4. Trevor Reckling, lhsp
Birthday: 05/1989 Height: 6’2" Weight: 205
A- – 152.33 Innings ERA: 3.37 K/Inning = 0.84 K/BB = 2.17 GO/AO = 1.71
Baseball America’s 2008 Prospect Handbook called it, labeling the 19-year-old Reckling the Angels’ breakout candidate of the year. He did not disappoint, putting up an all-star season as the Midwest League’s youngest pitcher. Overall, he posted a solid 3.37 ERA and 0.84 K/Inning, and an excellent 1.71 GO/AO (air outs to ground outs) ratio. His stock as a prospect consequently rocketed, and he now enters 2009 ranked fourth and second respectively on Baseball America’s and John Sickle’s top Angels’ prospect lists.
Like Will Smith in 2008, Trevor was a late round victory for the Angels in the 2007 amateur draft, falling to them in the eighth round. He performed well that summer in the rookie Arizona League, striking out 55 in 36 innings while walking only 7. Supposedly, that success came largely without the use of his most nasty pitch, his curveball, because the Angels wanted him to focus on developing his fastball and changeup (hat tip to BA’s 2008 Prospect Handbook). While his debut’s 7.9 K/BB ratio wasn’t quite as good as Will’s 12.67, it was certainly good enough for the Angels to have Trevor skip Orem and head to Cedar Rapids in 2008.
For the first half of the season, Trevor was unbeatable. His ERA before the all-star break was a stellar 2.35, and included a 28 consecutive scoreless inning streak. Significantly, for that part of the season Trevor’s GO/AO (ground out to air out) ratio was a sterling 1.98, he gave up only 2 homeruns, and his batting average against was a paltry .208. After the half, Trevor struggled: his AO/GO regressed to 1.48, he gave up three times the number of homeruns, and his BA against swelled to .278. The opposition was lifting more of Trevor’s offerings into the air, hitting for power, and Trevor’s ERA consequently increased by nearly two full runs over the second half. This took place despite Trevor’s K/BB ratio improving significantly in the second half, from a pedestrian 1.35 to a very good 3.55. His K/Inning also improved, from 0.69 before the break to an excellent 0.98 after. Interestingly, Trevor did much better when his outs came on the ground, rather from the strikeout.
I won’t dwell too much on this weird split - the good first-half ERA corresponding with a stellar GO/AO, fewer strikeouts, and more walks; and conversely the significantly worse second-half ERA corresponding to a weaker GO/AO, more strikeouts, and fewer walks - because the numbers will likely smooth out over larger sample sizes, but it does reflect how important keeping the ball on the ground is to Trevor’s game. The K’s are nice, and his ability to get one when he needs it will help him navigate the perils of life on the mound; but the lesson here is that Trevor can absolutely dominate when he’s getting nothing but groundballs.
Trevor touches the low 90’s with his fastball, but more regularly sits at 88 and 89. He has a nasty curve that he’s still learning to control, and a more reliable but less nasty changeup.
While Trevor’s appealing combination of groundballs and strikeouts rank him highly on Baseball America’s and John Sickle’s prospect lists, a more wary observer has voiced two concerns. First, Trevor’s less-than-elite velocity may not be enough to maintain his k-rates when he faces better competition. That means Trevor will have to evolve into more of a control/contact guy, which in turn will limit his ceiling to number four/five starter. Second, Trevor’s delivery requires a lot of effort, which is a scout’s way of saying that he has to try really, really hard to throw as hard as he does. Excessive effort in a pitcher’s delivery can increase the likelihood of injury and fatigue, both of which could eventually force Trevor to move from the rotation to the bullpen. This too would lower his ceiling. Time will tell whether the misgivings about Trevor’s fastball and delivery are accurate, but in the meantime there’s enough to like about both his present performance and scouting reports to rank him fourth on my list (though you can make up your own mind about Trevor’s delivery via the video clip at http://futureangels.com/top10/2008.aspx).
This one’s a tough one to come up with - a left-handed starter who gets lots of groundballs, has a decent k-rate, and uses a solid curve as his out pitch. Maybe Scott Olsen, back in the season and a half with Florida when he was good? Oakland’s Dana Eveland? Barry Zito in his glory days (assuming Trevor’s fastball doesn’t improve while his curveball does)? I don’t want to go back to Andy Pettitte here, because his size and pitch mix differ from Trevors’. I guess I’d like to use my lifeline - any ideas out there for good comps?