Baseball America’s top 100 prospects from 2007 looks, in part, like this:
In their short careers, each of these players have disappointed to some extent. Matsuzaka has been decent and/or injured, but not the shutdown ace some people expected, and Hughes has come on strongly this season after battling some injuries and ineffectiveness the previous two. Homer Bailey is a different story. Nothing has been physically wrong with Bailey, but his stuff seems to have just stopped fooling hitters. Major league hitters, that is.
Over his career, he’s thrown 518.2 minor league innings, putting up a 3.60 ERA and striking out just over a batter per inning. His time in the major leagues has been a bit more rocky, to say the least. 109.2 innings over three seasons with an ERA of 6.65 and a strikeout-to-walk ratio hovering at just about one isn’t going to get it done. Over the past three years, only Steve Trachsel has a worse K/BB ratio in as many innings. I think that speaks for itself.
The troubling thing is that Bailey isn’t getting better, either. He had been pitching well in the minor leagues, to the tune of a 2.71 ERA (though a 3.86 FIP says he’s getting a little lucky), and over 8 strikeouts per 9 innings pitched, including a 15 strikeout, 2 walk performance earlier in the season. But in 5 major league starts, he’s walked as many as he has struck out (19), and has continued to get lit up, with a 6.43 ERA. He recently started throwing a splitter again, which has tormented minor league hitters, but has still left him with mixed results in the big leagues so far. Check out his batted ball chart, courtesy of FanGraphs:
It’s a small sample, but that groundball rate (in green) is only going south.
There is an encouraging sign, though. His fastball velocity has increased each of the last two years, which should help to ease concerns about potential use-related injury. If his shoulder hasn’t started to come apart yet, there’s a chance it might not at all. Homer Bailey is still just 23 years old, so we shouldn’t give up hope on him yet. But with a complete lack of success at the Major League level, and a lack of improvement over the last three years, it might be difficult for the Reds to remain patient for much longer.