Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Prospect Report - Chris Tillman

Good to be back on the prospect reports, and certainly good to be talking about a brighter future for the O’s pitching staff. Chris Tillman has lived up to his top prospect status this season, and is en route to a commanding finish as he attempts to bring Bowie back to the playoffs for the first time since 1997. Last night Tillman was strong again, pitching six shutout innings with eight strikeouts. Following a rough patch in late July many were saying he had hit a wall for the season, but has come roaring back in August with a 1.88 ERA in four starts, with a K/BB ratio of 36:6 in 24 innings. On the season, Chris Tillman sports a 9-4 record, posting a 3.32 ERA with 139 strikeouts (2nd in the Eastern League behind only teammate David Hernandez).

So, who is Chris Tillman? Chris Tillman stands at 6’4”, and at 20 years old is the youngest starting pitcher in the Eastern League. Chris Tillman last season was the Seattle Mariner’s Minor League Pitcher of the Year, and came over to Baltimore in the blockbuster Bedard trade. Regarded as a first round talent coming out of high school, he fell to Seattle in the second round of the 2006 Amateur Draft. In his first season Tillman thrived in Rookie ball but fared poorly at Short Season Everett, still collecting a high strikeout rate of 13 K/9 IP. 2007 r
epresented a similar pattern for the right hander, as he thrived initially at Class A Wisconsin, but struggled at Advanced-A High Desert where he posted a 5.26 ERA in 102.2 innings. Going into the offseason Tillman was rated by Baseball America as the third-ranked prospect for Seattle Mariners. Tillman was then traded to Baltimore in the famous trade/heist that sent Erik Bedard to the Mariners for five players (Jones, Tillman, Mickolio, Sherrill, and Butler).

Strengths: Certainly there is no shortage of positives for this young right hander, but his biggest strength in my opinion has to be his delivery. Chris Tillman's delivery is smooth and repeatable, drawing rave reviews from scouts and coaches alike. His delivery is so fluid in fact, that people would gather around during O’s Spring Training just to see him throw. This repeatability will prove invaluable moving forward, in his consistency, his ability to adjust, and in reducing the risk of future injury. He sports two plus pitches, a 91-93 mph four-seam fastball which can touch 95, and an excellent 12-6 curveball. He’s also shown advanced maturity for his age, as he’s been by and large one of the most consistent starters in Bowie and has shown the ability to make adjustments.

Weaknesses: Tillman, while sporting two plus pitches, has not as of yet established a third or fourth quality pitch. In high school he began to utilize a splitter, but has been by and large a two-pitch pitcher for Bowie this year. While he should be able to get by on those two pitches, to reach his potential as a top starter he must establish at least a third pitch. Chris also has been occasionally susceptible to the long inning; although this could be attested to youth, only time will tell whether this becomes a significant problem or not.

Projection: The future is bright for Chris, and at worst he projects as a third starter in the majors. His ceiling, provided he can widen his repertoire, could be as a staff ace. He will remain at Bowie for the playoff run, and will start next season at AAA Norfolk. Barring a sensational season performance at Triple-A the organization will be cautious to not rush him to the majors. Chris Tillman will enter the starting rotation out of Spring Training in 2010.

No comments: