David Buchanan of the Philadelphia Phillies made his big league debut yesterday. It was very successful: five innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing five hits, two runs, walking nobody while fanning two and picking up the victory. Buchanan was an anonymous prospect pre-season but here he is in the majors. Let's take a look at him.
Buchanan was a talented but erratic pitcher at Georgia State University, posting a 4.72 ERA with a 53/25 K/BB in 55 innings as a junior in 2010. He had the arm strength to be drafted in the third round, having been clocked as high as 95 MPH, but fell to the seventh due to problems with his secondary pitches and shaky command. Selected by the Phillies, he posted a 4.21 ERA with a 30/23 K/BB in 62 innings with 61 hits allowed for Williamsport in the New York-Penn League.
He split 2011 between Low-A Lakewood (3.38 ERA, 86/32 K/BB in 125 innings, 115 hits) and High-A Clearwater (3.90 ERA, 24/11 K/BB in 32 innings, 37 hits). He didn't stand out especially but his command was better than it was in college. A finger injury limited him to 12 starts and 72 innings for Double-A Reading in 2012, resulting in a 3.86 ERA and a 40/23 K/BB. Again, the improved control was good to see, but his strikeout rate was notably low and fit reports that he still needed work with his secondary pitches.
Buchanan returned to Reading in 2013 and did not have a particularly good year: 4.82 ERA, 86/41 K/BB in 131 innings, 142 hits, 15 homers allowed. However, he earned a non-roster invitation to spring training and impressed Phillies brass. He was pitching for Triple-A Lehigh Valley before his promotion (5-1, 3.98, 31/17 K/BB in 41 innings, 47 hits).
Born May 11, 1989, he has prototypical pitcher size at 6-3, 200 pounds. As you can see, Buchanan has never been particularly dominant in the minors, but aside from the 2012 finger problem he has been a durable inning-soaker with no significant elbow or shoulder concerns. He does not throw as hard as he did in college, working at 89-93 now, averaging about 91. He can still get up to 93-94 at times but his command seems better at the lower velocities. He used a slurvy slider when drafted, but has swapped that out for a more traditional slower curveball and a changeup. His secondary pitches are better than they were three years ago, but they don't rate as plus offerings.
Neither his scouting reports nor his overall track record scream "top prospect": he's a Grade C guy. But calling someone a Grade C prospect is hardly an insult: Grade C guys have value, and Buchanan does. He stays healthy and throws strikes, and a guy like that can have a nice run as a fifth starter or bullpen option.