If you like tall, athletic left-handers with live arms and strong performance metrics (and don't we all?), you'll love Cincinnati Reds southpaw Amir Garrett. The 2015 season saw Garrett fully emerge from the cocoon of being a nice projection arm into the glory (one hopes) of being one of the better starting pitching prospects in baseball. He's certainly interesting enough to inspire non-cohesive mixed metaphors in the minds of writers who have consumed too much coffee this morning.
Garrett was originally drafted by the Reds in the 22nd round in 2011 from high school in Henderson, Nevada. The draft position was deceptive: he was considered a second-round talent by most evaluators but was committed to playing college basketball at St. John's. With unclear signability he lasted until the third day of the draft. The Reds managed to sign him for $1,000,000 but hoops were still his main focus.
After two years of college basketball he discovered the true purpose of athletic life and turned to the proper sport full-time in 2014. The results were solid: he made 27 starts for Dayton in the Low-A Midwest League, pitching quite credibly with a 3.65 ERA and a 127/51 K/BB in 133 innings, 115 hits. His 2015 performance for Daytona in the High-A Florida State League was even better: 2.44, 133/55 K/BB in 140 innings, 117 hits. His FIP dropped almost a full run from 3.87 last season to 2.90 this year, thanks to a large reduction in home runs allowed (11 vs. four).
Age 23, Garrett is listed at 6-5, 210. Scouting reports have tracked the improvement in the numbers. His heater is consistently in the low-90s and touches 95. His slider was erratic in 2014 but reportedly much improved this year. He seemed to locate both of his hard pitches more effectively this season and while his walk rate did not decline, he was less vulnerable to mistakes of location. His change-up remains the third pitch and needs more work but has improved enough for him to project as a starter.
Garrett looked much like an athlete learning to pitch in 2014 but this year he was more of a pitcher who happens to be athletic, showing more consistent mechanics and the general mound presence of someone who knows what he is doing. Another positive factor is durability: he's had no problems dealing with a full workload the last two seasons despite just a handful of innings in 2012 and 2013.
Double-A in 2016 will test his command and control, but given his track record we should be optimistic about his chances to adapt. To me Garrett has the look of a number three starter, perhaps more if the change-up develops further, with relief work the backup option should his command sag at higher levels. He's at least a solid Grade B prospect.