I threw the question out earlier about if the Royals should be panicking about the state of their top pitching prospects:
- Mike Montgomery is walking 4.5 batters per nine innings with a 5.35 ERA for Triple A Omaha.
- John Lamb is out for a year or more after Tommy John surgery.
- Jake Odorizzi was dynamite in Wilmington, but his transition to Northwest Arkansas hasn’t been as seemless.
- Danny Duffy has shown flashes at the big league level but still struggles with his pitch counts and just took his lumps in a three inning, eight run debacle in which he threw 90 pitches to get nine outs.
That’s a rough pill to swallow, considering that all five were ranked #4 through #8 in our preseason prospect rankings. People talk about the Royals sending “waves” of prospects through the system. These five represent the first wave of starting prospects.
In other words, if they don’t figure it out, we’re waiting on the likes of Jason Adam and Noel Arguelles to work up to the majors to have hope of actual starting pitching to go with what looks like a strong lineup in the years to come.
Dwyer’s got a major league curveball already. It’s a true out pitch, and it’s what gives him the kind of upside that led Rany Jazayerli to name him a potential star with front of the rotation upside. Dwyer still has work to do, as his fastball command is reportedly iffy, and he doesn’t have a real third pitch that’s refined yet.
But there are signs that he may be figuring things out. After reaching Double A last year, he got four starts in and held his own and started 2011 in Springdale but struggled in the first half with a 5.76 ERA and a 59/39 K/BB ratio over 65.2 innings. His second half hasn’t been much better, however, his last five starts may indicate that he’s turning the corner.
Over his career, even when having success in High A, he walked 3.5 batters per nine innings. Control is his biggest adversary. Over his last five starts, though, he’s limited walks while still striking out batters and it’s led to a 2.48 ERA over 32.2 innings and walked only eight over that span. That’s a 2.2 BB/9 which goes well with the 9.64 K/9 in the same period.
Dwyer is 23 years old now and will be 24 next April. Since he was drafted as a 21-year-old freshman out of Clemson (he was held back and got to college late), he’s old for his level.
If (and “if” is a key word for Dwyer) these adjustments are for real, he should be in Omaha, maybe for a few starts at the end of this year, but definitely next year. He’s been prone to bad starts, including eight this year where he’s given up more runs than he’s pitched innings. He saw a particularly bad stretch from June 30 to July 10 where he pitched 8.2 innings over three starts – and gave 18 runs. His K/BB ratio over those three starts was a wretched 5/15.
While his recent stretch of success is encouraging, his three starts prior to that disastrous period saw him rack up 17 innings of solid pitching where he gave up only two runs and carried a 17/6 K/BB ratio.
Dwyer may be the Double A, left-handed equivalent to Luke Hochevar where the stuff looks to be there and a the hope for greatness returns after a string of good starts. The next few starts will be telling for Dwyer. If he can maintain the improved control and keeps striking batters out, it may be a sign that he’s ready for the next challenge and the raw talent has intersected with a refined approach and he may start to realize his potential.