Prospect Smackdown: Nick Adenhart vs. Brandon Erbe
Per reader request, a Prospect Smackdown for Nick Adenhart and Brandon Erbe
BACKGROUND and INTANGIBLES
Adenhart: Nick Adenhart was drafted in the 14th round in 2004, out of high school in Williamsport, Maryland. He was rated as one of the best high school pitchers in the draft and a certain first round pick, until he blew out his elbow a month before the draft. The Angels drafted him anyway, gave him $710,000 dollars to sign and pass up a North Carolina scholarship, hoping that he would recover fully from the injury. He has done so, emerging again as one of the top pitchers in his age group. Scouts praise his work ethic and intensity on the mound.
Erbe: Brandon Erbe was drafted by the Orioles in the third round of the 2005 draft, out of high school in Baltimore, Maryland. He was rated as a second-round talent by most teams, but fell to the third because of a college commitment to Miami. The Orioles drafted him in the third, taking the risk partly because of his local Baltimore connections. He signed for $415,000. Erbe is emotionally mature for his age and has strong mound presence.
Advantage: Adenhart had a higher profile as an amateur, but both were certainly well-known to scouts and well-regarded. Both had college scholarships to top-flight baseball schools. Both draw praise for their work ethic and maturity. I will give Adenhart a slight edge here since he's had to work hard to overcome the elbow injury, but this should not be taken as criticism of Erbe, rather extra credit for Adenhart.
PHYSICALITY and TOOLS
Adenhart: Adenhart is 6-4, 195 pounds, born August 14, 1986. He is tall, strongly-built, but retains some physical projectability. His fastball was just 88-92 MPH last year after the surgery, but he's regained the 93-95 MPH zip he showed in high school. His curveball and changeup are both plus pitches, and he has good command for a young power pitcher. There is some concern that his mechanics, which add some deception to his game but aren't picture-perfect, might lead to further arm problems down the line. He has smoothed his delivery out this year, enhancing his command.
Erbe: Erbe is 6-4, 185 pounds, born December 25, 1987. He is tall, rather thin, lanky. His fastball can hit 98 MPH, and works consistently in the 92-95 range. His curveball and changeup were just average in high school, but both have improved since he entered pro ball and are now strong assets, the breaking ball still ahead of the changeup right now. He's had no health problems, although the Orioles reportedly monitor his pitch counts closely to avoid overwork. Erbe's mechanics aren't textbook but they make it more difficult for hitters to pick up the ball.
Advantage: Both pitchers have good size, not too short but not too tall. Erbe has shown more consistent velocity as a pro, but Adenhart is hardly a soft-tosser and his breaking stuff is more refined. I think this balances out as even.
PERFORMANCE and SKILLS
Adenhart: Nick started off in the Midwest League this year, going 10-2, 1.95 in 16 starts with a 99/26 K/BB ratio in 106 innings. Promoted to the California League, he is now 4-1, 3.76 in seven starts, with a 36/13 K/BB in 41 innings. He has a good feel for pitching compared to most young power arms, and is not just a pure thrower.
Erbe: Brandon is pitching for Delmarva in the Sally League, going 5-8, 3.47 in 22 starts with a 120/34 K/BB in 99 innings. He's slumped a bit as the summer has worn on, but his component ratios are excellent. Erbe also has a good feel for pitching and doesn't just throw the ball past people.
Advantage: Adenhart has the advantage here, having pitched very well this year at a higher level than Erbe.
Adenhart: Adenhart is young and athletic enough to pick up some additional velocity.
Erbe Erbe is young and athletic enough to pick up additional velocity. He is a full year younger than Adenhart.
Advantage Erbe has more projectability because of his birthday and slightly lankier build.
I rate Adenhart with a slight advantage in background and performance, Erbe with an advantage in projection, and the two pitchers even in physicality. All in all, it comes out with Adenhart a bit ahead. Both of them are premium pitching prospects with very bright futures.