I’ve received a couple of requests lately for an updated take on Los Angeles Dodgers rookie pitcher Caleb Ferguson. We aim to please, so here goes.
I like him. He’s good. How’s that?
More seriously, he was pretty anonymous as a prospect a year ago, as a 38th round pick from 2014 out of high school in Ohio. At this time in 2017 he was pitching for Rancho Cucamonga in the California League and holding his own with a 3.34 ERA in his first 12 starts. He turned things up in the second half, going 7-0, 2.47 in his second 12 starts and finished the year with a nice 140/55 K/BB in 122 innings.
Scouting reports from this time last year were vaguely positive, pointing to good velocity but inconsistent secondary pitches. Entering 2018, Ferguson ranked 20th pre-season on the Dodgers Top 20 prospects list with this comment:
20) Caleb Ferguson, LHP, Grade C+: Age 21, 38th round pick in 2014 from high school in Ohio, 2.87 ERA with 140/55 K/BB in 122 innings in High-A, 113 hits, very good numbers anywhere but especially so in Cal League; fastball can hit 94-95, shows a plus curve on the right day, change-up and command need more work; scouting reports aren’t as optimistic as the numbers but given age/performance and being a lefty, he should not be overlooked; I think he is qualifies as a sleeper. ETA 2019.
He’s certainly woken up, posting a 1.53 ERA in 10 starts between Double-A and Triple-A this season with a 52/17 K/BB in 47 innings. Now he’s in the majors and has a 12/2 K/BB in his last nine innings.
You run down a young pitcher checklist and Ferguson checks all the boxes. Prototype size at 6-3, 215. Low-90s fastball which seems to play up, with occasional higher velocity spikes. A swing-and-miss curveball and a viable change-up. Simple, repeatable mechanics. Good mound presence. Sabermetrically the high strikeout rate is a big positive.
The only thing missing here is consistently plus command. His ability to locate his secondaries can vary, not surprising given his age and small amount of experience. Command isn’t exactly a weakness, as it has been quite good in some outings, it just needs to be more consistent.
Overall I am quite optimistic with Ferguson, optimistic enough to raise his rating from a C+ sleeper well into the impressive prospect range, B+ territory. I think he’s for real and will only improve assuming the standard good health caveats.