Writing about scouting a pitcher is tough. It’s tough because of the natural tendency to get swept up in the numbers and results. This is an important distinction because, for the most part, the numerical metrics you’ve become accustomed to using while measuring the effectiveness of a big league pitcher are far less important at the prospect level. The assumption is that if the “stuff” is good enough, the results you desire will follow at the big league level. In the minor leagues, you want to see “stuff”. This is why writing about Frisco pitcher Barret Loux is a challenge.
Most of you reading this are familiar with Barret’s story. Drafted 6th overall by Arizona in the 2010 draft, he was unable to pass the Diamondbacks’ physical and did not reach an agreement with them. All of this was due to reported fraying in parts of his labrum(shoulder) and bone chips in his elbow. It’s even more dramatic than you think. Loux and his family flew to Arizona for what appeared to be a formality. Take the physical, sign the previously agreed to $2 million deal, pose for pictures, start your career. None of that obviously happened. Arizona chose not to sign him and per a Bud Selig-ordered edict, Barret became an unrestricted free agent in September of 2010. He’s a Houston dude, Stratford High, and a proud Texas A&M former student, so he signed, in November of 2010, with the Rangers organization for $312,000.
Barret is a big guy, 6’5″ 225lbs with shoulders that can obviously bear more than just their own weight. Given his age and advanced experience (Big 12 baseball- and lots of it), Texas somewhat aggressively sent him to High-A, Myrtle Beach for his first assignment in 2011. He started 21 games and was basically a beast in the pitcher-friendly Carolina League. 127 strikeouts in 109 innings against only 34 walks and 6 home runs. Reports of his velocity sitting in the low-90s, touching the mid 90’s in many of his starts, had the Rangers looking especially sagacious, all while the concerns of his long-term durability remained.
So jump to 2012. Barret is assigned a position in the Frisco starting rotation. The roads are littered with pitchers who excelled in High-A environments and essentially had their asses handed to them upon making the jump to Double-A, widely considered among the most difficult in a player’s development. Here’s where things get tricky. After tonight, Barret’s season numbers are as follows:
22 Games Started: 14W – 1L, 3.38 ERA, 117.1ip, 110h, 44er, 35bb, 91k, 9hr
Pretty salty stuff. Until you see it in person. The fastball that once touched the mid-90s, now sits in the high 80’s. In 5 innings of charting every pitch tonight, I counted 8 pitches that reached 90 mph. This is especially important because the FB has always been considered Loux’s best pitch. His command is impressive, as you can see by the low number of free passes he’s issued, but 88 mph FBs aren’t very impressive. He also features a curveball that has good spin and relatively late break. He’s able to throw it for strikes and he used it a lot tonight. As a matter of fact, by my chart, he used the CB as his strike out pitch, inducing swings and misses, on 5 of his 7Ks tonight. He mixed in a pinch of CH and SL as well, but was groovin’ with the FB and CB. A scout I spoke with remarked that “it’s really ordinary stuff, but kinda awesome results”. That’s the mystery of Barret Loux.
I often look at a pitcher and simply think, “could he get batters out at the next level with his pitches.” For most hurlers it’s a pretty obvious answer. With Barret, I don’t really know. I, obviously, have my doubts, as most probably do, but the Texas League is no slouch. He’s faced great, young hitters this year. His stuff isn’t unique, but his command is good, and his pitchability is fantastic. One can’t help but wonder what happens to the velocity as his shoulder and arm continue to tire, or structurally worsen?
If it seems like I’m rambling, it’s because I don’t know what to say about this kid. His stuff is average, but his results aren’t (and this is no longer a small sample size). The strikeouts are down, but the pitching is up. I’m rooting for the kid, ’cause he’s had some weird, crappy situations happen to him that he had no control over and he just perseveres. Is he a good enough pitcher to go to the next level and more importantly, the one after that? In short, I don’t know. But, I know he’s one of the guys I enjoy watching and one of the few for which I take off my prospect-writer hat and simply root for.
(Non-existent editors note: I didn’t attend Texas A&M and I’m basically weirded out by anyone who’s really, really into the college they attended, and kind of, by college sports in general. Or, worded another way, that ain’t my bias. I love ’em all. HA!)
As always, enjoy baseball. Love Ya!