Monday, September 12, 2011

Drew Pomeranz Debuts for Colorado

Probably the biggest prize the Rockies received in the Ubaldo Jimenez exchange, lefty Drew Pomeranz made his major league debut yesterday, getting the start against the visiting Cincinnati Reds. Taken 5th overall by the Indians in the 2010 draft out of the University of Mississippi, Pomeranz has generally been excellent. In 20 starts across high A and AA, he managed 101 innings, finishing with a 1.78 ERA, 119 strikeouts, 38 walks and only 3 home runs allowed. The only slight red flag I see is the walk number - at just under 3.5 per nine innings, it's easy to envision the more patient hitters of the major leagues working deeper counts and running Pomeranz out fairly early. With his classic pitcher build though, it's easy to forget though that Pomeranz doesn't turn 23 until November. He is young enough looking in the face, but is built like a linebacker. At 6'5", he is probably fairly close to that 230 lbs. he is listed at, but has a build that you can't help but envision him gaining weight. As he grows into his frame, standardizing his release point will be the key to maintaining his control. That was his only issue in college

As with any young pitcher, he is being handled carefully, but Pomeranz has a free and easy delivery, with a motion that could be hard to pick up - his lead arm flashes out to the first base side, and he has no trace of the dreaded inverted W - check out the third base view in slow motion at around 2:20 of this video. He keeps his elbow below the shoulder until after bringing his left hand above both. 

Pomeranz was solid yesterday, pitching 5 shutout innings, allowing only two hits, striking out two and walking two. He got his first major leauge win, and while his velocity sat in the low 90's, indicating he may be running a little bit low on gas from the long season, he did enough to get the locals excited.

His upside is probably something in the mold of Jon Lester, an excellent pitcher whose occasional control issues end up leaving him with enough clunkers and make it tough for him to pitch extremely deep into games consistently. Lester has pitched into the 8th inning only five times in his 28 starts and doesn't have a complete game. For comparison's sake, Cole Hamels, the same age and with similar experience, has completed 3 of his 28 games and pitched into the 8th inning 13 times. Pomeranz, like Lester, may have a year where he puts all of his positives together, is able to mitigate his negatives, and contends for a Cy Young Award. Generally though, I'd guess we're looking at an upside of a 3.00-3.25 ERA in 200 innings (inflated slightly with Coors Field), with good strikeout totals, likely in excess of 220 a year. Certainly a pitcher you want on your team. 

It will be interesting to revisit the Ubaldo Jimenez deal down the road. He pitched poorly after the trade, but I do expect him to be better than both Pomeranz and Alex White for the next half dozen years or so. Indians fans are nervous now, but like the move the Angels made for Dan Haren last year, the move wasn't made for 2011 alone. The Indians didn't see anyone with an upside like Jimenez's 2010 season in their system, and made a gutsy move. Let's wait a year or four to evaluate it.

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