Thursday, July 23, 2009

Welcome Back Bally Star!

Eighteen months ago, Collin Balester was coming off an appearance in the Futures Game and ranked by Baseball America as the #3 prospect in the Nationals' organization, ahead of Jordan Zimmermann and anyone else not named Ross Detwiler.

Since then, he's been passed in the system by Craig Stammen and Zimmermann, and Shairon Martis and J.D. Martin got chances before he did. But the fact of the matter is that Bally Star has as good a shot as anyone of being a starter on a good Nationals team 3-4 years down the road.

His fastball sits at 91-92 and can reach 95. It has has good movement and velocity, and if he can spot it, he can get by without much else. The problem is that he has to have something else, and if he's not commanding his off-speed stuff he tends to rely too much on the fastball.

The curveball is his next best pitch, but it can have a bit of a "hump" in it and be too easily recognized by major league hitters. The change-up is the pitch that will allow him to succeed as a starter. Last year, it was his third-best pitch, but young pitchers often develop their change late. It needs to come in around 81-82 for strikes to work, and too often it's a ball at 85-86.

Last year, it's easy to forget that he was pretty darn good in 14 starts last year, putting up a 4.83 ERA, darn good for a 22-year-old rookie. Unfortunately, there was a 15th start, a disaster in Philly in which he looked like he's started the off-season a week early and gave up 7 earned runs in 1.2 innings, raising that ERA to 5.51.

This year has been a rough one for him. His strikeouts and walks both regressed, he lost his spot in the opening day rotation, and he's been digging his way out since. But his groundball rates have improved, and he's been solid over the last month.

Today, he's back, and if he pitches well he could be here for a while, since Scott Olsen is done (thank god) and Jordan Zimmermann probably won't pitcher for a while.

Don't forget to root for him, because he's still one of the prospects who will determine the near-term future of this team.

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