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Scouting Pitchers: Greg Smith, Dana Eveland, and Gio Gonzalez

James Benkard

James Benkard

James Benkard writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire.

(Statistics as of 8/15/08)

This week's trio of left-handed A's starting prospects each came to Oakland via trade. Until recently, Smith and Eveland spent the year together in the A's rotation. Eveland was optioned to Triple-A on August 3rd after allowing nine runs in Boston the previous day. Gonzalez was recalled on August 6th after a long minor league apprenticeship. We'll take a long look at Eveland and Smith, and a peek at Gonzalez.

I scout these pitchers personally, recording their velocity, pitch selection and motions by watching their games. Please feel free to post your comments below on these columns. I use the standard 20-80 scouting scale to rate pitchers. The velocities listed below are suggestive and not determinant of a pitch's rating. For example, a 75 MPH curveball might rate as a 60 because of its movement and/or deception.

80 Outstanding (96+ MPH fastball, 88+ MPH slider, 82 MPH curveball)
70 Well above average (94-95 FB, 86-87 MPH SL, 80-81 MPH CB)
60 Above average (92-93 MPH FB, 84-85 MPH SL, 78-79 MPH CB)
50 Average (89-91 MPH FB, 82-84 MPH SL, 75-77 MPH CB)
40 Below average (86-88 MPH FB, 79-81 MPH SL, 73-75 MPH CB)
30 Well below average (83-85 MPH FB, 76-78 MPH SL, 71-72 MPH CB)
20 Poor (80-82 MPH FB, 71-75 MPH SL, 69-70 MPH CB)

Arizona took the left-handed Smith (6-2,190, Born 12/22/1983) with a sixth-round pick in the 2005 draft out of LSU. He made a very successful full-season debut in 2006 in the California League, going 9-0 with a 1.63 ERA in 13 starts. He finished the year at Double-A and spent the first half of 2007 there, logging 130 innings and going 10-7, 3.61. Smith passed his first serious test in late 2007 by posting a 3.78 ERA in 10 starts in the Triple-A PCL. 23 starts into his rookie year, he is currently 5-11 with a 3.92 ERA.

Greg Smith: (G/F 0.71)

		Rating:  %Thrown:
Fastball	50		45
Cut fastball	55		10
Curveball	50		10
Slider		N/A
Changeup	60		35
Control	50
Delivery	60
Composure	55

Smith's 86-90 MPH four-seamer is average for a lefthander. When he's pitching well, he'll move it in and out and not just focus on the outside corner. He also throws an 80-83 MPH cutter, a 78-82 MPH changeup and a 75-77 MPH curveball. Smith's changeup is his best pitch, and he has good deception by throwing it with the same arm speed as his fastball. Smith's cutter has almost a slider action, but he doesn't control it well. As a consequence, Smith has a hard time getting ground balls, with five double plays in his 23 starts. Among the 117 pitchers with at least 100 innings, Smith's 0.71 G/F ratio ranks 111th.

Smith isn't overpowering, so he has little margin for error when he comes inside. He doesn't like to give in to hitters, which could be stubbornness. This adds up to some outings like he had August 10th, when he walked seven Tigers in 4.1 innings. When the umpire doesn't give Smith extra inches, it makes for a long night. Conversely, Smith will work the corners well if he is getting them. Batters then become impatient and lunge at his pitches. Smith could help his cause by pitching to contact earlier in the count.

Smith's delivery is fairly smooth and repeatable. He does get underneath the ball and pitch uphill sometimes. He doesn't trust his curveball much, which is loopy but isn't bad. Smith leans too heavily on his changeup when he's in a jam, and could vary the location of it more. He has a good slide-step and an excellent pickoff move. With his 50% caught stealing rate, baserunners are better off staying at first and waiting for the next hit.

With his decent stuff and control and good health record, Smith is a good bet to have a major league career. He profiles as a fifth or sixth man on a staff, but could be a very effective long reliever. It would help him to work his curve in more and throw more strikes.

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Milwaukee took the left-handed Eveland (6-1, 216, born 10/29/1983) with a sixteenth-round pick of the 2002 draft out of Hill College (Tx). He made it through a full season of Class A in 2004 mostly out of the rotation (9-6, 2.84 ERA). The Brewers skipped him past High-A in 2005, and he put himself on the fast track by winning 10 of his 18 starts at Double-A with a 2.72 ERA. Called to the majors in July, he posted a 5.97 ERA as a spot reliever for the rest of the year. Eveland pitched well at Triple-A in 2006, with a 2.74 ERA in 105 innings. He struggled in his second call-up (8.13 ERA in 28 innings), prompting Milwaukee to deal him to Arizona in November 2006 in the Doug Davis deal.

