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Prospect Retrospective: Pat Mahomes

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Pat Mahomes
Pat Mahomes
Mitchell Layton, Getty Images

This one is a blast from the past.

Texas high school athlete Pat Mahomes was drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 37th round this year. The right-hander from Lindale, Texas, could have gone as high as the third round if baseball were his main focus. Alas, he prefers football at this point and is an outstanding quarterback who will pursue the sport next fall at Texas Tech.

Mahomes has a low-90s fastball and has the athleticism to throw harder if he turned his attention to baseball full-time. He's also a prospect as an outfielder. Interestingly, his profile is very similar to that of his father Pat Mahomes, former major league pitcher and the topic for this Prospect Retrospective.

The Original Pat Mahomes was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the sixth round in 1988, out of high school in Lindale, Texas. Like his son, Mahomes was an excellent athlete and a prospect as both a hitter and pitcher, though the Twins preferred him on the mound. He posted a 3.69 ERA in 78 innings for Elizabethton in the Appy League, with a 93/51 K/BB. His strikeout rate was high but so was his walk rate; note the workload that would be very heavy by today's standards.

Moved up to Kenosha in the Midwest League for 1989, Mahomes posted a 3.25 ERA and went 13-7 in 25 starts, with a 167/100 K/BB in 156 innings and 120 hits allowed. Reports at the time indicated a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider, but serious command issues. Again note the workload; his pitch counts must have been very extreme by today's standards with that number of strikeouts, walks, and innings. Visalia in the California League was the destination in 1990 and the results were similar: 3.30 ERA in 28 starts, 178/118 K/BB in 185 innings, 136 hits. Again, a huge workload.

Mahomes took a step forward in Double-A in 1991, posting a 1.78 ERA in 117 innings for Double-A Orlando, with a 136/57 K/BB in 118 innings and just 77 hits allowed. A late promotion to Triple-A gave him a 3.44 ERA for Portland, although his K/BB was problematic at 41/36 in 55 innings. However, this was all enough to make him one of Minnesota's leading prospects at the time.

He reached the majors in 1992 and spent the next five years trying to find a role in Minnesota but never quite succeeding. He was used as both a starter and reliever. Stuff was never the problem: he had mid-90s heat and a lot of movement on both the fastball and his slider, but command was erratic and his changeup came and went. He was eventually traded to the Red Sox, spent some time pitching in Japan, and had a few flashes of success with the Mets and Rangers. He kept pitching all the way through 2008, with one final flurry of success with Sioux Falls in the American Association in '07 and '08.

Overall, Mahomes posted a 5.47 ERA in 709 major league innings with a 452/392 K/BB ratio.

So, why write a prospect retrospective for a journeyman right-hander forgotten by anyone but fanatic Twins and Mets fans?  There are several reasons.

1) his son is one of the best athletes in recent Texas high school memory and was in the news lately,

2) The workload that the original Mahomes bore right out of high school shows how different prospects were treated not that long ago

3) Mahomes was a guy I followed closely back in the late 80 and early 90s when I was learning how to analyze players. In his case, he was an illustration of how reports on stuff do not always track with results. His strikeout rates in the upper minors and in the majors were always lower than you'd expect for a guy who threw as hard as he did. That turned out to be a better predictor of how things would go than the scouting reports did.

4) This also was one of the cases that made me skeptical about things like "this guy is a top prospect but isn't striking anyone out because he is working on new pitches and/or is being told to pitch to contact." That was the type of thing that was said to excuse/explain the sabermetric red flags in Mahomes' record at the time.

5) Despite his ultimate journeyman status, I always rooted for him to make it. I hope his son eventually turns away from football.