- Full name Jason Michael Hirsh
- Born 02/20/1982 in Burbank, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'8" / Wt.: 250 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School California Lutheran
- Debut 08/12/2006
Drafted in the 2nd round (59th overall) by the Houston Astros in 2003 (signed for $625,000).
View Draft ReportThe first thing that catches your attention about Hirsh is his size. He's 6-foot-8 and 250 pounds--and understandably throws hard. He's been clocked up to 97 mph this spring. Pitchers with that kind of velocity rarely get out of the second round. Unrecruited by a Division I college out of high school, Hirsh threw 86-88 when he entered Cal Lutheran and added velocity by lifting weights and adjusting his arm angle. He is learning how to pitch and shows little confidence changing speeds off his fastball. His breaking ball is suspect, though he flashes an 86 mph slider. He's been used as a starter this year and had an 18-strikeout game on his way to a 9-1, 3.68 record, but he projects as a power reliever in pro ball.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Rockies added a lot of youth and saved a lot of money when they traded Jason Jennings to the Astros in December for Hirsh, Willy Taveras and Taylor Buchholz. Hirsh was the pitcher of the year in the Double-A Texas League in 2005 and the Triple-A Pacific Coast League in 2006. Last year, he started the Futures Game, went 46 2/3 innings without giving up an earned run in June and July and won his last 12 PCL decisions before making his big league debut. Hirsh not only is intimidating at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, but he's also athletic for his size. He's more about polish than power, going after hitters with a 91-93 mph fastball, a late-breaking slider and an effective changeup he'll throw in any count. He has made huge strides with his slider and his ability to change speeds since signing in 2003. Hirsh likes to get a little more velocity by going to a four-seam fastball. While he's confident, Hirsh tends to try to re-invent himself every time he reaches a new level. If he just pitches to his capabilities, he'll be fine. Both Hirsh and Buchholz could open 2007 in Colorado's rotation. Hirsh should develop into a No. 3 starter in time.
Despite his size, Hirsh drew little interest out of high school because he threw just 86-88 mph. He went undrafted, and no NCAA Division I programs wanted him, so he wound up at Division III Cal Lutheran. Hirsh blossomed with the Kingsmen, setting school records for career wins (26) and single-game strikeouts (18), but the number that got him noticed was his improved velocity. By his junior season in 2003, his fastball repeatedly touched 97 mph and his slider was peaking in the mid-80s. The Astros lacked a first-round pick that June after signing Jeff Kent as a free agent, and they made Hirsh their top pick as a second-rounder, signing him for $625,000. He blew away short-season New York-Penn League hitters in his debut but struggled at high Class A Salem in his first full season in 2004. Assigned the task of improving his secondary pitches, Hirsh struggled to do so and lost the edge on his fastball. Undeterred, Houston promoted him to Double-A Corpus Christi in 2005 and he responded by becoming Texas League pitcher of the year. A good year got even better for Hirsh when the Astros drafted and signed his brother Matt, another Cal Lutheran righty, in the 30th round. Matt went 1-2, 5.61 as a swingman at Rookie-level Greeneville. Hirsh's metamorphosis from 2004 to 2005 was astounding. A year after looking like he might not be more than a set-up man, he became a potential frontline starter. He has an intimidating frame at 6-foot-8 and 245 pounds, and he's athletic for his size. That allows him to repeat his delivery and his arm slot, which helped him gain the feel of a hard 80-86 mph slider that's much more consistent than it was in the past. Managers rated it the best breaking ball in the Texas League. Hirsh also has improved the sink on his fastball, opting for a two-seamer that sits at 91-93 mph. He can still reach the mid-90s when needed, but he's more concerned with the location and movement on his fastball. His changeup made strides as well, and is an average pitch. He's not afraid to pitch inside and throws strikes to both sides of the plate. As one scout with an American League club said, "To make that much progress in one year tells you about his makeup and aptitude." Having gone from owning no reliable pitch to now possessing three of them, Hirsh just needs to do some fine-tuning. He can still improve his command, which is average now but should become a plus with