Eveland was sidelined for most of 2007 when he tore a tendon on his left middle finger in April. He worked his way back late in the year at Triple-A and was dealt again to Oakland to get Dan Haren. Eveland was one of the best rookie pitchers in the AL in the first half, going 7-6, 3.49 in 113 innings. His control was wobbly in June (20 walks in 31 innings), although he pitched out of trouble for the month (2.64 ERA). He was hit hard in July (5.88 ERA) and stood at 7-8, 4.46 before being sent to Sacramento. He is 2-0, 3.46 in two Triple-A starts with 21 hits allowed in 13 innings.

Dana Eveland: (G/F 1.58)

		Rating:  %Thrown:
Fastball	55		55
Curveball	50		10
Slider		60		15
Changeup	55		20
Control	50
Delivery	50
Composure	55

Eveland has an 89-92 MPH fastball, an 80-84 MPH slider, a 72-76 MPH curveball and an 82-86 MPH changeup. His stuff grades slightly above-average, especially for a lefthander. Eveland is unpredictable with where he works his fastball. Unlike many lefthanders, he doesn't just live on the outside corner. When he is most effective, he buries his fastball and slider underneath the hands of right-handers (.272, 54 walks) to get ground balls. Eveland is still the staff leader with 15 double plays turned behind him. Left-handers (.241, 10 walks) have a harder time than righties with Eveland because of his slider, which his is swing-and-miss pitch.

Eveland's curve and change are also pretty good. His curve isn't hard but serves as an effective get-me-over strike. Eveland's changeup has left-to-right movement, the opposite of a traditional left-hander's changeup. This surprises right-handed batters who haven't seen him before. He can set up hitters by following a high fastball with a breaking ball in the dirt or over the plate.

Eveland's motion reminds me somewhat of Gil Meche's. He takes his arm back fairly straight and comes across his body a little with a three-quarters arm slot. He is stiff in his upper body and uses his arm more than a lot of pitchers do. When he has his good stuff, Eveland mixes his pitches well while driving the ball down in the zone. When he is off, he battles his command and doesn't have a dominant pitch to get out of a jam.

Eveland's struggles seem predictable for someone who missed most of last year and has thrown a career-high 125 innings. His 64 walks and his delivery, which isn't effortless, have probably contributed to his fatigue and eventual ineffectiveness. Eveland's 2008 work is mostly done. I would guess Oakland will look at other prospects and limit his workload from here on out. It helps that he's part of a youth movement and throws ground balls in a pitcher's park. He has more upside than Smith but isn't as safe a bet.

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Gonzalez (5-11, 185, Born 9/19/1985) was originally drafted by the White Sox in the first round of the 2004 draft out of a Florida high school. He has worked his way up methodically through the farm systems of the White Sox (2004, 2005), Phillies (2006), the White Sox again (2007), and finally the A's (2007, 2008). With three trades and almost 600 minor league innings under his belt, including two full seasons at Double-A, Gonzalez is as ready for the majors as any 22-year-old can be.

Gonzalez spent most of this season in the Triple-A PCL and was 8-7, 4.24 in 123 innings, with 128 strikeouts and 61 walks. He earned his call-up with a sparkling July (2.30 ERA), including a run of three starts where he allowed five hits in 21 innings. He made his major league debut on August 6 and won his second start on the 12th, limiting the Rays to one run in five innings.

Gio Gonzalez: (G/F 0.86)

		Rating:  %Thrown:
Fastball	60		55
Curveball	65		25
Slider		N/A
Changeup	55		20
Control	50
Delivery	55
Composure	55

Gonzalez' fairly straight fastball runs from 88-93 MPH and sits at 90-91. His bread-and-butter pitch has been his 11-to-5 75-79 MPH curveball. This is a good weapon against left-handers, who hit .198 off him in Triple-A and.222 so far in the majors. Gonzalez also has an 82-85 MPH changeup that doesn't have enough movement to be a strikeout pitch, but will be effective if he throws it for strikes.

Gonzalez has an upright motion, and like Eveland his arm does the majority of the work. He doesn't rock backwards as Eveland does, but stays balanced despite throwing across his body a little and repeats his release point well. Gonzalez does tip his change by slowing his arm, but the A's will correct that. He has stayed injury-free while averaging 150 innings a year since he hit full-season ball in 2005.

I don't see any red flags with Gonzalez. Roto-heads and scouts alike want to see more size in a rotation workhorse, but the other ingredients are there. It will be interesting to see if he adds a cutter or sinker, as that would shorten his innings. At this point Gonzalez is a moderate flyball pitcher, with a 1.35 G/F at Double-A in 2007 and 0.99 at Triple-A in 2008. He won't be a dominant strikeout pitcher but projects as a good #3 starter. I'd bet on him to have a better career than Smith or Eveland.

Next week: NL West: Ubaldo Jimenez and Franklin Morales

 

Article first appeared 8/18/08