Back in the misty half-forgotten time of early April when this little column began, the premise was that I would focus on a particular group of guys who were trying to transition across the line from prospect to big leaguer. There was one player I didn’t include in the group and maybe I should have.
Pitcher 1: 4.40 ERA
Pitcher 2: 2.71 ERA
Pitcher 1: 4.31 ERA
Pitcher 2: 2.40 ERA
So why do we hear so much about Stephenson but not Adleman? It comes down to two things: stuff and age. Stephenson throws much harder and is significantly younger than Adleman.
And I understand that. You’ll never hear me claim that Adleman has the potential to be a number 1 starter, while Stephenson certainly has that potential. However, at some point, it ceases to be about what a player might do and starts to be about he is doing and has done. That point is the major leagues.
Stephenson, despite the much-heralded fastball, has never had particularly good numbers in the minors. He walks too many and even when he doesn’t, he can’t control his pitch count. Perhaps his last couple of games with the Reds have shown signs of a progression, but his overall results in the majors have been dreadful.
Adleman has never been a world-beater and never will be. His ceiling is number 4 starter. He doesn’t have the potential of Stephenson — but he does have results.
All this, believe it or not, has been a long intro to the guy I’d really like to talk about: Tyler Mahle.
You know who Mahle is because you read this site, but the scouting reports don’t think he’s much to sneeze at. Basically, Mahle has good command but doesn’t throw especially hard. His minor league numbers, however, have been fabulous. He’s struck out more than 8 per 9IP almost since he arrived, and this year he is destroying AA with a 1.19 ERA, 9.8 K/9, and 1.9 BB/9. All this while being 22 — which is 2 years younger than the average AA player.
There’s starting to be some noise about the over-valuing of stuff. The assumption is that someone must throw hard to be successful, but we all know how silly that is. We can all think of examples of pitchers who didn’t throw hard and were still great and of hard-throwers who never panned out. It may be that hard throwers are more likely to be successful, but I’d be curious to see someone do the work to determine whether it’s velocity or control that best correlates to success in the majors. Or, as Crash Davis said, “Christ, you don’t need a quadrophonic Blaupunkt! What you need is a curveball! In the show, everybody can hit a fastball!”
Jason has been a fan of the Reds since he was born. He really had no choice in the matter. He has been writing at Redleg Nation for a few years, and also writes and edits at The Hardball Times. His debut novel, When the Sparrow Sings, is available now and concerns baseball, among other things. You can find more information at jasonlinden.com.