Sunday, December 27, 2009

#5 - Tim Alderson

Timothy Curtis Alderson was born in Phoenix, and was all that as a high school pitcher for Horizon HS.

In his junior and senior high school years, he struck out 173 batters while walking only nine. Alderson went 12-0 with a 1.05 ERA as a senior, fanning 111 and only walking four in 73 innings, and threw 47 straight frames his final year without issuing a free pass. Baseball America named him first-team high school All-American.

The Giants selected Alderson with the 22nd overall pick in Major League Baseball's 2007 draft. They gave him a $1.29M signing bonus, keeping him from his commitment to Oregon State. The pick was San Francisco's second, after Madison Bumgarner, as compensation for the loss of Jason Schmidt via free agency.

He made his pro debut that summer with the Arizona Rookie League Giants, getting few appearances but striking out a dozen in five innings.

In 2008, he was 13-4 with a 2.79 ERA for the San Jose Giants. He led the High Class A California League in ERA, tied for third in wins with 13, and was fourth in strikeouts with 124. Alderson made the All-Star team at the age of 19.

After the season, Baseball America rated him the #6 prospect in the league, the #45 prospect in all the minors, and the #4 prospect in the Giant system.

Alderson began 2009 with San Jose and was 1-1 with a 4.15 ERA after five games. Still, he was promoted to the AA Connecticut Defenders, and went 6-1 with a 3.47 ERA.

On July 29th, the Giants traded Alderson for Freddy Sanchez. San Fran fans beat their chests in frustration at losing Alderson; Bucco backers bemoaned getting another junk-balling back-ender. Time will tell who's right. It always does.

The 6-7 righthander has a plus-plus curveball and terrific control for a young moundsman. His heater is so-so, ranging from 88-91 MPH, touching 94 with a stiff breeze behind him. His change is very much a work in progress, and he'll need it.

Left-handed batters were hitting about 60 points higher against him than right-handed batters, so the change will be a key to handling batters of the lefty persuasion as he works his way up the ladder.

His fastball also took a hit last year, being clocked in the mid-to-high eighties. There are reasons galore being thrown out regarding the loss of velocity. One is that the innings are catching up to him, and he'll get stronger as he adjusts to the workload.

Another has to do with his funky delivery. It's deceptive to hitters, and doesn't look like the sort of herky-jerky motion to stress his arm. But Alderson pitched exclusively from the stretch in high school, and the Giants had to work on developing a full wind-up for him. He's got a lot of moving parts when he throws, especially from the hips down.

The Pirates are continuing that make-over, which incorporates a longer stride, kick and step-over before he lands. It looks awkward, but he claims that it doesn't affect his release or its repeatability, and his control numbers seem to reinforce that view, as he walked 30 in 137-1/3 innings during 2009.

But he only had 84 strike-outs, too, working out to 5.5/nine innings. That's a big red flag at the AA level.

Ross Ohlendorf had the same loss of power when Joe Kerrigan toyed with his mechanics, and his velocity eventually returned. Of course, the league is littered with guys that never regained the touch, so...

In spite of the travails, Alderson is seen by most, though certainly not all, scouts, as a possible #2 guy and likely #3 in the show. He's a pup - he only turned 21 in November - who's been aggressively promoted in a short span, and he’s held his own while showing great control.

Alderson is ranked 60th overall by Baseball Prospectus in their Top 100 Prospects for 2009. Baseball America has him slotted as the #7 Pirate prospect.

The suits are giving him a chance to catch his breath in Altoona this year. If he learns to stick his landings and comes up with a viable change (he was mostly a fastball-curveball guy last year, and two pitches won't cut it), he could be in line to show up at PNC in 2011.

(Next - #4 Chase d'Arnaud)

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