffing, Vern Law. Two Hall of Famers, some decent pitchers, and an early burnout.
Willis: Won 22 games, now has a career winning percentage of .630. Comps now include Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Robin Roberts, and Lefty Gomez, plus guys like Jim Kaat, Tommy John, John Smiley, and Ken Holtzman. The "if he gets hurt" end of the equation is Steve Avery and Jose Rosado.
Perez: Undone by injuries and problems with his control. Has two strong seasons (2002 and 2004) and two poor seasons (2003 and 2005) on his resume. Comparable pitchers are all over the place, ranging from Sandy Koufax at the excellent end, Juan Pizarro, Al Downing, and Jerry Reuss in the middle, with Pete Falcone, Jose Rosado, and Roger Moret at the scary end.
Bonderman: Continues steady, gradual improvement. I wouldn't be surprised if he stagnated at his current level and had a career as an inning-eater with decent-but-not-outstanding overall numbers, a Milt Pappas/Joe Coleman type. Tom Seaver still shows up on his comp list, but so does Clay Kirby.
Williams: Dumped by the Giants after a rough start, but did OK in Chicago. Low strikeout rate concerns me. Comp list varies from Jay Tibbs and Frankie Rodriguez on the failure end, to decent-but-not-wonderful guys like John Denny, Jim Lonborg, Mike Torrez, and Mudcat Grant.
Webb: Got his control back after some rough stretches in 2004. Durable, effective, and past the injury nexus. Comps include some very solid pitchers like Steve Rogers, Rick Reuschel, Mark Gubicza, Sad Sam Jones, and Orel Hershiser. Bob Gibson shows up as the top comp according to Sim Score. That sounds crazy, until you look at the record and realize that Webb's ERA+ for his career is 134 in 618 innings. Through his first 605 innings, Gibson's was 131.