Not a Rookie: Armando Galarraga
Armando Galarraga was signed by the Expos out of Venezuela in 1998. He didn't make his North American debut until 2001, when he went 1-3, 3.12 with a 24/15 K/BB in 35 innings in the Gulf Coast League at age 19, allowing 37 hits. He wasn't on the radar as a prospect at this point, and would rate as a basic anonymous Grade C lower-level prospect.
He made two starts in the GCL in 2002, then went down for Tommy John surgery. He made five starts in 2003, then went 5-5, 4.65 with a 94/31 K/BB in 110 innings for Class A Savannah in 2004, with 104 hits allowed. I did not put him in the 2005 book but would have rated him as a Grade C. His basic reputation at this point was as a pitcher with average stuff but decent control.
This changed in 2005: he made 14 starts for Class A Potomac in the Carolina League, going 3-4, 2.48 with a 79/23 K/BB ratio in 80 innings with 69 hits allowed. Promoted to Double-A, he went 3-4, 5.19 with a 58/21 K/BB in 76 innings with 80 hits allowed. He was traded to the Rangers that December as part of the Alfonso Soriano deal. Scouts reported boosted velocity during '05, up to 93-94 MPH, with a good slider but a below average changeup. He got some play in the press as a key component of the trade, but I was concerned about the deterioration in his ratios after his move to Double-A and gave him just a Grade C+.
More injuries dogged him in 2006: he had elbow and shoulder problems, spent much of the season rehabbing at the lower levels, and pitched poorly in Double-A (1-6, 5.71, with a nice 38/13 K/BB in 41 innings, but with 57 hits allowed). He looked horrible in one Double-A I start I saw, with below average velocity and command, granted it was just one start. I gave him a Grade C, noting that he seemed overhyped as a prospect to me.
Galarraga posted a 4.02 ERA with a 114/47 K/BB in 128 innings for Double-A Frisco in 2007, 4.74 with 21/22 K/BB in 25 innings for Triple-A Oklahoma, and 6.23 in 8.2 innings for the Rangers, rather undistinguished performance. But after watching him pitch a couple of times, I decided that I had been rather harsh on him in previous comments. I wrote "I think he needs more minor league time, but I do think he could end up being a decent number four/five starter, if he can improve his command." I also noticed the concern about injuries and durability problems hitting him again.
As you know, Galarraga was one of the most surprising rookies in 2008, going 13-7, 3.73 for the Tigers with a 126/61 K/BB ratio and 152 hits allowed in 179 innings. The better pitching environment in Detroit certainly helped. Is this sustainable? I think he is due for slippage. His H/IP was much better last year than in his minor league career, and while the better environment helps, I'd bet on an ERA closer to 5.00 than 3.84 again. If he stays healthy I think he can be decent pitcher, but I suspect 2008 was his career year.
Guess for 2009: nagging injury problems, 24 starts,139 innings,152 hits, 93/49 K/BB, 4.75 ERA.