- Full name Collin Thomas Balester
- Born 06/06/1986 in Huntington Beach, CA
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 190 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Huntington Beach
- Debut 07/01/2008
Drafted in the 4th round (114th overall) by the Washington Nationals in 2004 (signed for $290,000).
View Draft ReportThe 6-foot-6, 180-pound Balester made huge strides this spring, improving his stock from a probable mid-round selection. With no college options, he may become a desirable selection for a team looking for a bargain in the fifth or sixth rounds. Balester didn't dominate at the high school level, going 6-4, 1.63 with 63 strikeouts in 64 innings, but he's a projectable righthander with a loose arm. He works at 91-92 mph with his fastball and has touched 94-95. He has issues with his delivery but has shown a capacity for spinning a breaking ball, though his curve is just adequate.
Organization Prospect Rankings
Balester has moved quickly through the system since the Nationals drafted the freespirited former surfer, and once again he was young for his level in 2007. He pitched well enough in Double-A to warrant a second-half promotion to Triple-A Columbus and held his own without dominating. The long-limbed Balester is growing into his frame, and he maintained 90-93 mph fastball velocity, touching 94 regularly and reaching 96 at the Futures Game. His curveball is often an above-average pitch at 77-81 with hard downward break. Balester excels at pitching to contact, but he needs to get better at putting hitters away, particularly with his swing-and-miss curveball. He tends to throw his changeup too hard at 85-87 mph, and he's better off using it in the low 80s to get more sink and separation from his fastball. He needs to command his fastball down in the strike zone more consistently. A potential middleof- the-rotation starter with a ceiling as a No. 2, Balester isn't far from breaking into the majors. Barring a standout spring, he'll open 2008 back in Triple-A, but he could be in Washington by midseason.
Going into his freshman year at Huntington Beach (Calif.) High, Balester spent much more time surfing than pitching. He admits that he knew about major league baseball but had no idea farm systems existed until his junior year of high school. His father Tom, who has spent 25 years shaving surfboards, worried about Balester falling in with the hard-partying surfer crowd, so he made him focus on baseball. It turned out the younger Balester had quite a knack for pitching, but he lacked the grades for college and signed for $290,000 as a fourth-round pick in 2004. He developed faster than the Nationals anticipated over his first two pro seasons, pushing his way to high Class A Potomac as a 19-year-old to start 2006. Early in the year, Washington wanted him to work on staying taller in his delivery to maximize leverage in his lanky frame, and he struggled with the adjustment, going 1-3, 6.91 over his first nine starts. His fastball velocity dropped to 88-90 mph and his command was very erratic. When Balester decided to return to his drop-and-drive roots, his stuff and control came back. He rebounded to earn three late-season starts at Double-A Harrisburg. When Balester is on, he has two above-average pitches and a chance for a third. Once he went back to pushing off the rubber with his back foot, he regained the life and velocity on his 91-94 fastball and had much more success busting hitters inside and breaking bats. With a durable frame and an electric arm, he holds his velocity deep into games and still projects to add a little more zip to his fastball as he fills out. Balester's out pitch is a power 76-78 mph curveball with sharp downward bite. His command of his curve came on in the second half of 2006, when he had success throwing it for strikes or as a chase pitch. He has good feel for his 80-84 mph changeup, which the Nationals forced him to begin throwing late in 2005. The changeup is becoming an effective weapon against lefthanders, thanks to its good fade. Balester doesn't rack up huge strikeout totals, but that's in part because he tries to be efficient and keep his pitch counts down. Balester still needs to learn to trust his changeup and develop a better feel for how much to put on or take off the pitch. It shows signs of being at least an average offering, and he'll need it to become more consistent in order to succeed as a starter in the big leagues. Though he tries to pitch to contact, he's still been too hittable because his location remains a work in progress. He has come a long way with the command of his fastball, but isn't as far along with his curve. While Balester has a gregarious, easygoing personality, he can get too emotional on the mound and lets his frustration with umpires get the better of him. Early in 2006, he struggled not just with mechanics but also with expectations, and he needs to be careful not to try to do too much. At 20, Balester will be one of the youngest pitchers to open 2007 in Double-A. The Nationals have plenty of uncertainty in their starting rotation, and it's possible Balester could see the big leagues late in the year, but another full season in the minors would be good for his development. He has the stuff and the moxie to be Washington's No. 1 starter in a few years.
