Baseball fans across the country watched and listened as three of the best young pitching prospects in professional baseball made their debut on Sunday, April 11, 2010.
There was 22 year old Mike Leake who led the NCAA in wins last year with the Arizona State Sun Devils. With a 16-1 record he had a 1.71 ERA and opponents hitting only .193 against him. Leake was Cincinnati Red's first round pick in the 2009 baseball draft. With his start on Sunday he became only the the 21st player, since the draft began in 1965 to play in the majors without appearing in a minor league game first. A feat that warranted his glove and ball being sent to Cooperstown after the game. Leake pitched a very strong game. He had 5 strikeouts and a 1.35 ERA, but didn't get a win. Nerves might have been a factor giving up 7 walks. I think Leake is going to be a great pitcher, but I wouldn't be surprised to see him pitching in the minors a bit before he wins his first Cy Young award.
22 year old Aroldis Chapman took the long route to the MLB. Chapman pitched for the Cuban National team until he successfully defected to the United States July 2009 and signed as a free agent with the Cincinnati Reds in January 2010.
Throwing in excess of 100 mph at times his control has been a concern. However in his debut Sunday with Triple-A Louisville Chapman was nothing short of spectacular. Over 4 and 2/3 innings he had 85 pitches, ten that read 99 mph or higher on the radar gun, with a few over 100 mph. He had 9 strike outs, one unearned run and one walk with 5 hits. As a southpaw, if he can keep his control in this range we maybe looking at someone who will be a pitching force to be reckoned with.
Stephen Strasburg, another flamethrower was also slated to start his major league career this Sunday. Since I live in Western Pennsylvania I took the opportunity to make the hour and a half drive to Altoona PA. and see if all the hype was warranted.
It was a great day for a ballgame. The weather was perfect. Blair County Ballpark is something Altoona can be proud of and yes, Strasburg lived up to the hype. The 21 year old who was the first all around draft pick last year has the potential to be one of the best in the game.
After a shaky 1st inning Strasburg settled down and dominated. With a fastball consistently hitting 97-98 mph on the gun and the ability to use a very good breaking ball and off speed pitch he kept the Curve batters off balance for the next 4 innings. He pitched 5 innings and had 8 strikeouts, gave up 4 hits, 2 walks and 1 earned run. He also doubled in a run over the right fielders head to help get his first professional victory.
Kudos to all three young pitchers. I look forward to watching the 3 of them contribute to the record books for many years to come.
There was however one drawback Sunday. Blair County park averages just over 5,000 fans per game. There were over 7,800 baseball fans there from several different states for one reason, to watch Steven Strasburg. Mr. Strasburg please in the future be a little more courteous to your fans. After the game I was standing there behind the fence by the team bus waiting with approximately 20 other fans to possibly say hello and good luck to you and maybe even get an autograph. After about 15 minutes of your standing less than 30 feet away talking to someone who some people said was your agent while us fans young and old called out to you, you turned around and got on the bus without even a word, not even a wave. Whether or not you got off the bus to acknowledge your fans I do not know. I was there for approximately half an hour or more before I gave up and left with a bad taste in my mouth. I was tired of waiting. Your fans love you as a player, let them appreciate you as a person too. You are going on a ride we all dream of but will never experience.Your potential is limitless.
Enjoy the ride Stephen, but let your fans help make it even better. BSB