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Prospect Retro: Jimmy Haynes

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Prospect Retro: Jimmy Haynes

Jimmy Haynes was drafted in the seventh round in 1991 by the Baltimore Orioles, out of high school in LaGrande, Georgia. Tall, athletic, and projectable, he pitched brilliantly in his pro debut, posting a 1.60 ERA and a 67/21 K/BB ratio in 62 innings in the Gulf Coast League, allowing just 44 hits. I'd give a similar pitcher a Grade C+ with a sleeper rating nowadays.

Haynes went 7-11 but with a fine 2.56 ERA in 144 innings for Kane County in the Midwest League in 1992, with a 141/45 K/BB ratio. He gave up just two homers all season. . .his K/BB, K/IP, and H/IP ratios were all excellent. His velocity picked up and he made major strides with his curveball. I think a similar pitcher now would get a Grade B+ and end up somewhere on the Top 50 pitching prospects list.

Haynes continued his development with a strong '93 season, going 12-8, 3.03 for Frederick in the Carolina League, with a 174/61 K/BB and only 139 hits allowed. His command wasn't quite as sharp as it had been in '92, but he was just 20 years old and pitching strong ball in the Carolina League. He'd remain a Grade B+ and among the better pitching prospects in the game.

Promoted to Double-A in '94, Haynes went 13-8, 2.90 in 25 starts with a 177/46 K/BB in 174 innings. His walk rate dropped, his strikeout rate rose, at a higher level. Eddie Epstein gave him a straight Grade A in the '95 book, rated him the third-best pitching prospect in baseball (behind Scott Ruffcorn and Alan Benes), and compared him to Orel Hershiser. I completely agreed with this at the time: Haynes threw hard, had good breaking stuff, threw strikes, and had strong numbers.

The Orioles continued their one-step-at-a-time approach with him, moving him up to Triple-A in '95. Once again he did very well: 12-8, 3.29 with a 140/49 K/BB in 167 innings. His strikeout rate dropped, but his walk rate remained low and overall it was a very fine season. He went 2-1, 2.25 in 24 innings for Baltimore in September. I gave him a Grade A in the '96 book and rated him the fourth-best pitching prospect in the game, behind Paul Wilson, Billy Wagner, and Jason Schmidt.

Everything fell apart for him in '96. He posted a horrible 8.29 ERA in 89 innings for the Orioles, gave up 122 hits, and posted a poor 65/58 K/BB ratio. His command, previously a major strength, completely disappeared. He lost confidence, and the Orioles soured on him very quickly, trading him to Oakland in 1997. He had some success with the Athletics in '97 and '98, but a poor '99 season got him shipped off to Milwaukee.

Aside from a solid 15-win season for the Reds in 2002, Haynes never lived up to the potential he showed in the minor leagues, going 63-90, 5.37 in 1201 major league innings. His control, which was sharp in the minors, gave him a lot of problems in the majors. It's hard to point to one thing as messing him up: the Orioles didn't rush him, giving him a level at a time in the minors. It's possible that a heavy workload at a young age (170+ innings at ages 20 and 21) had an ill effect, costing him just enough stuff and/or command to keep him from living up to his early potential.