more experience. Likewise, his changeup can get better and is the least trustworthy of his three offerings. If Hirsh pitches as well at Triple-A Round Rock as he did in Double-A, he'll get called up to Houston in short order. With the Astros deciding not to offer Roger Clemens arbitration, Hirsh could get an opportunity to make the big league rotation in spring training. It's also possible that he could break into the majors as a middle reliever should the Astros develop a need in their bullpen. Hirsh's fastball-slider combination could allow him to excel in that role, but his long-term future is as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Hirsh spent his first full pro season in high Class A last year, and the challenge was a bit too much for him. After throwing just 86-88 mph in high school and flying under the radar of scouts and NCAA Division I programs, he blossomed at Division III Cal Lutheran. By 2003, he was flashing a mid-90s fastball and a mid-80s slider, which made him a second-round pick. With those pitches and a 6-foot-8 frame, Hirsh can be intimidating. But in 2004 he didn't scare hitters very often. While trying to improve his secondary pitches, he lost velocity on his fastball. It dipped to the low 90s and had inconsistent sink to begin with, so it no longer blew away hitters. The quality of his stuff varied wildly from start to start, and his changeup didn't make much progress. Some scouts projected Hirsh as a set-up man to begin with, and the bullpen will be his destination if he can't develop three usable pitches. He might benefit from starting 2005 back in high Class A.
Hirsh threw just 86-88 mph in high school, attracting no interest from NCAA Division I programs. Thanks to weight work and mechanical adjustments at Division III Cal Lutheran, he boosted his fastball up to 96 mph and his slider up to 86 last spring, when he recorded 17 and 18-strikeout games. The Astros took him with their top pick after forfeiting their first-rounder to sign free agent Jeff Kent. By the time he reaches the majors, Hirsh could have two 70 pitches on the 20-80 scouting scale. His fastball sits at 92-93 mph and shows nice arm-side run at times. He has intimidating presence on the mound and is athletic for his size. He was more polished than the Astros expected. Hirsh needs more consistency with all of his pitches. At times his fastball is straight, and his slider is far less reliable. His changeup has its moments but his inexperience throwing offspeed stuff shows. Hirsh could be a formidable starter or reliever. Some have projected him as a set-up man, but that might be underestimating him. He'll pitch in the low Class A Lexington rotation in 2004.
Minor League Top Prospects
The PCL pitcher of the year, Hirsh led the league with 13 victories and a 2.10 ERA. He worked 46 2/3 straight innings without allowing an earned run in June and July, and won his final 12 decisions prior to his promotion to Houston in August. Hirsh stood out with his major league presence on the mound, which opponents believe plays as great a role in his success as his overall stuff. That said, the 6-foot-8 righthander threw his pitches on an intimidating downhill plane. He has good command of a lively 91-93 mph, a late-breaking slider and an effective changeup that he'll throw in any count. "His numbers speak for themselves," Moore said. "He got off to a little bit of a slow start, but after that he had great game after great game. He had a plan and didn't vary from it. With his makeup and mindset, he has a chance to have a lot of success at the next level."
Unrecruited by any NCAA Division I baseball program, Hirsh went to California Lutheran, a D-III school, and tied a school record with 26 career wins. The Astros made him a second-round pick in 2003 and he had his breakout season in 2005, wining TL pitcher-of-the-year honors after leading the league in strikeouts and finishing second in wins and ERA. Though Hirsh is 6-foot-8, he's athletic enough to repeat his mechanics and establish a consistent release point. He pitched from 89-94 mph, with a good curveball and good feel for a changeup. More significant, he competes hard, shows poise on the mound and works both sides of the plate. There were no obvious weaknesses in Hirsh's package that innings shouldn't cure. He pounded the strike zone and showed command of all three of his pitches. He has fine body control, getting a great downward plane as well as deception from his long body.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Control in the Pacific Coast League in 2006
- Rated Best Control in the Houston Astros in 2006
- Rated Best Breaking Pitch in the Texas League in 2005