Rick Porcello

Million Dollar Question: how do you feel about Rick Porcello?

2009 Yahoo Rank: 244
2010 Yahoo O-Rank: 140

That is a big jump for someone who didn’t miss any time with an injury. I understand he is/was a big time prospect and the Tigers were limiting his usage last season, but damn Gina, how ya gonna move him up over 100 spots on us? I thought Yahoo left the hype propaganda up to Behrens and Evans. Don’t worry Porcello enthusiasts, his MDC ADP is currently sitting at 206.

Scouting Report from SaberScouting:

Physical Description – Long limbs, wide chest, square shoulders, average build throughout, solid bulk in legs, room to add solid build, up to 15 lbs of muscle. Well-proportioned, prototypical pitcher’s body. Resembles Justin Verlander or Roy Halladay.

Fastball – Ranged from 90-94 with movement and control all night, and everyone in the building knew he had 96-97 in his back pocket and he never brought it out. That alone was the most impressive thing about him. He was darting sinkers up to 94 right where he wanted them and varied the sink and arm-side run from pitch-to-pitch. Sat 91-93 with above-average life, movement, and control. Beyond that, he didn’t even rely on the fastball and just throw it exclusively. For a 19-year-old, that’s almost unfair. But there’s more…

Curveball – Ranged from 71-74; this was his signature hammer in high school and he threw less than 5 tonight. It had excellent depth, spin, and 12-to-6 tilt but lacked late bite. You give him a pass on that because everything else was so good and he only threw a few and didn’t have feel for it yet. Not sure if he shied away from it due to preference, mandate, or lack of feel, but I can put a future 60 on it, reports out of HS said it could easily be north of that. I’m sure I’ll get a better look in future starts.

Slider – Sat at 78-79; this was his weakest pitch but was the breaking pitch he used most often. It is a slurve that he primarily back-doored to left-handed hitters early in the count. It fills a need as a horizontal version of his curveball but it backed up in him a few times and also lacked bite but had flashed some late movement. It could’ve just been an off-day for his breaking stuff, but if he tightened that into a two-plane slider, it could be filthy.

Changeup – Ranged from 76-79; this was what really impressed everyone. It appears he just had a better feel for his change than his breaking stuff tonight and relied on it instead. He flashed a lot of 60s as a true swing-and-miss pitch to big league hitters. It is a mostly vertical drop due to his arm angle, but it’s late and it disappears. He mixed in a few on the corners with more horizontal break. Showed good command of it and used it as his out-pitch tonight. This pitch is why people love this guy. Without it, he’s just another tall guy with some velocity and command than can spin it, which is still rare, but not Chinese River Dolphin rare.

Mechanics – Sound mechanics. High 3/4 arm angle, clean and easy arm with average deception. Good torque in the motion and has an excellent decelerating finish with his arm on the follow through. Balance is good and doesn’t fall off at the end of his motion, in a good fielding position. Great leg drive. Late in the game (last clip in video) he lost his command and everything was up because he wasn’t tucking his chest and stayed high a few clicks too long. He battled and was at his pitch count and left after that inning. Motion is similar to John Smoltz.

Summary – You can see why teams loved him in the draft—he has all the elements you look for in a young pitcher. Tonight he showed a great projectable body, sound mechanics, great command for his age, great feel for a plus fastball, ability to spin a plus breaking ball, a knockout changeup, potential plus command, and the intelligence to know when and how to use these tools. Not sure what else you could want, really. There’s been tons of hype tossed on this guy by about any writer that can spell his name, but it doesn’t look like it’s gone to his head and he’s everything that was advertised.

According to Roto Wire, Jim Leyland will not restrict Porcello’s pitch count this season, like he did the last. They also say he should have more pitches in his arsenal and he has the stuff to develop into a strikeout pitcher. I am a little skeptical of that last statement (at least for the 2010 season). His K Rate in Single A ball was only 5.18 K/9 (he was only 19 at the time tho).

Last season, Porcello threw his Fastball 77% of the time. That is a large number. He was able to generate a lot of ground balls (54%, 1.89 GB/FB) with his sinking action. He only threw his Slider 5.3%, his Curve 8.1% and Change-Up 9.5% of the time. This year, can we expect him to throw more Sliders? This would help him create more O-Swings with a lower O-Contact% (more Ks). More Curves and Change-Ups would also help the K Rate. When he does open up his arsenal, what kind of jump in Ks can we expect? It was an extremely weak 4.69 K/9 last season and during one month it was actually lower than his Walk Rate.

What Porcello really excelled at was his control. A 2.74 BB/9 is phenomenal for a rookie, especially at that age. he displayed exceptional control and it got better as the season came to a close: April (2.49), May (3.00), June (3.73), July (3.14), August (2.30), Sept/Oct (2.14). With such great control, Porcello should have posted a better F-Strike%. It was only 55.4% compared to the 58.2% league average. I fully expect his F-Strike% to increase, giving him more pitcher counts, thus generating more Strike Outs.

The kid will be 21 during the 2010 season; he is actually younger than Stephen Strasburg. He has already shown superb ability to induce ground balls and control the strike zone. When he pushes that K Rate up closer to the league average, he’s going to be very special. He is definitely someone to trade for now in Dynasty/Keeper league before he improves, but what kind of K Rate can we expect this season? Assuming he opens up the aresenal, goes deeper into games and builds arm strength, he will definitely be worth the ADP. Is he worth that 140 O-Rank? Would you be willing to spend a Round 12 pick on Rick Porcello? I don’t know if I’d go that early, but I do want him on at least 1 team. If I don’t land him, I’ll likely be forced to player hate. Like my homie The Situation says, if hatin’ is your occupation, Porcello probably has a full time job for you.

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