June 6, 2007


Prospects: Buchholz and Slowey (Nate Stephens, 6/05/07, Rotoworld)

Clay Buchholz – RHP Red Sox – [...]

Despite his prospect stardom, Buchholz hasn't had a typical career path before being drafted. The right-hander went undrafted out of high school, and then played briefly as a position player for McNeese State. He transferred to Angelina Junior College in Texas, and suddenly everything clicked. Buchholz used his athleticism to dominate both on the mound and at the plate while playing the outfield. Big league clubs were impressed enough to start looking at Buchholz as early as the late first round in the 2005 draft. The Red Sox eventually took the plunge, snagging Buchholz with the 42nd pick.

Assigned to Lowell of the New York-Penn League after signing, Buchholz has about an effective debut as could have been expected. He showed both control and plus stuff on the mound, and ended up posting a 2.61 ERA and 45/9 K/BB ratio in 41 innings of work. The Red Sox had to be exceptionally pleased. Buchholz had little experience pitching for someone who was already in his age 20 season, and his performance on the mound was nearly flawless. He didn't get buy just on stuff, but hit his spots and showed a better approach than expected.

Promoted to Single-A Greenville to start the 2006 campaign, Buchholz continued to dominate. The 6'3', 200-pound right-hander recorded a 2.62 ERA, striking out 117 and walking just 29 batters in 103 innings of work. The club wasn't letting Buchholz pitch deep into games, but his velocity was actually getting stronger in the fifth inning and he pitched better the second time around lineups. Add in how athletic Buchholz was, and it seemed extremely likely that he would continue pitching well late in games when given the chance. A late season promotion to High-A Wilmington also went well, with Buchholz hitting 97 on the radar gun late in the season and striking out 24 in 16 innings.

Moved up to Double-A Portland to start this season, Buchholz hasn't disappointed. His 1.70 ERA is good for second in the league, and his 80 strikeouts in 58 1/3 innings rank first. He's also walked just 13 batters and allowed Eastern League hitters to compile just a .182 batting average. He's pitched deeper into games, averaging almost six innings per start after rarely appearing in the sixth inning during 2006. In short, he's been flat out dominant.

Buchholz's fastball is a plus pitch, sitting from 91-94 most of the time and getting dialed up to 96 or 97 when needed. However, Buchholz prefers to get ahead in the count with his fastball, and then retire batters with his arsenal of quality breaking pitches. His curveball is excellent and can be thrown for strikes or as a chase pitch. Buchholz's slider is also a quality offering, and his two types of changeups serve as a way to keep hitters even more off-balance. Add his great command, clean injury history, and athletic frame to a deep and impressive arsenal, and you have the makings of a future ace. Some people might hesitate to call Buchholz a future ace given that he's 22 and in Double-A, but his unique career path means he shouldn't be discounted much due to age.

Given how he's pitched, it won't be long before Buchholz is moved up to Triple-A. If he continues to dominate after the promotion, the big club could very well come calling in the second half. Working against Buchholz is that the team probably won't want him to jump from the 119 innings he threw last year to anywhere near 200. He'll amass near that many innings if called up in August or September, so the club could hold off barring a total breakdown in their big league starters. That means he's a much better bet for 2008, and his combination of talent and major league-readiness will make Buchholz a very popular pick next spring. Those in keeper leagues should consider him a Top 20 talent.

Meanwhile, by rushing Phil Hughes the Yankees have lost him for the year.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 6, 2007 12:00 AM

B/c no one sprains their ankle in AAA?

The thing about the Sawx supposed prospects is that they're all aged compared to the Yankee youngsters, flattering to deceive b/c they're much older at every level than the Melkys, Canos, and Hughes. Pedroia (who belongs on a horse at Belmont btw not on a major league field) has grandkids already I'm pretty sure.

We'll of course have Hughes in the rotation by the end of the all-star break, at the latest, by which time we'll be within striking distance of the fading sawx (3 in a row? and 4 of 5 anyone?).

Start to panic Sawx "nation", start to panic.

(And the aged Buchholz (2 years from now when he reaches Bucholz's age now St. Phil will likely have won a Cy Young) will be no help from what I've seen this season, too little command, can't get his fastball down. While AA hitters can't deal with chest high heat, major leaguers will either let it go for a ball, or crush it)

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 6, 2007 8:42 AM

Bowden is the more precise comparison to Hughes. The difference is the Sox have the luxury of developing their youngster in the minors while the Yankees panicked and the immaturity showed in the overthrowing that strained his hamstring. Of course, they went right back to rushing him and trashed his ankle so badly that he's likely going to be shutdown, especially if Cashman and Torre aqre fired and replaced by guys who are thinking longer term.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2007 9:41 AM


He had nothing to learn in the minors, given not only his stuff but his command. His peers are Lincecum and Bailey, both in the bigs, not the minor league vets in the Sawx organization. Only a delusional Sawx fan would think that Buchholz and Bowden are Hughes' peers, and that he should somehow be down in AA with them.

Far from rushing him, the Yanks were too slow. He should've been pitching in the show last September. And, an ankle sprain isn't going to keep him out of the rotation come July, though given the state of the Sawx I'm sure the "Nation" is getting more than a little nervous about Hughes.

Meanwhile, out of the goodness of my heart I'm passing along this. I know it's been a long time since NESN's been able to play it after a Sawx game, and could be longer still, so I thought you might like to refamiliarize yourself with the cheeseball song.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at June 6, 2007 9:58 AM

He needed to grow up enough to control his emotions, which was how he got hurt. Luckily he's young enough that the wasted year won't affect his development much and may even be a godsend because it prevents the guys who are managing to save their jobs from blowing out his arm. It'll be fun to watch him match up against Beckett for the next five years or so.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2007 10:18 AM

The Pedroia/Cano comparison is revealing. Their offense is comparable though Dustin is a much better fielder. The difference between them is that Yankee Compound thinks Cano is a future MVP while Sox Nation thinks Pedroia is Jerry Remy.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2007 11:36 AM