Jays prospect still beating odds

August, 20, 2009
8/20/09
11:40
AM ET
Will Hill writes about the most intriguing prospect in the minor leagues:
    A 12-6 record with 17 saves in two years in the minors...a sparkling career ERA of 1.95 ... 199 strikeouts and only 60 walks -- these are numbers scouts love about Tim Collins.

    5'7" and 155 -- these are numbers scouts hate about Tim Collins.

    That's the listed height and weight for the lefty reliever. But, according to Jays insiders that I know and trust, those might both be generous estimates. One team staffer who has seen the pitcher up close told me, "I'd be surprised if he was taller than 5-5."

    --snip--

    There were 1,453 names called in the 50 rounds of Major League Baseball's 2007 June Draft. Amazingly, Tim Collins was not among them.

    Actually, maybe it's not so amazing. A recent review shows there are 365 pitchers currently residing on active Major League rosters. Only 26 of them are listed as being shorter than 6'0", with just one player -- coincidentally enough, Toronto's very own Jason Frasor -- checking in as short as 5'9". It's almost like Major League Baseball has its own virtual amusement park sign declaring, "You must be at least this tall to go on this ride." Thanks for your interest, but candidates under 6 feet tall need not apply.

Actually, that sign says something more along the lines of this: "You must throw at least 90 miles per hour to go on this ride. Thanks for your interest, but candidates without great fastballs need not apply."

There are exceptions, of course. But most of the pitchers who get drafted can either throw in the low 90s or are, in the parlance, "projectable." Which essentially means that a scout can look at the kid and dream a little.

When scouts looked at Collins in high school, what might they have dreamed? That he would someday be taller than Freddie Patek?

Last winter, Baseball America listed Collins as the Blue Jays' No. 30 prospect. A snippet from their report:

    Collins' arm is exceptionally quick and he fires 88-90 mph four-seam fastballs from a high three-quarters arm slot. He gets good spin on the pitch and also on his above-average curveball, which he used to great effect in changing batters' eye levels. A good athlete, he holds runners well and works quickly. Because Collins works up in the zone with his fastball, some observers wonder if his stuff will play at higher levels.
So, Collins is (or was then) a Class-A relief pitcher. He wasn't drafted. His fastball tops out at 90. Even if we didn't know that he's 5-foot-5 and weighs 155 pounds, we wouldn't think a great deal about his long-term future as a professional baseball player.

Ah, but except for all those strikeouts. Collins has, in his professional career, struck out 13 batters per nine innings. And as he's moved up the organizational ladder, his strikeout rate has gone up rather than down. He's just been promoted to the Double-A Eastern League. He doesn't turn 20 until next week, and must be one of the youngest players in that league.

I wouldn't bet on him to someday become a premier reliever in the major leagues. But I wouldn't bet against him getting there, either.

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