In his first full pro season, Balester established himself as the system's best pitching prospect. The son of a surfboard shop owner in California, he shows a laid-back, unflappable demeanor as well as excellent work habits. Balester attacks hitters with a steady diet of 92-94 mph fastballs on a steep downhill angle. Already a physical pitcher with a resilient arm, he holds his velocity deep into games and could add more as he continues to fill out. His power curveball, an average pitch at times, is further along than the Nationals expected and could end up being a plus offering. Balester needs a better feel for throwing his curveball to righthanders and further development of his changeup to reach his potential as a frontline starter. Washington encouraged Balester to throw at least 10 changeups per game last year, and it began to show signs of developing into an average pitch. Balester will open 2006 as a 19-year-old at high Class A Potomac. After being limited to 125 innings in 2005, he'll have free reign to pitch deep into games and deep into the season. He profiles as a No. 2 starter in the majors as soon as 2008.
Balester wasn't a hot commodity entering his senior season in high school, but he pitched himself into the fourth round with a strong spring. Though he wasn't in peak condition after signing late, he still showed fine command during his pro debut. Tall and thin with a loose, easy arm action, Balester is projectable. His fastball already reaches 91-92 mph and touches 94-95. He's polished for his age and does an excellent job controlling the strike zone. His late-biting curveball is already an average pitch and could become a plus offering. Balester needs a third pitch if he's to succeed as a starter at higher levels. His changeup shows potential, but it's still a long way from being trustworthy. He also needs to strengthen his upper body and build up his durability. Washington views Balester as a combination of power and command who could become a front-of-the-rotation starter if everything clicks. He could begin 2005 in low Class A, but the Nationals may take it slow and start him in extended spring training before sending him to Vermont.
Minor League Top Prospects
Balester teamed with fellow rookie John Lannan to provide Nationals fans with a glimmer of hope for the future. While he wasn't quite ready for the big leagues at the time of his July 1 debut, Washington opted to let him finish his education in the National League. The fact that he competed in the majors at age 22 bodes well for his future. Balester's ceiling is as a strike-throwing No. 3 or 4 starter. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph and occasionally touches 93-94 with solid life. His command of his average curveball is improving, and he learned to better incorporate his changeup while with Columbus, giving him a viable three-pitch mix. Balester still telegraphs his changeup at times by slowing his arm down. He quickened his delivery to the plate with runners on base, and opponents attempted just six steals in his 12 Triple-A starts.
Harrisburg was the league's worst team at 55-86, featuring several older players and little positive energy. But Balester stuck out as a young prospect on the rise, impressing observers with his athleticism and competitiveness. Balester profiles as a No. 3 or 4 starter. His fastball has late life and grades out as above-average due to his control and ability to touch 93-94 mph, though he pitches at 89-91. His curveball is inconsistent but can be an average big league pitch once he tightens it up. He also shows a feel for an average changeup, though at times he slows his arm speed when throwing it.
Balester came a long way from 2006, when an unsuccessful attempt to convert his drop-and-drive mechanics to a tall-and-fall delivery had him grasping to find consistency in the high Class A. After reverting to his old mechanics, he moved quickly to Double-A last year and hasn't looked back since. Balester was overpowering at times with Columbus, pitching to both sides of the plate with an 88-94 mph fastball that touched 96 in his second-to-last outing. He throws a sharp curveball that can be an out pitch, but his command of it is inconsistent. His changeup is below average, but he worked hard to soften the velocity on the pitch without altering his arm speed.
The Nationals' top pitching prospect entering the system, Balester tinkered with his mechanics early in the season, trying to stay taller in his delivery to take advantage of his 6-foot-5 frame and throw on a more downhill angle. He never felt comfortable with the change, his command suffered and his fastball dipped into the upper 80s as a result. So Balester went back to the basics, pushing off his back leg and dropping and driving toward home plate. His velocity returned to its normal 90-93 mph, he regained the feel for his downer curveball and Balester's 7.94 April ERA shrunk to 5.19 before he was promoted to Double-A. Balester isn't afraid to challenge hitters over the inner half, and he's able to locate both his fastball and curve to all four quadrants of the strike zone when he's on. He continues to work on his circle changeup. His arm speed slows down considerably, and CL hitters feasted on the changeup because it was so easy to read.
Balester thrived in his first full season, establishing himself as one of the best prospects in the Nationals organization. He would have ranked higher on this list, but scouts thought he lacked a true swing-and-miss pitch. Balester has a strong, physical frame and smooth mechanics that allow him to throw his fastball consistently in the low 90s while touching 95 mph. Even better, his fastball has power sink, and he gave up just 11 home runs in 125 innings. Many of those homers came on breaking balls, as Balester lacks a feel for his curve. He throws it with power on occasion, but doesn't know when or how to take something off. His changeup remains a work in progress, but one AL scout said Balester's ceiling will be as high as any SAL righthander's if his secondary pitches become average.
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Fastball in the Washington Nationals in 2006
- Rated Best Fastball in the Washington Nationals in 2005