Top 5 Young Hurlers

Top 5 Young Hurlers

Félix Hernández, Seattle – He was hailed as the next Dwight Gooden when he was called up by the Mariners in August 2005, and he pitched well enough to validate that claim. In 12 starts, Hernández posted a 2.67 ERA, a WHIP of 1.00, 77 strikeouts, and an incredible batting average against of .203. He has struggled at times this season, especially on the road. His bloated ERA of 5.32 can be credited to control problems he has encountered at times. However, he out-dueled fellow stud Francisco Liriano (see profile below) on June 6, pitching seven innings and yielding just one run off six hits for the win. Hernández’ performance seems to have put him back on track. in spite of of his up-and-down 2006 season, the Venezuelan is without question baseball’s best pitching prospect at only 20 years old.

Josh Johnson, Florida – When the Marlins conducted a fire-sale this past off-season, trading Josh Beckett and losing AJ Burnett to free agency, they were widely criticized for breaking up their staff of young hurlers. The Marlins, however, knew of the talent that their minor league system possessed. Johnson, a 22-year-old righty, was one of those minor leaguers whom the Marlins believed would contribute during the 2006 season. He has not disappointed, posting some truly exceptional numbers: a 2.11 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, and .192 BAA. Johnson earned 3 wins in May, an impressive total for a pitcher on such a poor team. In that month, he had a 1.96 ERA and 1.01 WHIP. In his last start on June 6, he allowed five hits and zero earned runs over seven innings in a loss to San Francisco. If the Marlins are to enhance in the coming years, Johnson will be leading them.

Francisco Liriano, Minnesota – Coming into this season, Liriano was the jewel of the Twins’ minor league system. The only question was whether he would earn a identify in the starting rotation. He missed a meaningful part of spring training by competing on the Dominican Republic team in the World Baseball typical. He ended up starting the season in the bullpen, where he had a 3.22 ERA and 13 K/9. An injury to Kyle Lohse gave Liriano his chance. He did not disappoint, allowing only 2 hits and one run over five innings in his first start. In four total starts, he is 3-1 with a 1.64 ERA. There is now no question that Liriano is permanently supplanted in the rotation.

Jonathan Papelbon, Boston – After Keith Foulke suffered from a nuclear implosion last season, the Red Sox’ closer position was in a state of flux. Papelbon, a 2003 fourth-round draft pick, was given the job to start this season. He has been arguably the best closer in the baseball, converting 20 consecutive save opportunities before blowing a save on June 9. Combining that with his 0.30 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, and .144 BAA, Papelbon would look to be a Cy Young Award contender this season if he continues his dominance.

Justin Verlander, Detroit – The Detroit Tigers have experienced a renaissance this season, sitting atop the AL Central with a 38-23 record. The noticeable performance of the starting rotation has been the meaningful to the resurgence. Verlander, a former number 2 overall pick, has been extraordinary as a rookie. With a 7-4 record and 3.35 ERA, he has simply been unhittable at times. In the month of May, the rookie went 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA. He pitched a 5-hit complete game shutout on May 22 against Kansas City. Verlander will only enhance with experience, and will be a Cy Young-quality pitcher in the coming years.

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