The Comp: Breaking Down The High Class A Salem Rotation

See also: Last week's The Comp compared Miguel Montero and Jeff Clement

For as good as the reviews have been of the lefthanded-heavy high Class A Kinston rotation that features Chuck Lofgren, Aaron Laffey and a rejuvenated Scott Lewis, the buzz coming out of Salem is just as good--if not better.

And that should make for an interesting series as the two teams square off for the first time over the weekend--and it's likely that there will be bunches of zeros posted on the board.

The Avalanche rotation boasts lefthander Troy Patton and righthanders Jimmy Barthmaier, Chad Reineke, and Felipe Paulino.

Patton, the highest-profile of the four, got off to a slow start this season. His secondary numbers are decent, with a 2-1 strikeout-walk ratio (24-12), but he has yet to record a win and carries 0-3, 3.80 numbers through 21 innings.

The 20-year-old lefty was nearly untouchable in his full-season debut last year at low Class A Lexington before being promoted to the Carolina League where he allowed 34 hits in 41 innings. A mild case of shoulder tendonitis limited him in nearly all of his high Class A starts, and he did not go past the fifth inning in any of his 10 starts after he was promoted.

Barthmaier, a 13th-round pick in 2003, also has struggled this season. In 29 innings, the 22-year-old righthander is 1-3, 5.22. But just like Patton, the secondary numbers have been good, with 31 strikeouts and 16 walks over that span.

Paulino, 22, got off to the worst start by far, losing two of his first three outings and allowing 11 earned runs on 11 hits--including five homers--in just nine innings. Though the Venezuelan native has picked up his first win of the season since then, his overall numbers aren't especially impressive: 1-2, 4.70 with 19 strikeouts and 13 walks in 23 innings.

Really, only Reineke has put up the stats to back up his stuff so far this season. The 23-year-old righthander was a 13th-round pick in 2004, and after whiffing 108 in 102 innings at Lexington last year, he now is 2-1, 1.88 with a 31-6 strikeout-walk ratio in 29 innings.

So who has the highest ceiling, and what's going on beneath the pure numbers?

We caught up with a scout from an American League scout to get the skinny on all four.

On Patton: "I can see why he dealt last year. I just think he's going through a little dead arm or something. But I think the stuff is definitely there. He's got a quick arm, and a solid-average fastball that has average to above-average life. I think it's just his offspeed stuff--he's just not getting it over consistently and they're sitting on his fastball and getting it pretty good. He's pitching behind in the count a lot.

"I think he's just walking too many guys and going to too many full counts. He's not putting guys away early with that nasty power curve that he has. He's just throwing too many pitches. He's just not getting guys out early and working ahead. That's his biggest problem. His stuff is fine."

On Barthmaier: He pitches too young for me. The breaking ball can be plus or it can be below average. He gets around on it a lot. He's up to 95 (mph) and his comfort level is 91-93. You'd like to see a little bit more, though. You don't want to be too hard on the guy since he just turned 22 years old--but you'd like to see more methodology to his pitching and more consistency with the breaking ball. That's going to be the big thing on him. He's got to develop that consistent above average to plus breaking ball. You'll see an inning or two where it's just lights out and then you'll see two or three innings where it's just a 40-45 pitch.

"But he's a prospect--where is he going to be down the line? He could be anywhere from a setup or situational righthander to a middle of the rotation starter. It all depends because his stuff is just not real refined right now. And you've got to have a good idea in this league to get guys out. He's got the stuff, but he's not using it like he should right now."

On Paulino: "I don't know why he's getting bombed, but I know he's got a plus breaking ball and a plus arm. I don't know what it is, but I'll take him. His changeup could be better, in part because he just doesn't throw it much. He pitches with that over the top fastball and that breaking ball. He doesn't throw (the changeup) much. It's not bad when he throws it, he just doesn't use it enough to be effective.

But the fastball was up to 96 when I saw him and his breaking ball is really devastating. He just needs something else that's a little off the pace because everything's hard.

On Reineke: Of all the guys on the come, it's him. He hasn't pitched a lot--just something like 10 starts coming into this season. (Editor's note: Reineke made 11 starts at Lexington last season). But I really like him a lot. He was consistently 93-94 with life and has one of the best sliders I've seen so far (this year). It was in the 86-87 (mph) range and it's a true plus wipeout pitch.

"He's such a big kid (6-foot-7) that he gets so much deception in his delivery--he gets it some on his fastball, but more with his slider. He attacks, throws strikes--just really goes after guys. His changeup was just OK, so it's really the development of that pitch that's going to determine what he is.

"If I had to rank them, I'm taking Paulino, then Patton, then Reineke, then Barthmaier right now. I know Paulino's been getting bombed, but in terms of pure stuff, he's the best guy in that rotation."