Philadelphia Phillies pitching prospect Jonathan Pettibone made his major league debut Monday night, throwing 5.1 innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates, allowing six hits and two runs while fanning six. With a good debut under his belt, Pettibone is today's subject for Prospect of the Day.
Jonathan Pettibone was drafted by the Phillies in the supplemental third round in 2008, out of high school in Yorba Linda, California. He is the son of former professional pitcher Jay Pettibone, who made four major league starts for the Minnesota Twins back in 1983 and had a six-year minor league career. Jonathan signed for $500,000 and opened up his career with a 5.35 ERA over eight starts in the New York-Penn League in 2009.
He took a step forward with a 3.49 ERA and an 84/41 K/BB ratio in 131 innings for Low-A Lakewood in 2010. His 2011 follow-up was also successful: 2.96 ERA with a 115/34 K/BB in 161 innings for High-A Clearwater. Pettibone continued rolling along in 2012 with a 3.30 ERA and an 81/27 K/BB in 117 innings for Double-A Reading, then finished the season with seven starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley, going 4-1, 2.55 with a 32/22 K/BB in 42 innings.
Pettibone is a 6-5, 200 pound right-handed hitter and thrower, born July 19, 1990. His fastball has average velocity for a right-hander, varying between 88 and 93 MPH and usually averaging right around 90. What the pitch lacks in velocity it makes up for in sink; although he gave up two homers last night, he'd previously thrown 52 innings of Triple-A baseball with just one home run allowed, scouts praising the downhill plane on his pitches. He has confidence in the fastball and uses it very frequently.
His best secondary pitch is his change-up, rated as above-average by most scouts. His biggest weakness has been finding a consistent third pitch to off-set the fastball and change-up. He added a cutter last season to go with a traditional slider, but he does not use a curveball. The cutter and slider have promise, but the fastball and change are still his main offerings and will likely remain so.
Statistically, Pettibone has done a good job throwing strikes and eating innings throughout his career. He's not overpowering and his strikeout rates have never been great, the six Ks in his big league debut aside. His best attribute is command and while he may never have a huge margin for error, he seldom beats himself.
Assuming continued good health, no command slippage, and further development of the slider and cutter, Pettibone could be a successful inning-soaking strike-thrower for some time to come.