Jim Callis solicited the opinions of scouts, whose comments appear below. They helped us break down the tools of Josh Beckett and Mark Prior on the standard 20-80 scouting scale, where 20 is poor, 50 represents major league average and 80 is outstanding. The numbers we use represent the potential each prospect is likely to realize. Ages are as of Opening Day.
Beckett is the hottest pitching prospect in recent memory, the reigning Minor League Player of the Year and the consensus favorite for National League rookie of the year. He has dominated since turning pro and didn't stop in four major league starts last September. Prior is the latest "best college pitcher ever" but has yet to throw a professional pitch. Sounds like a mismatch, right? Guess again. Scouts only slightly preferred Beckett, and that was mainly because he was more established. Our grades for Prior's secondary pitches might look conservative in a couple of years.
"You might say Beckett only because hes done it at the major league level. But the other guy is the best pitcher Ive ever scouted in my life. Theyre both No. 1 starters. Theyre both durable as hell. Theyre both 250-inning guys. Theyre both going to win 20 games. As far as command of more pitches, its Prior. Pure stuff, Id probably give the edge to Prior. Becketts curveball is a snapdragon, but he doesnt command it as well as Prior. Both have 80 fastballs on our scale, and Prior has better command. His curveball is a strikeout pitch and his changeup is an out pitch. He has three out pitches. Prior probably does it a little easier, but Beckett has done it in the league on TV."
"If Beckett has command of his changeup, Id give him the odds. Ive always seen Prior fight his changeup a bit against college hitters. His fastball, deception, curveball and command were so good, he didnt need to throw it. But you dont come to the big leagues and perform without a changeup. Ive seen him fight it in the bullpen and during games. Thats the only negative I could give you on him. Beckett just has outstanding stuff. He throws hard, he locates, hes got a hammer and he has a feel for three pitches."
"Id have to take Prior. I never thought Id have to take Beckett second in anything. I think Prior still has to work the changeup into his mix. There are some things we dont know about him yet, while Beckett has answered about everything. He got himself healthy. But Prior is just so dominant. Hes about as dominant as Ive ever seen a guy in college. There will be a bump or two along the way, but he has outstanding makeup. He knows what he wants and how to go get it. Beckett has the third pitch right now, but Priors two pitches might be a tick better. Theres no reason to believe he wont throw a good changeup someday. His command is a little bit better, but Joshs has come on too."
"Priors stuff is very good but Beckett can be dominant. Hes just got better pure stuff. Its one thing to do it against UCLA, but the other guy has shown it in the big leagues."
"I almost always go to the guy whos done it on the professional level until Ive seen the other guy in a professional atmosphere pitching against wood bats. Stuff-wise, theyre really close. If you didnt worry about who theyve done it against, that would be a fun argument. Just going on pure ceiling, Prior might be ahead a little bit. He might be an instant success."
"Id probably take Beckett. Youre talking about the two best pitchers in the last six or seven years."
Copyright 2002 Baseball America. All rights reserved.|
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.