Chat with Jerry Crasnick
Today, it's all about the future, with Joba Chamberlain vs. Clay Buchholz in a matchup of American League Rookie of the Year candidates. From a purely entertainment standpoint, this one is a heck of a lot more fun than Bud Selig vs. Henry Waxman.
Both pitchers made impactful debuts in 2007. Buchholz threw a no-hitter against Baltimore in his second big league start, and Chamberlain was basically untouchable until a swarm of midges descended from the skies and attacked him in the Division Series in Cleveland.
The case for Buchholz
In his first three professional seasons, Buchholz is 22-11 with 378 strikeouts in 309 innings. In his six career stops -- with Lowell, Greenville, Wilmington, Portland, Pawtucket and Boston -- opponents have hit .219, .211, .182, .180, .221 and .184 against him. Buchholz began his college career at McNeese State as a shortstop, and he's extremely athletic. He has a four-pitch arsenal, and his curveball and changeup are so good that his fastball (which registers in the 90-94 mph range) is generally regarded as his third best pitch. It's no wonder that when the Red Sox made a play for Johan Santana, they made it clear from the outset that Buchholz was off-limits.
The case for Chamberlain
He sailed through three minor league stops last year, whiffing 135 batters in 88 innings before emerging as a bullpen sensation in New York. Chamberlain's 15 1/3 scoreless innings stretch, to begin his career, was the second-longest such streak in Yankees history --surpassed only by Judd ''Slow Joe'' Doyle's 18 scoreless innings in 1906. His fastball and slider both grade out near the max on the 20-80 scouts scale, and the Yankees have the option of plugging him into their rotation or keeping him in the bullpen as a bridge to Mariano Rivera. Right now, it looks as if he'll be a starter in 2008. While the Yankees were willing to part with Phil Hughes in a Santana deal, they told Minnesota that Chamberlain was not up for discussion.
We talked to nine non-Red Sox or Yankees personnel people, and the verdict was decidedly pro-Joba. While most baseball talent evaluators predict stardom for both pitchers, seven of the nine preferred Chamberlain. So we'll go with the Yankees guy as well. Let the debate (and the angry e-mails from Red Sox fans) commence.Vote: Which young pitching prospect would you rather have?
Archive: Hot Stove Heaters
Actually a Yankee Fan(New York)
Are you even going to tell us why seven of nine evaluators picked Joba over Clay? A deeper analysis and some quotes would have been nice considering you are not a talent evaluator yourself. Where is Keith Law when you need him?
Jerry Crasnick (1:01 PM)
Dear Actually, Well, if I had given a detailed explanation with quotes at the outset, there wouldn't be much need for a chat, would there? We'll address some of the questions now.
Wayne (Hackettstown, NJ)
Will Joba's arm be okay for 200 innings of 100 MPH fastballs all season long?
Jerry Crasnick (1:03 PM)
Wayne, This is obviously the big question with both guys: Can they handle a Roy Halladay-Brandon Webb type of workload? That remains to be seen. But Chamberlain's fastball and slider are overpowering enough to blow away hitters even if he's pacing himself over 6 or 7 innings. I don't think you'll be seeing him throw 100 mph as a starter. But 95-97 is more than enough to get the job done.
Chris (Atlanta, GA)
So, what reasoning did the 2 out of 9 give to substantiate choosing Clay over Joba?
Jerry Crasnick (1:05 PM)
Chris, A lot of teams were scared off drafting Chamberlain out of Nebraska because he'd had some knee and arm problems. But he's really gotten himself in better shape in recent years. The kid weighed about 280 when he played for Division II Nebraska-Kearney. He was big enough to blot out the sun.
While Joba has a great future ahead of him, I believe that Clay has better raw stuff. Joba has great velocity but does he have an out pitch as nasty as the Bucholz Curve?
Jerry Crasnick (1:07 PM)
Steve, Chamberlain's fastball and slider both grade out near 80 on the 20-80 scouts scale. You don't get any better than that. He didn't use his curveball or changeup out of the bullpen, but he'll have both in his arsenal if he goes to the rotation. I still think he's good enough to blow hitters away throwing the fastball and slider 90 percent of the time.
Are people down on Clay because of his size, stuff, make up, or what?
