17) Ryan Chaffee 5/18/88 - RHSP, A-Ball
8 Wins, 8 Losses. 116.1 IP, 4.33 ERA, 121 K/65 BB. -6 runs saved.
Ranking in a Nutshell: What lights your fire - upside or performance? If you said upside, you'll like Chaffee. He ranks as high as #12 or #13 on other lists due to enticing peripheral stats and his confounding arsenal of pitches and arm slots. A 2.64 GO/AO, .207 BA against, and 9.36 K/9 all hint at Chaffee's potential to dominate. On the other hand, his 5.03 BB/9 underscores an inability to consistently pound the strike zone, his 4.33 ERA in a pitchers' park in a pitchers' league is no great shakes, and there is a reason why you don't see many guys using multiple arm slots in the majors. He's a really intriguing pitcher with a high ceiling, but his lack of control makes him a risk to collapse entirely at the higher levels.
Track Record: After receiving little attention out of high school, Chaffee matriculated to baseball factory Chipola Junior College and helped lead that team to consecutive Junior College World Series runs in 2007 and 2008. He broke his ankle early in 2008, requiring surgery to place a screw in his foot, but returned to pitch Chipola back to the JC World Series with a now legendary eighteen strikeout, shutout performance that earned Chaffee the reputation of big game pitcher. Area scout and Angels' institution Tom Kotchman was impressed enough to push for Chaffee in the 2008 draft, and the Angels selected him in the third round, widely considered an overdraft at the time. Unfortunately, the broken foot that he pitched through at Chipola required extensive rehab and kept Chaffee from making his professional debut until ‘09. After a frustrating April, Chaffee made adjustments and strung together a series of starts in May and June that were flat-out dominant, posting a 2.51 ERA and an insane 4.14 ground out to fly out ratio while limiting hitters to a .157 BA against. He began to wear down in July, and struggled with his control and command for the remainder of the season, yielding 5.8 walks per nine innings and a 5.95 ERA through the second half. As mentioned above, his overall 4.33 ERA in the Midwest League was worse than it sounds - this is the same league where Jordan Walden and Sean O'Sullivan posted ERA's in the 2's, and Stephen Marek and Nick Adenhart posted ERA's in the high 1's - but his 3.74 FIP (defense neutral ERA equivalent) gives hope that we haven't yet seen the best of Chaffee. He will likely head to Rancho in the spring.
Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: Chaffee's a unique guy due to his wide array of arm slots and offspeed offerings. A year and a half ago, Tom Kotchman called him a cross between El Duque, Mark Fidrych, and John Lackey in an interview with Stephen Smith. More recently Abe Flores compared him to Dave Cone - all of which is interesting, but hardly clarifies the picture. I would just say that if his command comes together, he could pitch towards the front of a rotation.
Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)
**Update** Alex Eisenberg of Baseball Intellect just sent this link to me with footage of Chaffee pitching. If you look at the other videos in the series, you can see Will Smith, Mike Kohn, Tyler Chatwood, and Andrew Taylor as well. No time to update the scouting report now, but it's worth checking out.
Chaffee's fastball ranges from the high 80's to the low 90's, depending upon the arm angle from which he throws. A 2008 draft-scouting report outlined his approach: against lefties, he uses an "over-the-top" arm slot to deliver a classic "12 to 6" curve, fastball, and a pretty good change-up. He will lower his arm slot against right-handers, coming at them from both a low three-quarters and a sidearm slot with his fastball, slurve, and "frisbee slider."
Chaffee's September 12th Midwest League playoff start showcased both his brilliance and his fallibility. In his first inning, Chaffee racked up three quick groundouts; in the second, he struck out the side (though he also plunked two guys and issued a walk); he fanned four more in a scoreless third and fourth inning; then, in the fifth, he gave up a leadoff hit, lost his command, and the wheels came off the bus. He worked his way into hitters' counts, grooved a couple of pitches, and suddenly three runs were on the board, all Burlington would need. Shaky command and the big inning go hand in hand, but if Chaffee can exorcise those twin demons he has a shot at consistently being the guy who was untouchable through those first four innings.