By now all pitchers and catchers have reported for Major League camp. Spring is almost here and that means Opening Day is just around the corner.With the start of Spring Training there are always little storylines that can be fun to follow and make the seven weeks of fake games go by quicker. One of those storylines this year is Sean Doolittle.The once promising first basemen is now reporting to camp as a pitcher.
Sometime during the recording of the last episode of Tarp Talk, David Wishinsky made the quip that Sean Doolittle was properly named. My thoughts on the once promising prospect were on the fence still, at that time, and I agreed. However, with the start of camp news came out that changed my, and I would like to think others, idea of Doolittle drastically. Before we get into that, how effective of a pitcher can he be?
A few weeks back I had a discussion with Nathaniel Stoltz and David Wiers in which I espoused that I felt that Doolittle could still be an effective pitcher. Sure it had been three years since he stepped on a mound. But he was working ahead of the curve, in my opinion. This isn’t an Alexi Ogando type of story where the teams sees a middling outfielder with no bat and an electric arm and teaches him how to pitch. Doolittle already has that background. Having pitched all the way through high school and his three years at The University of Virginia. At UVA he still holds the record for the most wins by a pitcher in a career (21) and once struck out 23 (!) batters in a New Jersey state final game. Pitching is not something you just forget when you have done it that long. You might be a little rusty, as he suggests in this interview with Susan Slusser, but the ability does not just disappear.
That interview and this tweet from Slusser changed my mind about Doolittle:
Sean Doolittle is popular interview target this morning. No mystery why: He converted from 1B to P and hit 97 mph in instructs.
Really? He touched 97? I would say, now, he sits 92-95. From what I could find about his pitching he was in the 88-92 range coming out of high school going into college. The A’s switched him over to first upon drafting him in 2007, thinking he was “one of the best hitters in the draft.” I have a theory as to why he was converted, but that is neither here nor there. It is reasonable to assume the he was not hitting 97 coming out of college. I would think the A’s are smart enough that if they had a left handed pitcher hitting 97 MPH, they wouldn’t convert him.
I don’t like saying that a prospect has one year to prove his worth or not, but that time is getting close for Doolittle. If he can go out this season and put up reasonable numbers, he becomes very interesting for the Athletics. I am okay with him holding a position on the 40-man roster. He is at the point now where if he were designated for assingment, a team would willingly take a flier on him. I don’t see him profiling as a rotation guy, but it is too early to be fully confident in that. Even if he is a bullpen arm, a lefty that can touch 97 and has at least one other average-to-plus pitch, he becomes a valuable trade piece.
Ephemera: If Doolittle can make it to the big leagues, he will become the fourth player born in South Dakota to play for the Athletics. The others? Kevin Foulke, Justin Duchshere, and Mark Ellis.