Jerry Crasnick (1:09 PM)
Sci, Buchholz had an off field issue at McNeese State where he was arrested for stealing some computers. But the Red Sox, to their credit, did a lot of homework and determined it was a one-time lapse in judgment. From everything I've heard, the kid is a hard worker and exemplary citizen. He made a mistake and learned from it, and it's no longer an issue.
Boston shut Clay down when he had a hot hand and the Sox were headed to the playoffs. New York had its famous "Joba Rules" limiting action for Chamberlain. Which pitcher is likely to break free of these restrictions first? Will the depth of Boston's rotation allow Buchholz additional time to develop, or will it unnecessarily hold him back?
Jerry Crasnick (1:11 PM)
Jayson, I think both teams are going to monitor their pitchers' workload closely this season. Buchholz shut it down at 148 innings last year with shoulder fatigue, and Chamberlain threw 122 innings during his four stops. There's no way either guy makes the quantum leap to 200 innings. I think maybe 160-170 innings for Chamberlain and a little more than that for Buchholz.
Clay has no weaknesses, Joba cannot pitch with insects around.
Jerry Crasnick (1:13 PM)
Doug, Here's an interesting thing about Buchholz: Two scouts told me they're a little concerned because he pitches with an extremely high arm angle. Apparently some people in baseball think that can lead to shoulder problems. Buchholz also has a very wiry build -- a la Bronson Arroyo. Some talented evaluators look at his body type and wonder if he can consistently handle a big workload.
Joba, Clay or Lincecum?
Jerry Crasnick (1:15 PM)
Ben, I'd rather not expand this debate to guys already in the big leagues, but I will say that Felix Hernandez and Tim Lincecum's names both came up frequently when I talked to scouts. Believe it or not, King Felix is younger than both Chamberlain or Buchholz. Amazing.
Drew (Bedford, NY)
You mentioned that on the 20-80 scale Joba's Slider and fastball are an 80. Where on the scouting scale do Buchholz's pitches fall? What about Joba's Change and curve?
Jerry Crasnick (1:17 PM)
Drew, Buchholz's curveball and changeup both rank around 70. His fastball is slightly below that. I guess Joba's curve ranges from above average to hellacious depending on the day. His changeup is a work in progress.
Chris (Worcester, Mass)
Chamberlain has the clear upside. He is a year younger, and has velocity on his pitches- a trait that cannot be taught like control. Many will point to Buchholz's no hitter, but I do not see that as a guarantee that he will do well. Other rookie no-hitters include Wilson Alvarez, Bobo Holloman, Bumpus Jones, and Bud Smith. Recognize any of those names? Probably not.
Jerry Crasnick (1:19 PM)
Chris, Good point. But Christy Mathewson and Vida Blue threw no-hitters as rookies, and they turned out to be pretty good.
Joshua (Canton, MA)
I think you meant to say Buchholz has a wiry build like Roy Oswalt.
Jerry Crasnick (1:20 PM)
Joshua, No, Buchholz is listed at 6-3, so he's significantly taller than Roy Oswalt. I heard Arroyo, Matt Clement and Jack McDowell mentioned as similar body types to Buchholz.
Jeremy (Long Beach)
I know this isn't a conversation about Felix...but can we PLEASE stop calling him "King", he has great stuff but has not produced anything consistent! He has to earn that title
Jerry Crasnick (1:22 PM)
Jeremy, Good point. I'll refrain from further royalty references in relation to Felix. On the other hand, he's still 21 years old and he did go 14-7 last season. I'd take the kid.
I know you may be high on Joba but many of your colleagues think he is over hyped. What are your thoughts
Jerry Crasnick (1:24 PM)
Lou, It's natural that any kid named "Joba" who throws 100 mph and pitches in New York is going to get a lot of hype. But geez -- the kid was up for two months and barely allowed a run. As long as he stays healthy, he has a chance to be terrific. The only question is, will he be a starter or a closer longterm? But that's a pretty nice problem for the Yankees to have.
Any news about Clay being the fastest runner in the Red Sox organization?
Jerry Crasnick (1:26 PM)
Gary, Buchholz is a fantastic athlete. He's quick off the mound, he' has a good move to first base and he can field his position. And as the story goes, he ran the fastest 60-yard dash on the Lowell Spinners roster in 2005. Apparently his teammate Jacoby Ellsbury didn't run that day because of a balky hamstring. But some Red Sox people think it would be a heck of a race.
