Prospect Retro: Keith Foulke
Keith Foulke was drafted by the Giants in the ninth round of the 1994 draft, out of Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. Assigned to Everett in the Northwest League, he went 2-09, 0.93 in four starts, with a 22/3 K/BB ratio in 19 innings. This was before I started rating players for a living; a similar guy nowadays would earn a Grade C or maybe a C+, as a short-season college player with a strong debut but a limited sample size.
Moved up to San Jose in the California League in 1995, Foulke went 13-6, 3.50 in 26 starts, with a 168/32 K/BB Ratio. His numbers were excellent, but his scouting reports were mediocre, since a lot of scouts didn't think he threw hard enough to survive at higher levels. I liked the ratios, but wanted to see more against better competition. I gave him a Grade C in the '96 book.
Promoted to Double-A in 1996, he went 12-7, 2.76 with a 129/35 K/BB in 183 innings for Shreveport. I gave him a Grade B in the '97 book, noting that while he didn't burn radar guns, his command was excellent and that while he may not be an ace, "he should be a good pitcher."
Foulke started off '97 in Triple-A for Phoenix, going 5-4, 4.50 in 12 starts with a 54/15 K/BB. He was hammered in 45 innings with the Giants, posting an 8.26 ERA, and was then traded to the White Sox in the infamous "White Flag" trade. The Sox put him in the bullpen and he posted a 3.45 ERA in 16 games down the stretch, with a sharp 21/5 K/BB ratio. It was apparent that his problems with the Giants were just the need for a finesse pitcher to adjust to major league conditions, and that he'd made this adjustment well after the trade. I gave him a Grade B in the '98 book.
Foulke had an adequate season in relief in '98, then began a six-year run of success in '99, being one of the best closers in the game at one point. He burned his arm out in '04 and wasn't the same pitcher after the Sox stretch and post-season run that year, but overall he's had a very fine career.
Career Minor League ERA: 3.30 in 470 innings, 7.44 K/9, 1.73 BB/9, 1.11 WHIP.
Career Major League ERA: 3.30 in 756 innings, 8.28 K/9, 2.16 BB/9, 1.07 WHIP.
As you can see, his major league performance was actually a touch better than what he did in the minors, in terms of WHIP and K/9 at least.