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Beckett vs. Prior

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.

Josh
BECKETT

VS.

Mark
PRIOR

1

Top 100 Rank

2

21

Age

21

Marlins

Team

Cubs

6-4

Height

6-5

190

Weight

225

Right

Throws

Right

75

Fastball

75

75

Curveball

70

60

Changeup

55

70

Command

80

70

Delivery

80

• "It’s not just Beckett’s fastball. It’s his command and his curveball and his offspeed stuff. It might be the best curveball in the game right now. It’s like Bert Blyleven’s, and it just comes natural for him. He’s really learned how to pitch at a young age. He pounds you inside. He can pitch hard and he can pitch soft. He has an amazing feel for the mound. God, he’s unlimited. He’s got the mental toughness, too."

• "You might say Beckett only because he’s done it at the major league level. But the other guy is the best pitcher I’ve ever scouted in my life. They’re both No. 1 starters. They’re both durable as hell. They’re both 250-inning guys. They’re both going to win 20 games. As far as command of more pitches, it’s Prior. Pure stuff, I’d probably give the edge to Prior. Beckett’s curveball is a snapdragon, but he doesn’t 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, I’d give him the odds. I’ve always seen Prior fight his changeup a bit against college hitters. His fastball, deception, curveball and command were so good, he didn’t need to throw it. But you don’t come to the big leagues and perform without a changeup. I’ve seen him fight it in the bullpen and during games. That’s the only negative I could give you on him. Beckett just has outstanding stuff. He throws hard, he locates, he’s got a hammer and he has a feel for three pitches."

• "I’d have to take Prior. I never thought I’d have to take Beckett second in anything. I think Prior still has to work the changeup into his mix. There are some things we don’t know about him yet, while Beckett has answered about everything. He got himself healthy. But Prior is just so dominant. He’s about as dominant as I’ve 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 Prior’s two pitches might be a tick better. There’s no reason to believe he won’t throw a good changeup someday. His command is a little bit better, but Josh’s has come on too."

• "Prior’s stuff is very good but Beckett can be dominant. He’s just got better pure stuff. It’s 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 who’s done it on the professional level until I’ve seen the other guy in a professional atmosphere pitching against wood bats. Stuff-wise, they’re really close. If you didn’t worry about who they’ve 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."

• "I’d probably take Beckett. You’re talking about the two best pitchers in the last six or seven years."

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