John Sickels' Column: Homer Bailey

John Sickels' Column: Homer Bailey

This article is part of our John Sickels' Column series.

Report on Homer Bailey

BACKGROUND

It may seem to Reds fans like Homer Bailey has been around forever, but he just turned 22 years old this month. Drafted in the first round in 2004, Bailey was the top-rated high school pitcher available in the draft that year, fitting the "hard-throwing Texas high school pitcher" stereotype perfectly. He's moved through the Cincinnati system steadily, reaching the Reds last year, though struggling with his command and some nagging injuries during his first major league exposure. A rough 2008 spring training sent him back to Triple-A to begin this season, but he's performed well for Louisville and could be recalled any time the Reds need a starter.

TRADITIONAL SCOUTING REPORT

Bailey is 6-4, 205 pounds, born May 3rd, 1986 in LaGrange, Texas, a right-handed hitter and thrower. Bailey is a good overall athlete, which (in theory at least) should help him stay healthy. The Reds were very cautious about his pitch counts in his first two pro seasons, and have gradually increased his workload with no ill effects thus far. His injury problems in '07 had to do with his groin, not his arm.

Bailey's fastball has been clocked as high as 98 MPH, with movement. He works consistently in the 93-95 MPH range when healthy, though his peak velocity was down last year when the groin was bugging him. His second pitch is an excellent curveball, giving him two plus major league offerings. Lack of additional options was a problem early in his career, but he's worked to incorporate a cutter and a standard changeup into his arsenal, with mixed-but-promising results.

Command has been Bailey's biggest problem. At times he's shown sharp control, but his mechanics aren't always consistent, leading to control slippages occasionally. This was a big problem for him in his major league trial last summer, although at least part of the issue was the groin injury. He struggled again in spring camp, but his early-season pitching for Triple-A Louisville has been much better. Scouts have occasionally tapped Bailey for lacking focus on the mound and for not listening enough to coaches, but overall he's worked hard to remedy his deficiencies.

SABERMETRIC ASSESSMENT

Bailey's track record has been marked by strong-to-excellent K:IP ratios in A-ball and Double-A. His walk rates have been somewhat high, but he's been tough to hit. His ratios deteriorated last year when he hit Triple-A, and though he retained a good ERA, it was a warning sign that he could struggle in the majors, as indeed he did. His GO:AO marks show him as a fly ball pitcher, though he hasn't been excessively vulnerable to the home run.

Bailey is currently 4-3, 3.55 in eight starts for Triple-A Louisville, with a 40:14 K:BB in 50.2 innings, and 48 hits allowed He's really had just one bad start, as his last outing on May 10th was a disaster with 11 hits and six runs allowed in 4.1 innings. His other seven starts were strong, including a 10-strikeout performance in seven innings of work on April 30th.

Overall, Bailey's minor league performance record is solid, very much so given his age. In 20 career Triple-A starts, he has a 10-6 record, a 99:46 K:BB in 117.2 innings, and a 3.29 ERA with 97 hits and nine homers allowed. Given his age that's very very good, but not quite exceptional due to a too-high walk rate.

FANTASY INVESTMENT VALUE

Bailey has the physical attributes of a number one starter, a guy who can dominate. He's still making the transition from thrower to pitcher, however, and instant success in the majors is not assured. He will likely require some additional adjustment time, and as with all young pitchers there is always the risk of injury or sudden skill reversal. But overall, Bailey remains an excellent long-term prospect, and if you're willing and able to invest in young pitching, he's a strong option. If he had gone to college, he would have been drafted in 2007 and would just now be adapting to pro ball. Be patient with him.

Article first appeared 5/15/08

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Sickels
John Sickels writes about fantasy sports for RotoWire
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