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Rice University Pitchers in Professional Baseball

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Outcome of Rice University Pitchers in Professional Baseball

Earlier this week I looked at pitchers drafted out of Stanford University and how they turned out in professional baseball. The results weren't too impressive, mostly due to a large number of injuries. I think this is an intriguing avenue of research, so let's look at other schools too, beginning with Rice, which has a reputation of overworking their pitchers. Is this true? Let's take a look.


Here are all pitchers drafted out of Rice in the last 20 years who either 1) made the major leagues or 2) were drafted in the first through sixth rounds of the draft. The Stanford list was organized alphabetically by player, but I'm going to do this one and subsequent lists chronologically. The Stanford list also went through just through the first three rounds but I'm expanding this one to six rounds since fewer guys have been drafted out of Rice and I want a bigger sample.

Tim Byrdak: Drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the fifth round in 1994, he made short work of the low minors as a starter but converted to the bullpen in Double-A. Has bounced between Triple-A and the majors for the last 10 years, used as a LOOGY type. Career 4.35 ERA, 242/164 K/BB in 267 innings, 251 hits, WAR -1.6.

Matt Anderson: Drafted in the first round by the Detroit Tigers, first overall, in 1997. Owner of a blistering fastball, he reached the majors within a year but control problems and subsequent injuries prevented long-term success. Career 5.19 ERA, 224/157 K/BB in 257 innings, 249 hits, 26 saves, WAR +0.8.

Kevin Joseph: Drafted by the San Francisco Giants in the sixth round in 1997. Undistinguished minor league career, mostly as a reliever. Pitched 11 innings for the Cardinals in 2002, giving up 16 hits with a 2/6 K/BB. Minor league record: 4.53 ERA, 318/207 K/BB in 433 innings.

Mario Ramos: Drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the sixth round in 1999. He pitched brilliantly in A-ball in 2000 and quite well in the high minors in 2001, but fell apart after that when his velocity tailed off and his command wasn't quite good enough to compensate. Pitched 13 innings for the Rangers in 2003 with a 6.23 ERA. Minor league record: 51-46, 4.60, 749/318 K/BB in 912 innings.

Marcus Gwyn: Drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the seventh round in 2000. Started in the low minors, got hurt in 2002 and converted to relief, performed adequately in the high minors, received five innings of work with the Angels in 2007. Ended up in Japan. Career minor league ERA 4.05 with 551/252 in 600 innings.

Kenny Baugh: Drafted in the first round, 11th overall, by the Detroit Tigers in 2001. Brilliant in college but hurt his arm immediately and missed all of 2002. He returned as an effective Double-A/Triple-A pitcher but without the same stuff he showed before, never reaching the majors and ending his career in 2009 at age 30. Minor league record: 47-43, 4.49, 474/268 K/BB in 701 innings.

Jon Skaggs: Drafted by the New York Yankees in the supplemental first round, 42nd overall, in 2001. Got hurt immediately and missed all of 2002 and 2003. He pitched OK in A-ball in '04 but was unable to perform well in Double-A. Career ended in '06 at age 28. Minor league record: 19-22, 4.92 with 264/192 K/BB in 377 innings.

Philip Barzilla: Drafted in the fourth round in 2001 by the Houston Astros. Another good Rice reliever though lacking plus velocity, he was generally successful in the minors but received just one shot in the majors, pitching one-third of an inning for the Astros in 2006. Career minor league record: 51-45, 3.90, 553/314 K/BB in 784 innings, 820 hits.

David Aardsma: Drafted in the first round, 22nd overall, by the San Francisco Giants in 2003. A hard-throwing reliever, he was expected to reach the majors fairly quickly and did so in 2004. After struggling with his command for a couple of years, he emerged as a closer with the Mariners in '09. Career 4.20 ERA, 268/149 K/BB in 266 innings, 231 hits, 69 saves, WAR +2.1.

Phil Humber: Drafted by the New York Mets in the first round in 2004, third overall. Went 35-8 in 353 innings for Rice 2002-2004. Blew out his elbow in pro ball, came back with reduced velocity. Has bounced between Triple-A and the majors ever since, seems a Quadruple-A type but it isn't impossible that he could still do something interesting. Career 5.26 ERA, 35/24 K/BB in 51 innings, 59 hits, WAR +0.1.

Jeff Niemann: Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the first round in 2004, fourth overall. Went 28-4 in 284 innings at Rice 2002-2004. Blew out his arm, but brought back carefully by the Rays and has performed well in major league action now that he has his arm healthy. Career 27-16, 4.20 in 371 innings, 270/128 K/BB, 362 hits, WAR +4.2.

Josh Baker: Drafted by the Milwaukee Brewers in the fourth round in 2004. The fourth man in the rotation behind Humber, Niemann, and Townsend, Baker was a good prospect in his own right. He also got hurt, blowing out his arm in '05 and never making it back. Career minor league record 2-7, 5.47 with a 99/57 K/BB in 122 innings.

Wade Townsend: Drafted in the first round by the Tampa Bay Rays, eighth overall in 2005. Part of the one-two-three-four punch with Humber, Niemann, and Baker, he also got hurt and missed all of '06. He was never the same and pitched indy ball in 2010. Career minor league record 7-21, 5.58 ERA, 184/123 K/BB in 211 innings.

Josh Geer: Drafted in the third round by the San Diego Padres in 2005. A strike-thrower with slightly above average stuff in college, he saw his velocity decrease gradually in pro ball but never had an actual injury and did a good job eating innings in the high minors because he threw strikes. Spent parts of '08 and '09 with the Padres but back in Triple-A last year. Career 5.28 ERA, 70/32 K/BB in 130 innings, 145 hits, WAR -1.1.

Lance Pendleton: Drafted in the fourth round in 2005 by the New York Yankees. Missed all of '06 and most of ‘07 with injuries, has been an effective upper-minors inning-eater the last three years until heading to Houston this past winter under Rule 5. 32-22, 3.39 minor league record with a 421/168 K/BB in 472 innings.  

Bryce Cox: Drafted in the third round in 2006 by the Boston Red Sox. A hard-thrower with an erratic track record, he's been stuck in Double-A the last two years. Minor league career 3.89 ERA with 188/101 K/BB in 257 innings, 261 hits, 29 saves.

Eddie Degerman: Drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth round in 2006. Went 21-3 in 230 innings for Rice in '05-'06. Pitched great in Low-A but got hit hard after reaching High-A. Minor league career 4.83 ERA, 254/150 K/BB in 229 innings, 198 hits.

Joe Savery: Drafted in the first round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2007, 19th overall. Very effective for three years in college, although with a sharply declining strikeout rate and injury concerns in '06-'07. Has reached Triple-A but clearly not the prospect he once was, went 1-12 with a 4.66 last year for Lehigh Valley. Minor league mark 4.29 ERA, 307/201 K/BB in 455 innings.

Bryan Price: Drafted in the supplemental first round by the Boston Red Sox in 2008, 48th overall. Has alternated between starting and relieving but seems better-suited for bullpen. Pitched well in Double-A last year for the Cleveland Indians. Minor league marks 4.17 ERA with 239/73 K/BB in 242 innings.

The theme "Rice pitchers get hurt" seems definitely true. Over a 20-year-period, the only Rice products who have done much at all in the majors are Jeff Niemann and David Aardsma, and neither of them had smooth development paths. We'll have to see if Price and Cox can be useful bullpen parts, and I suppose Humber and Savery might be able to do something sometime, although they clearly left their best stuff back in college.

Next up: North Carolina, Wichita State, LSU