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Prospect Smackdown: Will Inman vs. Josh Outman

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Prospect Smackdown: Will Inman vs. Josh Outman

When doing Prospect Smackdowns, I usually pick players who are very similar and closely matched, trying to figure out which one has the advantage. This one is different: Will Inman and Josh Outman are dissimilar prospects. Basically I'm doing it because I feel like it, because of the name similarity, and because both of them deserve more attention than they've received, albeit for different reasons. We'll discuss Inman in comparison to other top pitching prospects sometime next week.

Background and Intangibles
Inman: Will Inman was a third round pick in 2005, out of high school in Dry Fork, Virginia. He was an outstanding high school pitcher, but a scholarship to Auburn might have cost him a slot in the second round. The Brewers signed him, and Inman's results in pro ball have been little short of astonishing: he came into this season with a career record of 16-2, 1.77, and has been outstanding again in early action in '07. He's got the emotional and mental intangibles needed to succeed as a pro pitcher and is very mature for his age.
Outman: Outman was a successful if somewhat erratic pitcher in community college and at Central Missouri State. A 10th round pick in 2005, he was initially projected to be a reliever in pro ball, but converted to the starting rotation last year and had a strong campaign in the South Atlantic League. He's worked hard to refine his game in pro ball (see below) and seems to have the proper intangibles.
Advantage: Both have good intangibles although Inman's are more pronounced. Comparing their backgrounds is difficult since they are so different.

Physicality, Health, and Tools
Inman: Inman was born February 6, 1987. A righthanded hitter and thrower, he is listed at 6-0, 200 pounds. He's not an exceptional athlete and will need to work hard to stay in shape, but so far it hasn't been a huge problem. He missed time with a sore shoulder last summer, but has been fully healthy this spring. Inman works with a fastball at 88-92 MPH. His breaking ball and changeup are solid, although not excellent. What sets him apart is his exceptional command and an aggressive attitude.
Outman: Outman was born September 14, 1984. A lefthanded hitter and thrower, he is listed at 6-1, 190 pounds. Outmans is a fine athlete who was a very successful hitter in college. His fastball has increased into the 90-94 range after he made mechanical refinements in pro ball. He's also improved his slider and changeup, and at times he can be quite overpowering. His control can be spotty and his mechanics are still inconsistent. He's had no major health issues.
Advantage: Outman is a better athlete and throws harder more consistently.

Performance and Polish
Inman: Inman's polish is way beyond his years, and this shows up in his statistics. 16-2, 1.77 with a 193/36 K/BB in 158 innings entering this year, 1.19 ERA this year in his first four starts with a 29/5 K/BB in 22.2 innings. He's blown away A-ball competition at a young age, with no discernable holes in his statistics. He is more of a fly ball pitcher.
Outman: Outman entered this year with a career mark of 16-7, 2.92 with a 192/89 K/BB in 185 innings. This year he is 1-1, 4.19 in the Florida State League (same league as Inman) with a 16/13 K/BB in 19.1 innings. His K/IP marks have been strong and overall he's done very well as a pro, but his command needs to improve. He tends to be a ground ball pitcher.
Advantage: Outman's numbers are good but Inman's are better and he is a more polished pitcher at this stage.

Projection
Inman: Although Inman is just 20 years old, most scouts believe that he's maxed out his body and is unlikely to gain additional velocity. PECOTA upside VORP is 95.4; comparable pitchers include Jake Peavy, John Patterson, and Zach Greinke, Bobby Bradley and Yusmeiro Petit.
Outman: Outman is almost three years older than Inman and thus has considerably less classic projectability. However, he's a better athlete and probably has a better chance to pick up a bit more zip on his pitches than Inman does despite the difference in age. PECOTA doesn't like him nearly as much as Inman, giving him just an upside VORP of 19.4.
Advantage: Inman's youth gives him more projectability simply because of the age/competition factor.

Summary :
Inman has a slight edge on intangibles. Outman has better pure physical tools, but Inman has the edge in performance, polish, and projection for the future due to his youth. Overall Inman is one of the best pitching prospects in baseball, while Outman is "merely" a good one. I gave Inman a Grade B in the book due to worries about his shoulder, but would raise that to B+ now that he's proven to be healthy, and that could end up at A- by the end of the year. Outman is a solid B- prospect for me.