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Young Pitcher Symposium: Brett Myers

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Brett Myers (AP)

Young Pitcher Symposium: Brett Myers

Phillies righthander Brett Myers had something of a breakthrough season last year, cutting almost two runs off his ERA while boosting his strikeout rate considerably. I know a lot of people expect further progress this year, which could make him an elite pitcher. Will it happen?

Myers was drafted in the first round in 1999, 12th overall, out of high school in Jacksonville, Florida. Here is what I wrote about him in the 2000 book:

"Myers was extremely impressive in the Rookie-Level Gulf Coast League, striking out 30 in 27 innings while allowing just 17 hits and seven walks. He stands 6-foot-4, already throws 92-93 MPH with the potential to get faster, and shows a good feel for his breaking ball. He's also highly competitive and has a fine work ethic. Myers is a good risk as high school pitchers go, but will have to avoid injury. The best-case scenario would have him in the majors in three years. Grade B-."

I was more conservative with new draftee grades back then. Nowadays I'd probably give a similar pitcher a Grade B or maybe even a B+ to start off.

The Phillies assigned Myers to Piedmont in the Sally League in 2000, and he did very well, going 13-7, 3.18 with a 140/69 K/BB in 176 innings. His scouting reports were excellent, and the ERA looked good, but his K/BB and K/IP marks were actually below average for the league. Nevertheless, I gave him a Grade B+ in the 2001 book, basing the grade on scouting reports and my own intuition overriding the not-that-good component numbers.

Myers skipped advanced-A in '01, moving directly to Double-A. He went 13-4, 3.87 with a 130-43 K/BB in 156 innings. Again, his component ratios weren't as good as his surface stats. His K/IP was only league average. But he threw more strikes than the previous year, and scouts still loved him. I gave him another Grade B+.

Myers split 2002 between Triple-A and the majors, then became a full-time starter in '03. He was very erratic in '04, but made major progress refining his game last season. Stuff-wise, Myers has the same 90-93 MPH fastball he showed in high school, with no drop in velocity. His breaking ball and changeup have improved, and he's added a cutter to give hitters a different look.

So, what can we expect in the future? I think Myers' best attribute right now is his durability. He's held up to a full workload every season since the age of 19, throwing no fewer than 156 innings in any season and exceeding 200 innings twice. Despite this, his fastball has not deteriorated. . .it's very common for guys to lose 2-3 MPH off their high school fastballs if they have a heavy workload, but that hasn't happened for Myers. This doesn't mean that he will remain durable, of course, but it doesn't hurt. His command has improved gradually, with a reduction in his walk rate each season in the majors.

Will he take the next step and become an elite pitcher?

Comparable Pitchers to Brett Myers through age 25
Melido Perez
Len Barker
Joey Hamilton
Jose Guzman
Mike Moore
Lynn McGlothen
Alex Fernandez
Dan Petry

Hmm. Maybe not. All those guys were good pitchers, but every one of them except for Mike Moore fell apart physically by the age of 30.

Active comps include Jeff Weaver, Brad Penny, Chris Carpenter, and Wade Miller. Carpenter was outstanding last year at age 30, but has had serious injury problems to fight through. Miller has had injury problems. Penny has had injury problems. Weaver has had injury problems.

So, what can we expect from Myers? If history is any guide, there is a good chance that he will

  1. remain an effective and, at times, excellent pitcher, but that
  2. he'll eventually have some sort of significant injury problem and may have a hard time remaining effective past the age of 30.
What do you guys think?