Where do you think Chamberlain would help the team more. In the rotation or bullpen?
Jerry Crasnick (1:30 PM)
Garrett, Since Mariano Rivera is going to be around a while longer, it boils down to Joba Chamberlain starting or pitching in a setup role. I'd obviously take him as a starter. If he's closing, maybe the answer is different. I know there's a school of thought that 200 innings in the rotation outweighs the value of 70 innings in the bullpen -- even in a closing role. But in light of the contribution Jonathan Papelbon has made to Boston's pen, I'm not sure the answer is so automatic anymore.
I think Joba has staying power due to his body type. Since he such strong legs,what are your thoughts?
Jerry Crasnick (1:31 PM)
Stephanie, The scouts I talked to all said that Buchholz and Chamberlain both have good, "clean" arm actions, although Chamberlain's delivery might look a little violent at times. But I think you're on to something: Joba has such a strong foundation with his legs, it has to help.
There is a lot of discussion of Joba being a starter, but is there discussion of how Buchholz would do as a 8th inning set-up man?
Jerry Crasnick (1:33 PM)
Todd, The Red Sox were kicking around the idea of pitching Buchholz in relief in the postseason until he shut it down with shoulder fatigue. But no, I don't think there's any sentiment at all to use him in the bullpen this season. He's a starter, no ifs, ands or buts.
Homer Baily (Cincinnati, OH)
What about me, I had some issues with control in my debut but all pitchers do. I have nasty stuff!
Jerry Crasnick (1:36 PM)
Homer, I asked baseball people which other kids in the upper minor leagues are closest to Chamberlain and Buchholz. Your name was mentioned, along with Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers and David Price, Jake McGee and Wade David of Tampa Bay. The scouts also really like Phil Hughes (although his pure stuff doesn't measure up to Chamberlain's).
Phil Hughes (New York, NY)
How did I get left out? A lot scouts tend to view me as a better long term option than Joba or Clay.
Jerry Crasnick (1:36 PM)
Phil, See above answer.
At what talent level of a starter does having a closer like Mariano outweigh having that starter? Would you choose a great closer over a number 2 starter? Where is the cut off line?
Jerry Crasnick (1:38 PM)
Vinny, Great question. I don't know if there's a cut and dried answer to it. The Red Sox clearly felt that having Papelbon as their closer outweighed the contribution he might make as, say, their third best starter. It's easy to say that closers are overrated. But if you're playing in a big market like Boston, New York, LA or Chicago and you're a contending team with a bad closer, it's going to be a huge problem.
Teddy (Los Angeles)
If I was choosing today, and today only, I would take Buchholz due to his overall arsenal and his somewhat proven ability to be a starter at the big league level. Chamberlain was as dominant as they come in his bullpen role, but I am curious to see if his stuff is as good when he needs to go 7 or 8 innings. I think we make it sound too easy for switching a prospect to the bullpen and then back to the rotation. I am just not sure Chamberlain can be as good of a starter as Buchholz, yet anyways, and that is the deciding factor. A top-tier starter is much more valuable than a top-tier reliever.
Jerry Crasnick (1:40 PM)
Teddy, You make some good points, but I'm not sure anybody is sold on Clay Buchholz's durability at this point, either. He was a shortstop in college and in his three professional seasons he's thrown 41, 129 and 148 innings. Is he a 220-inning a year hoss? That's not a given by any means.
mike (newport beach, ca)
what do you see from hughes and kennedy as 4-5 starters? also talking about the perfect mechanical delivery and what do you see for mark prior in sd? you were talking about violent deliveries ie joba and lincecaum but prior was deemed to have the perfectly sound delivery and he had arm trouble
Jerry Crasnick (1:43 PM)
Mike, I think Phil Hughes is ready to step in and do a nice job at the back of the Yankees' rotation. Does that mean, say, a dozen wins? That sounds reasonable if he stays healthy. As for Ian Kennedy, I've gotten some mixed reviews on him. A couple of scouts told me they actually prefer Jeff Marquez -- the other prospect whose name was mentioned in the Yankees' Johan Santana package -- to Kennedy.
