Charlie (Bethesda, MD): Are Josh Smoker or Colten Willems going to be any good?Nothing all that noteworthy here. Another day, another story with someone describing Jim as an egotistical blow-hard and wondering how on earth the guy still has a job as a major league GM. Hat tip to Kristen from We've Got Heart, commenter John, and Anthony from Oriole Post.
Keith Law: Both guys have lost velocity since signing. There is so much going wrong in that organization that I don't know where to start. Two people - one FO person, one writer - told me at the GM meetings that "Bowden must have pictures of someone" to still have his job. And oh, by the way, Bowden blew off the designated meet-the-media times both days and apparently bragged about intending to do so.
On the substance of the question--this is the first I can remember about either of these guys having velocity problems. But Fangraphs tracks the pitch f/x velocity of all MLB pitchers, but I don't know of any site where minor league velocity is tracked. Smoker was drafted as a guy who could touch 95, a real potential power lefty, so a drop in velocity would be a concern. I do notice a dip in Smoker's K-rate from last year to this, from 11.25 per 9 to 7.5, which could be indicative of a decline in velocity (or it could just be that he's no longer pitching in rookie leagues). But even that lower '08 strikeout rate isn't exactly a bad number, and he also shaved more than 2 walks per 9 from his walk rate (he's still at a too-high 4.5 per 9).
Willems has never been a fireballer to begin with. He gets by generating lots of grounders and minimizing the walks. But a high-80s pitcher doesn't have much margin for error, and should he lose some velocity, that's a problem.
Regardless, neither is legal to drink yet, and if two sandwich-round high school pitchers don't work out that hardly portends that there's a ton wrong with the organization. Law I think would have used any question about the Nationals to hurl a brick at Jim.
PS I'm aware I've had an unusually large number of Bowden-bashing posts lately. I promise to get back to more relevant matters, like how the team is doing, soon. Even I get bored chronicling the daily follies of JimBo...