Dave Cameron of USS Mariner Didn't Like the Pick
There are two major reasons why Dave Cameron of USS Mariner didn't care to draft Lincecum so early in the first round - he thought late 1st round was best. One was he thought Lincecum had bad mechanics. Which made him a big risk for an early pick. Another was Lincecum's pitching abuse at UW. I forgot where I saw this but someone has a site with college stats with PAP (BP's Pitcher's Abuse Points; sum of square of pitches above 100 thrown by a pitcher in a game) calculated and Lincecum's has been obscene the past two seasons, something like 400,000 in 2006, 250,000 in 2005, where most pitchers are under 100,000 and most are much under 100,000.
In general, over-using a pitcher, particularly a college one, is not a good sign at all, but as Leo Mazzone showed with the Braves, he emphasized throwing more often in order to build up the arm strength. And that is the key with Lincecum, this is something Lincecum's dad taught him to do and he's probably been doing this since he was in t-ball. He wouldn't be able to throw so much in between starts and not have his arm fall off by now AND still throw in the high 90's late in the game, if his arm could not take it. I mean, my god, he doesn't even ice his arm after the game, he is as he was quoted as saying, he's a freak of nature.
Cameron thinks that the arm abuse, his small stature, and his bad mechanics make him a poor risk for such an early pick, why hope that he's the rare pitcher who can take such abuse, when you can pick other pitchers just as talented but with no issues. I think the key signs that he's unique and thus need to be considered differently is: 1) being able to throw in the high 90's late in the game, 2) not needing to ice his arm after games, and 3) he can long throw the next day without any problem. He's like that old story I used to read about how a farm boy comes to his first baseball game and flings the ball over the fence, wowing the team: sometimes these types of guys fall out of the tree and you just have to thank your lucky stars you got to him first.
Lincecum: Starter or Reliever?
I have no doubts that the Giants view him as a starter. There are a number of reasons some people question this. One is because there were analysts who before the draft said that Lincecum is the most likely to be able to contribute to a major league team this season and so the people who are analyzing the Giants draft picked up on this and question what the Giants will do with Lincecum. Plus Tidrow did say that he could start or relieve, without clarifying that. And another commenter, in the official Giants PR, noted that he could be an "exceptional closer."
No one drafts a reliever with the 10th pick of the draft and pays him $2-3M in bonus. He might eventually becomes one, but you shoot for the gusto with the 10th pick and start him. In addition, he has been compared to Roy Oswalt, who wouldn't want to have a dominating starter like that, particularly when we already have a number of closer prospects in Valdez, Accardo, and Wilson vying for the position. Voters for the Cy Young might be confused about the value of a starter vs. a closer but baseball teams are not, Benitez was one of the top closers on the market and still got about what a mediocre starter (Kris Benson) got. As well, in another article from the same news conference (in Chron), Tidrow did say that "the pitcher would ease into pro ball with limited pitch counts and extra rest between starts." Starts, not relief appearances.
Now, might the Giants use him as a reliever in September? I don't see why not as long as they are convinced, after seeing him pitch day in, day out, for one of our farm teams, and have our doctors examine him and convince themselves that he really is a freak of nature and can take all these pitches. Plus, they would need to feel that the bullpen needs a shot in the arm at the end of the year, you never know what happens, remember the year we got desperate and traded for an old Giants pitcher (was it Burba?) only to see HIM get injured in, like, the second game we got him and lose him.
That said, TINSTAAPP (There is no sucha thingy as a pitching prospect). But, to me, this is about as good as any pitcher a team could get at the top of the draft. There are no sure things, but there is a lot to like about Lincecum.
Why I like Lincecum
There are plenty of things to like about Lincecum:
- It sounds like he was taught great mechanics already, despite what Cameron says. Another analyst noted, " Lincecum's stuff is as good as or better than any college pitcher in the draft. He throws a mid-90s fastball and an outstanding curve. A veteran scout that I spoke to rated Lincecum's fastball as a 7 (on the 1-8 scale the team uses) or a 70 (on the more traditional 20-80 range). He called Lincecum's curve and change-up a 6 and his pitchability a 65. "
- He has trained his arm to be able to throw a lot of pitches and, as a result, a lot of innings. Innings eaters are very valuable, else mediocre pitchers who pitch a lot of innings wouldn't be getting $5-7M per year contracts.
- He can throw 3-digit heat and keep the high 90's heaters going late into the game.
- He has four quality pitches according to his coach and at minimum, two quality pitches is always mentioned, his fastball and his curveball (which is a lot like Cain's strength), with a good slider noted sometimes as well.
- He doesn't need to ice his arm down after a start
- He can throw - from "pole to pole" - the next day after a start - can we say "rubber arm"?
- He has control problems, based on the number of walks he issued, but the same can be said about Matt Cain.
Hopefully he signs fast and with little fuss and we'll be good to go! According to his agents in the Chron article, they will start negotiating with the Giants "in a few days", so they should have started already. Kasey Kiker, who is a LHP from high school selected with the 12th pick, recently signed for $1.6M bonus, which is a little low for that pick from recent years, despite it being a high school player, who has greater leverage in negotiating since he can just go to school if he wished to.
So the Giants might not have to shell out as much as last year's #10 pick, Cameron Maybin, who got $2.65M from the Tigers, as he was from high school as well. Plus, as most analysts acknowledged, the talent in this draft was no where as strong as previous drafts, it was rated as the worst draft since 2000 in terms of strong talent up front, so the bonuses should not be as much as last year as well. As I said, hopefully he will sign soon, probably for around $2M (probably in the low $2M range).