Greg (Orchard Farm)
Why are we having this conversation now? Clayton Kershaw will be better than either of these guys.
Jerry Crasnick (1:46 PM)
Greg, It's such a crap shoot with kids in the minors, really. Clayton Kershaw is supposed to be great, but Greg Miller and Edwin Jackson got a lot of hype and sure didn't amount to much. It's all about health, maturity and the ability to make adjustments when you're talking about prospects. We'll see on Kershaw.
speaking of young pitchers ... what do you see of Pelfrey becoming (best case scenario) and just how good is this D. Guerra?
Jerry Crasnick (1:47 PM)
Andre, There are a lot of questions about Mike Pelfrey because of his lack of a breaking ball. Some people think he winds up in the bullpen. Maybe he can do some tinkering and be an Aaron Heilman type. As for Deolis Guerra, I guess he's pretty good. But he's only 18.
Per Teddy's comments, it is to be understood that Joba does have a decent arsenal himself is it not? He does have five pitches (althought his changeup is iffy) does he not? And although Clay may have a better curve and changeup, Joba has a better Fastball and Slider. My point is that it should not be assumed that Clay has a better overall arsenal as Joba has more than his FB and Slider but only uses them when Starting.
Jerry Crasnick (1:50 PM)
Chris, I know Jim Palmer used to say that if you can locate your fastball, you only need one complementary pitch. Of course, that was Jim Palmer. But I once saw Jason Schmidt dominate a postseason game with a fastball, a changeup and an arm that throbbed so much he couldn't bear to throw his slider. If you have two pitches as dominant as Chamberlain's fastball and slider, why use the changeup and curve as anything more than "show" pitches?
Thanks for the Chat! Had Clay not already thrown a no-hitter, who would you say was more likely to do it in their career based solely on their "stuff"?
Jerry Crasnick (1:50 PM)
Eric, Probably Joba. But give him time.
I believe Baseball America independent scouts have Clay ranked ahead of Joba going into next season as the #2 prospect in baseball behind jay bruce, any reason why those scouts would be different then the 9 (7 of which liked joba better)?
Jerry Crasnick (1:53 PM)
Mils, Baseball America's four editors -- Jim Callis, John Manuel, Will Lingo and Chris Kline -- split on Joba vs. Buchholz. I know Callis prefers Buchholz, while Manuel favors Joba. And by the way, those guys are both passionate about it. I think we need to arrange a steel cage match between them so they can duke it out.
Kris (San Fran)
Any concerns that Joba will still be spooked by that "bug breakdown" in the playoffs?
Jerry Crasnick (1:55 PM)
Kris, No way. I was at Jacobs Field covering that game, and I was amazed at how poised the kid was. He stood before the media throng, held himself accountable and didn't make any excuses for his performance that night. In a strange sort of way, Chamberlain showed a lot of character with his ability to handle failure in that game. I know the scribes were impressed.
Ian (New York)
Clay = four starts against crappy teams when the Sox were about to clinch. Joba = 24 innings of a tight pennant race and only pitched when the game was on the line. No comparison. Joba rules.
Jerry Crasnick (1:56 PM)
Ian, Let me guess, you're a Yankees fan, right?
Besides his fastball, Joba doesn't have anyother pitches as refined as Clay Buchholz. I'm sick and tired of listening to new yorkers over-rating their prospects.
Jerry Crasnick (1:59 PM)
Jeff, I went into this with an open mind, and people whose opinions I respect -- scouting directors, talent evaluators who saw both guys in the Eastern League, etc. -- gave the nod to Chamberlain by a substantial margin. That doesn't mean Buchholz won't be terrific, or even that Joba will be better than Buchholz. But I was surprised at the pro-Joba level of sentiment out there.
Adam (syracuse, ny)
watching Joba pitch last season, I can't say there's a smoother delivery other than MO's.
Jerry Crasnick (2:00 PM)
Adam, Yeah, when I used the word "violent," that wasn't the best description. But any pitcher who throws 100 is going to put some effort into it. For what it's worth, Chamberlain gets high grades for repeating his delivery consistently. That's very important.
Jerry Crasnick (2:01 PM)
Thanks for the emails, everybody. It was a lot of fun. Let's now return to Henry Waxman, Bud Selig and our regularly scheduled programming ....
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