- Full name James Richard Barthmaier
- Born 01/06/1984 in Atlanta, GA
- Profile Ht.: 6'5" / Wt.: 205 / Bats: R / Throws: R
- School Roswell
- Debut 06/27/2008
Drafted in the 13th round (389th overall) by the Houston Astros in 2003 (signed for $750,000).
View Draft ReportBarthmaier was making a late push for the first round, throwing 91-95 for four innings in a mid-May regional playoff game. He also showed an 80-83 mph slider and easy mechanics. Big-bodied (6-foot-4 and 210 pounds) and very athletic, he's also a good quarterback prospect--and that may hurt his draft status. He has been recruited by several Southeastern Conference schools but is waiting to see how the draft goes before making a commitment. At the same time he has been vague about his signability and his willingness to give up football, making it tough for scouts to get a read on him.
Organization Prospect Rankings
The Pirates claimed Barthmaier off waivers from the Astros following the 2007 season, and he made his major league debut last June. He's a hard-thrower, as his fastball routinely reaches 91-93 mph and can touch 96--though without much movement. Managers rated his hard curve, which usually hovers around 85 mph and drops off the table, as the best breaking ball in the International League last season. He still needs work on his changeup, though it did improve in 2008. Barthmaier is a good athlete who planned to play quarterback at Louisiana State before signing with the Astros for $750,000 as a 13th-rounder in 2003. That bonus still remains the record for that round. He tends to lose confidence at times, and some have questioned his work ethic, though it hasn't been an issue with the Pirates. Barthmaier will be in the mix for a spot in the Pittsburgh rotation in spring training, but he could use more time in Triple-A and won't be expected to reach the majors for good until 2010.
Barthmaier had ranked as one of the Astros' top pitching prospects since turning down offers to play quarterback at major programs to sign for a 13th-round record $750,000 in 2003. But he came down with a nerve problem in his elbow toward the end of spring training and pitched only sparingly until mid-May, after which he was so inconsistent that Houston removed him from its 40-man roster. His 9.69 ERA in the Arizona Fall League cemented that decision but didn't deter the Pirates from claiming Barthmaier on waivers. At his best, he'll show a low-90s sinker, a four-seam fastball that can touch 96 mph and a big-breaking curveball. But his stuff was down for most of 2007, as his fastball was mostly average and his curve was flat. His changeup, command and consistency never developed as the Astros hoped, leaving some in that organization to question his aptitude and desire. He'll pitch backward at times and doesn't trust his fastball-curve combo as much as he should. Barthmaier still has a big, strong body and the potential for a live arm, and he may benefit from a move to the bullpen, where he could narrow his focus. The Pirates will try to get him back on track this year in Double-A.
A highly recruited quarterback in high school, Barthmaier signed for a 13th-round record $750,000 in 2003. He had less polish and more ceiling than any starter in a talented Salem rotation last season--leading the high Class A Carolina League in both strikeouts and walks--and he finished on a 7-1, 1.82 tear. Barthmaier has life on his fastballs, pitching at 91-93 mph with his two-seamer and reaching 96 with his four-seamer. That sets up a curveball that managers rated the best in the Carolina League. Barthmaier made progress with his changeup and his control in the second half of 2006. Strong and athletic, he has missed just one start in four years of pro ball--and that was because of an ankle injury. He battles inconsistency with all his pitches and his command. He overthrows his fastball and loses movement, hangs some curveballs and still fights the feel for his changeup. His arm action is long and there's effort to his delivery. Showing more maturity and improving his preparation would be a big help. Barthmaier could make a dynamic closer, which would allow him to focus on his fastball and curve while not worrying about pacing himself. For now, he'll remain a starter and go to Double-A.
