by Eno Sarris //
The Rays, as seems to a yearly tradition, have a bright young pitching prospect hitting their rotation this year. Jeremy Hellickson comes off a stellar, if short, debut, already has a scintillating nickname in “Hellboy.” But we’ve seen this story before, and with varying results. How does Hellickson stack up against fellow young Rays David Price, Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann?
Take a look at the table below for a quick overview of the relevant statistics these young Rays accrued in the minor leagues and in their respective debuts. The percentage of games started is included because players always perform better in short stints out of the bullpen.
Some differences immediately step to the fore. Not all debuts were created equal. We can probably eliminate the chance that Hellickson ends up like Niemann based on a few factors, including his debut. Not only did Niemann show the worst control of the group in the minor leagues, but his strikeout rate dropped as he advanced through the minor leagues, eventually bottoming out in his debut.
But eliminating Niemann still leaves the possibility that Hellickson ends up more Wade Davis than David Price. Now, these pitchers are all different, and have varying arsenals, ages, and histories, but they all have the common misfortune of having to face the AL East from the get-go. David Price obviously did well, and Hellickson’s numbers compare favorably to Price’s. If only Hellickson used his left hand, we’d have a nice comparable player to point to.
Why won’t Hellckson end up like fellow right-hander Wade Davis? Control is the easiest answer. Hellickson’s is elite, Davis’ average or below. Another answer lies in their comparative arsenals. Davis relied mostly on a fastball, while Hellickson has a plus-plus changeup and a solid curveball to go with his 91 MPH fastball. Bloomberg Sports has him putting up a 3.89 ERA and 1.24 WHIP, and he obviously has the upside to better that.
Given his elite control, strong off-speed arsenal, and historical record so far, Jeremy Hellickson is on track to be more David Price than Wade Davis. Expect a strong year from Hellboy, even if he hits a few bumps along the way.
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