Prospect Grades: Walls, Cruz, Byrd

The Saturday edition.

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Walls, Sam, RHP (age 23) Grade= C+

Walls, the Phillies 10th round pick out of NC State, is a pretty interesting guy. A redshirt junior, he could have returned to NC State for his senior season, but because of his numerous injuries and setbacks in his college career, he decided to start his pro career at the age of 22, turning 23 in October. At NC State, he pitched at the back end of ball games, and often times pitched multiple innings, including 17 of his 23 appearances in 2006. Because of his litany of injuries, his stock fell a bit, allowing him to drop to the Phillies in the 10th round. In what became a trend in the 2006 draft, the Phillies were willing to take risks on guys with some injury risk in order to possibly maximize their return. Walls had a nice debut at Batavia, posting a 2.67 ERA in 30 IP, allowing 32 hits and 6 walks to his 26 strikeouts. He obviously got hit around a bit, but only allowed 5 2B and 1 HR. Lefties and righties had a nearly identical OPS against him, .650 and .651, and he generated an astounding 52 groundballs to only 14 flyballs. His K/9 rate was about average, his H/9 below average, and his BB/9 well above average, which means he’d probably be a B- prospect, but because he was old for the league and he is a reliever, his grade dropped a bit.

2007 Outlook: My guess is that he gets some late inning looks at Lakewood, and if he pitches well, will move to Clearwater pretty quickly, and could end the season in Reading. Because he is older, he should be able to move quicker, but since he’s already destined for a bullpen role, there’s really no sense of urgency in his development.

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Cruz, Reymond, RHP (age 23) Grade = B-

Cruz signed as an undrafted free agent out of the Dominican Republic in March of 2004, and didn’t make his US debut until 2005. He pitched 9 games in the GCL, posting a 4.00 ERA in 45 IP, allowing 49 hits and 7 walks to his 43 strikeouts. In 2006, the Phillies moved him to the bullpen in Batavia, and he blew the doors off the place. In 36 IP, he posted a 1.25 ERA, allowing 19 hits and 9 walks compared to his 42 strikeouts. Opposing hitters hit only .150 against him, posting a combined .435 OPS, with only 2 extra base hits in 36 IP. He also induced 43 groundballs to only 24 flyballs. Because he was older than his competition, you have to take these numbers with a grain of salt, but because it was only his second season in the US, you have to cut him an equal amount of slack. His control is impeccable, and he pretty much shut down the opposition completely in 2006.

2007 Outlook: Because 2007 is his age 23 season, he should be moving quickly if he’s to become a more household name and future big league contributor. He’ll likely start in Lakewood and move quickly. Guys with great control and the ability to miss bats are quality commodities.

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Byrd, Darren, RHP (age 20) Grade = B

Byrd, an 18th round pick in 2005, is looking like a quality mid round pick by the Phillies staff. In his debut, he was solid, posting a 2.66 ERA in 44 IP. He proved in 2006 that it was no fluke. Starting back at the GCL level, he posted a solid 3.22 ERA in 36.1 IP, allowing 33 hits and 15 walks to go with his 27 K, not outstanding, but workable. However, in his 15 innings at Batavia, he held his own, allowing 10 hits and 11 walks to go with 14 strikeouts. Obviously, his number 1 enemy right now is control, and if he’s going to be successful, he’ll need to really work on his walk rate, but he was only 19, and to see his hit rate drop and K rate rise when promoted, even if it was only 15 innings, is somewhat promising. Byrd is still more projection than anything, as his 6’3/170 lb frame lends itself to increased velocity in the future. As of now, he throws in the high 80’s, but gets a lot of sink on his fastball, which led to a nice 79:43 GB to FB ratio in 2006. He’s still a project, but for an 18th round pick, he’s on the right track. He was ticketed as a draft and follow guy after 2005, but signed almost immediately, and the Phillies have been impressed with his attitude and approach.

2007 Outlook: The Phillies will probably play it safe with him, starting him at Williamsport, and then possibly bumping him to Lakewood for a few starts at the end of the season. Since 2007 will only be his age 20 season, no need to hurry him along, especially as he continues to grow into his body and add to his fastball velocity.

2 thoughts on “Prospect Grades: Walls, Cruz, Byrd

  1. James,

    Kudos to you for this site. It looks like you really hit upon something that fits in nicely with your interests and talents. The last few days have been particualrily good because I knew very little about these guys.

    Question: I’m pretty sure K/9 rate and often K/BB and HR rate get a little worse for pitchers as they rise in a system and face better hitters.

    How about GB/FB ratio? These three guys you profile today are really strong in this area. It’s a stat I only recently began to pay a lot of attention to as it augers well for future success if a guy can throw a lot of ground balls. And with CBP as our home big league park — it’s particularily important for us.

    Is it common for guys like this to retain their GB/FB rati or for it to get worse as they progress?

  2. I think GB/FB ratio is one of those things unique to each pitcher. I don’t know that better hitters will hit more fly balls, it depends on the type of hitters. But, if you don’t locate your pitches, there’s a better chance you could see your rates drop as you move up the system. So, it’s something to keep an eye on. I think it’s pretty common for good pitchers to average at least 1.2 GB/FB in the minors, even if they aren’t necessarily groundball pitchers, simply because they are more advanced, pitching wise, than the batters they are facing in the minors.

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