Thursday, May 1, 2008

By Kevin Mark - Minor League Contributor

Angels top pitching prospect Nick Adenhart is now in the Angels rotation. Injuries to John Lackey and Kelvim Esocbar, along with the continuing struggles of Dustin Moseley, have left the Angels with little choice but to delve into their farm system for a starting pitcher. According to this morning’s
Orange County Register, Mike Scioscia is planning on Adenhart making three starts before John Lackey returns around May 14. The Angels are not known for rushing young players to the Major Leagues so it is fair to assume that general manager Tony Reagins and manager Mike Scioscia believe Adenhart is ready for the challenge. I don't claim to know anywhere close to what Reagins and Scioscia know about baseball but I have seen two of Adenhart’s starts this season for the Salt Lake Bees and I am concerned that he is not ready to be a successful pitcher for the Angels.

The Angels have had success bringing young pitchers up from their farm system during the season. In 2002 John Lackey was having his way with hitters in the Pacific Coast League when the Angels promoted him. Weeks later Lackey was the winning pitcher of game 7 of the World Series. In 2007 Jered Weaver was blowing away hitters in AAA when he got the call. He went on to have a successful rookie season. But Adenhart has been different pitcher in AAA than Lackey and Weaver and I don’t see him being able to duplicate their immediate Major League success.

John Lackey and Jered Weaver were 23 years old when they pitched for Salt Lake. Both dominated AAA hitters. There was no nibbling at the corners and trying to get hitters to chase balls out of the strike zone. Their approach was simple. They threw their best pitch for a strike and challenged the hitter to hit it. When Lackey or Weaver was on the mound there was no doubt which player on the field was in control of the game. Lackey and Weaver had immediate success for the Angels because they were mature pitchers who had confidence in their ability to get hitters out.

The 21 year old Adenhart has not demonstrated the same type of maturity, confidence and mound presence as Lackey and Weaver. Even though he has three quality pitches, he doesn’t seem to believe he can get hitters out with any of them. Instead of challenging hitters he tries to be too fine with his pitch location. Never once when Adenhart has been on the mound have I gotten the impression that he was dominating the game. As Adenhart matures I am confident he will become a dominate pitcher but he has a way to go to get there. I am concerned that Major League hitters will take advantage of Adenhart and score a lot of runs against him.

I am not saying Adenhart is not a top prospect. His ceiling is just as high as Lackey or Weaver’s. From everything I have observed he is a hard working, dedicated ball player. But he is not ready for the big leagues. Hopefully I am wrong and Adenhart will step into the Angels rotation and repeat what Lackey and Weaver were able to do. I wish the kid nothing but good luck and I will be rooting for him tonight against the Oakland A’s.

Love to hear what you think!


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