3) Trevor Reckling, 5/22/89 - LHSP, AA
9 wins, 9 losses. 154.1 IP, 2.68 ERA, 122 SO/78 BB. +25 runs saved
Ranking in a Nutshell: Although he lacks the upside of some of the organization's newer pitchers, Reckling is closest to the majors and has the best all around blend of stuff, track record, and remaining projection. With his average fastball and two plus offspeed offerings, he profiles as a mid-rotation starter, where his athleticism should help him to eat a lot of innings. After ironing out some control issues, he could be ready for that role with the Halos as soon as 2011.
Track Record: Consistently solid. He played with Rick Porcello as an amateur, which helped keep him further under the radar than his potential deserved. The Halos selected him in the 8th round of the 2007 draft, and he turned in a solid rookie ball performance headlined by a strong 7.9 K/BB ratio. Baseball America reported that his curveball was so good in his debut that the Halos' player development folks limited him to just one per outing because they wanted him to develop his other pitches. In 2008, he began the year pitching with Jordan Walden in Cedar Rapids, and at times outperformed him - at one point, he threw 28 consecutive scoreless innings. Reckling fully broke out in 2009, dominating for the Quakes in April before earning a promotion to AA Arkansas, where he finished with 8 wins and a 2.93 ERA through 23 starts. Like 2008, his peripherals were only ok -- his AA line featured a 7.0 K/9, and a worrisome 5.0 BB/9 -- so his "luck independent" ERA, or "FIP," was a full run higher than his actual ERA. He's been outperforming his peripherals for 309 career minor league innings now, so depending on your predilections, that either makes him a candidate for regression, or proves that his ability to induce low BABIP's is a skill that will carry over to the upper levels. Eddie Bane made it clear where he stands, repeating frequently over the past year that Reckling "has the stuff to get major league hitters out right now."
Win-the-Lottery-Ceiling: He's a mid-rotation starter in the making. A big curveball, great changeup, average fastball, and good groundball tendencies make him look like Doug Davis with better all-around stuff. That might sound like damning with faint praise, but Davis' steady job offers and healthy bank account speak to his value.
Scouting Report: (beneath the jump)
The unimpressive 5 BB/9 and 1.4 K/BB rates that Reckling put up in AA last year drew a lot of attention to his unconventional mechanics, but I think the control issues are more a reflection of his age and inexperience than they are of any inherent weaknesses in his delivery. Remember, he first pitched in AA before turning 20, and is younger than both Garrett Richards and Tyler Kehrer. He's a hair older than less-refined Pat Corbin and Fabio Martinez Mesa, who are just now moving on from rookie ball.
You can view Reckling pitching at FutureAngels.com here, where he's the number one prospect, or here on Youtube. For Alex Eisenberg's take on his mechanics, check out his profile here. Eisenberg also mentions that Reckling has added a slider to his arsenal, which is news to me.
The distinguishing features of Reckling's delivery are these: his stride is short, he incorporates a reverse shoulder tilt, and he has the highest arm slot of any Angel I've seen except for Tyler Chatwood. The delivery gives him the high release point of a pitcher much taller than his 6'1", 195 lbs frame, which allows him to achieve the downward plane responsible for those groundballs. His curveball-changeup combo acquires plenty of life out of the high arm slot, and the deception provided by the shoulder tilt helps them to further play up.
Expect to see a lot of attention paid to that shoulder tilt if and when Reckling experiences the growing pains that most young pitchers undergo - it may become the scapegoat for his control issues. After breaking his hands, he tilts his shoulders back towards second base, raising his glove elbow and dropping his ball hand. He then extends the arms so that they are on a line roughly 45 degrees from the ground, and windmills his delivery, swinging his glove hand down, with his shoulders and ball hand rotating up and around from behind. There's some effort involved in the motion - you can see Reckling push to build the angular momentum for the pitch - and he runs into trouble when he looses his release point up top; but Reckling is a tremendous athlete, and I think he'll be able to repeat his delivery sufficiently and make adjustments when necessary.
A special thanks to Stephen Smith for making public his excellent footage of Angels' prospects.