Scouts' Views: Carolina Rotation
The Marlins used four of the top 34 picks of the 2005 draft to take high school righthanders Chris Volstad
(16th overall) and Ryan Tucker
(34th), prep lefty Aaron Thompson
(22nd) and college righty Jacob Marceaux
(29th). The next year, Florida made college righthander Brett Sinkbeil
the 19th overall pick, and he has pitched essentially in tandem with the '05 draft quartet as they've made their way up the minor league ladder together.
Volstad, Tucker, Thompson and Sinkbeil anchor the Double-A Carolina rotation this season (after doing the same at high Class A Jupiter last year), while Marceaux comes out of the bullpen. In terms of depth, you won't find a better collection of arms in any minor league team's rotation—though one could certainly argue that the dynamic duos at the front of Jacksonville's (Clayton Kershaw/James McDonald) and Montgomery's (Wade Davis/Jake McGee) rotations give them the edge in terms of impact.
We recently spoke with a pair of National League scouts about the Mudcats' prospect quartet and, though their evaluations varied on some counts, Marlins fans certainly have plenty of reason to be optimistic.
"I'd rank them Volstad, Thompson, Tucker and Sinkbeil a distant fourth," the first scout said.
"Volstad and Tucker are really good," the second scout said, "while Thompson and Sinkbeil look more like longmen or fourth or fifth starters to me."
Chris Volstad, rhp
90-94 FB, 78-81 CB, 83-84 CH
3.31 ERA, 6.4 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9 in 438 IP
Scout One: "He could pitch in the big leagues right now. He's got above-average velocity, a downer curveball—he's the whole package right now. He's got good secondary stuff, and the thing is he doesn't mind getting guys out early in the count. That keeps his pitch total down. Then with runners in scoring position, he can go to the breaking ball to get some strikeouts."
Scout Two: "He's got that 60-65 fastball (on the 20-to-80 scouting scale) that sits in the low 90s, and that hammer for a curveball, which is a 65-70 pitch in the future. The kid can pitch. He's got such great downhill plane that it looks like he's on top of mountain throwing right downhill. He's got a great feel for pitching, a plus fastball, a future 70 breaking ball and an average changeup. He's got all the pitches. And he has a little better feel for pitching than Tucker, but both, to me, are potential No. 2 starters. Volstad's fastball command is better than Tucker's and grades as above-average for the future."
Ryan Tucker, rhp
91-96 FB, 83-86 SL, 82-84 CH
3.94 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 3.8 BB/9, 0.6 HR/9 in 361 IP
Scout One: "Tucker's improved since I saw him last year. He looks a lot more mature on the mound, he has better command and he makes better use of the assortment he's got. He changes speeds, but he's got enough fastball to get it by you when he sets it up well. He does it without a lot of effort, relatively easy. The slider was pretty good—it's average with good velocity to it."
Scout Two: "The slider and changeup are average now, but the slider will be plus one day, maybe a 60. The changeup will probably always be solid-average. But he throws 93-96, so the fastball is 70-75, easy. He's got No. 2 starter potential, with only solid-average command holding him back—but that fastball is electric. You hear talk of making him a closer or set-up man down the line, but I'd want to run the gamut as a starter with this guy before making the switch."
Aaron Thompson, lhp
88-91 FB, 81-84 SL, 83-84 CH, 75-79 CB
3.75 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 3.0 BB/9, 0.5 HR/9 in 343 IP
Scout One: "If you can teach a guy to throw, you teach him to throw like Thompson. He's got a downer curveball, solid-average velocity, excellent mechanics and extension. He needs to mix in that changeup a lot more, though. He got away with more fastballs. I saw an average changeup out of him—I don't know if he lacks confidence in it or what. For a lefthander, that's usually their second pitch if not their first pitch."
Scout Two: "To me he's a tail-end starter. He's more 89 (mph) with some 90s in there. But he doesn't throw enough strikes, and he's up in zone too much. He's better than a lot of fringy Double-A lefties I see, but I'm not sure he's more than a No. 4 or 5 guy in the big leagues."
Brett Sinkbeil, rhp
91-94 FB, 84-88 SL, 84-85 CH
4.16 ERA, 6.0 K/9, 2.6 BB/9, 0.9 HR/9 in 186 IP
Scout One: "He's got good velocity, a good slider, but he lacks deception. You can see him all the way behind in his release. He's a long-arm slinger, if you wanna term it that way. He's got good velocity, but I've seen him have a lot more sink in the past."
Scout Two: "He throws hard and he's got a breaking ball, but he hasn't shown nearly as much as Volstad or Tucker. He's a No. 4 starter in big leagues. Listen to me, I say No. 4 starter like it's garbage, like it's a bad thing. He lacks big time command. He's got kind of a one-piece arm—he's not a flinger, but he definitely has an inconsistent release point. I like his fastball, which tops out at 93, and his breaking ball is above-average at times, but a lot of times it's below-average, too."