Amir Garrett is one of the more fun stories amongst current pitching prospects ready for their Major League debut. He has come a long way in the past two seasons, and appears set for the back end of the Reds Opening Day rotation.
Garrett is an absolute beast of a presence on the mound. He stands at 6-foot-5 and 228 pounds. That was what made him a quality power forward for St. John's, where he both started and came off the bench his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Splitting time between the two sports appeared to initially hold Garrett back, especially in the command department. That has really been the biggest factor for Garrett to overcome, as he has posted high walk rates for much of his minor league career.
Throw away his age as a factor, because he didn't hang up the hi-tops for cleats full time until his third full season as a pro. Garrett is an extremely athletic pitcher, and since he began his focus on pitching, his three-pitch arsenal has continually improved.
The big lefty has no problem bringing the heat, commanding a fastball that often hits around 96. His slider's command has become increasingly better and his changeup — a one-time question mark — is now a big-league pitch. That doesn't mean it is perfect, as he could still use some work on both his slider and changeup.
When no one is one base, the tall left-hander has a long fluid delivery. It's smooth looking and seems to come consistently right at the plate. When he works with runners on, he loses the big leg kick and seems a bit more herky jerky -- as it is a more compact delivery -- but this has improved over the years.
This past season was Garrett's finest. He destroyed Double-A hitting. Garrett went 5-3 over 13 appearances (12 starts) posting a 1.75 ERA (behind a 2.50 FIP) and a minuscule 1.03 WHIP. He also posted a career high strikeout-per-nine rate of 9.12 behind a career-best 3.27 walks-per-nine. He didn't fare as well in his Triple-A debut, posting a 54-to-31 strikeout-to-walk rate a bit more in line with his career norms. It was still a rather impressive year for the southpaw.
This spring he has had his chance to show the Reds he is ready and he has delivered. Sure, it is spring training, but the numbers are solid as he has posted a 0.79 ERA while striking out nine and walking two over four starts spanning 11.1 innings. He has been hittable, allowing 10 hits, but he keeps them stranded. He hurled four hitless innings in his most recent outing.
The big news yesterday was that Anthony DeSclafani has a UCL sprain and has been shut down for four weeks (Zach Buchanan of the Cincinnati Enquirer broke it). That opens a slot in the big league rotation for opening day. With an arguably higher ceiling than half of the Reds rotation — and putting together a huge spring — that spot is Garrett's for the taking.
He likely won't win Rookie of the Year. He will be up and down sometimes as Garrett's control will likely get him in some trouble to start his big league career. But it seems like the time is now to see what Garrett can do at the next level. At the very least, he is one of the most exciting prospects 2017 has to offer.