A high school quarterback, Barthmaier drew interest from several college football programs but didn't commit to one because he didn't want to scare off baseball teams. He slid in the 2003 draft anyway before signing for $750,000, a record for a 13th-rounder. Strong and athletic, Barthmaier projects as an innings-eater. He has a chance to have three plus pitches, and his fastball and curveball already are that good. He throws his fastball at 91-93 mph and peaks at 95, and his power curve is the best in the system. His changeup also is making progress. Barthmaier doesn't have the same feel as Jason Hirsh or Troy Patton, and he's still learning to locate his fastball where he wants. His mechanics have gotten better since he signed, but they still could use some more smoothing. There are some minor questions about his maturity. Barthmaier is on the verge of putting it all together, and once he does he'll move quickly to Houston. Ticketed for high Class A to begin 2006, he could reach Double-A by midseason.
Teams viewed Barthmaier as a possible supplemental first-round pick in 2003, but they couldn't gauge his signability. Several Atlantic Coast and Southeastern conference football programs recruited him as a quarterback, and though he never officially accepted a scholarship, clubs weren't sure he'd give up the gridiron. Barthmaier told Astros area scout Ellis Dungan he was willing to turn pro, however, so Houston was able to take him in the 11th round and sign him for $750,000, more money than they gave any other 2003 draft pick. He has spent both of his pro seasons in the Appalachian League, which he led in innings last summer. He won the championship clincher in the playoffs, working three scoreless innings in relief. As expected from a former quarterback, Barthmaier is tall, athletic and owns a strong arm. His fastball sits at 91-92 mph, already touches 93-94 and features late life. Houston changed his grip on his hard curveball, which now has more of a downward break. He's still in the early stages of developing his changeup. His mechanics have improved, but he still throws across his body too much and needs more refinement. His fastball command has gotten better, but he has to work on his control and consistency of his other pitches. He overthrows his curveball at times. Barthmaier will move up to low Class A this year.
Barthmaier could have gone in 2003's supplemental first round, but several Southeastern Conference football programs recruited him as a quarterback, clouding his signability. When the Braves passed on him, other teams followed suit, but Barthmaier had told Astros area scout Ellis Dungan that he was open to turning pro. He signed for $750,000 as a 13th-rounder--$125,000 more than Houston gave Jason Hirsh as a second-rounder. Barthmaier is loaded with physical tools. He has size, athleticism and arm strength. He throws a heavy fastball at 91-94 mph and should add velocity. His slider is a second power pitch, registering as high as 85 mph. He soaks up instruction quickly. Because he divided his time between two sports, Barthmaier is raw. He used to throw his slider with a football motion, and he barely has used a changeup. He throws across his body and varies his arm slots, so he'll have to clean up his mechanics. Barthmaier will need plenty of time to develop. He'll begin the 2004 season in extended spring training and report to short-season Tri-City. He probably won't see full-season ball until 2005.
Minor League Top Prospects
Salem had a quartet of starting pitching prospects in Patton, Barthmaier, Felipe Paulino and Chad Reineke. Barthmaier had the rawest arm of the bunch, but the highest ceiling as a projectable 6-foot-4, 210-pounder with an electric arm. He led the league in both strikeouts (134) and walks (67). Though his fastball regularly topped out at 95 mph, Barthmaier commands it better and achieves more late life when he throws it at 91-93. He was inconsistent with his curveball, which was a plus pitch at times and hung up in the zone at others. To his credit, he made strides with his changeup and his command of the breaking ball was much better by year's end, when he went 6-0, 1.53 over his final 10 starts. "You'd like to see more methodology to his pitching and more consistency with the breaking ball," an NL scout said. "That's going to be the big thing on him. 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 (on the 20-80 scouting scale)."
Barthmaier had to wait until September for his promotion to high Class A, joining Patton, Hunter Pence and infielders Jonny Ash and Ben Zobrist in making the move up a level. Barthmaier might have the highest ceiling of the group, though Patton's power stuff from the left side probably gives him a slight edge. In his third pro season, Barthmaier finally made it to full-season ball and continued the improvement he had shown at the end of 2004. He played both seasons for Lexington manager Tim Bogar, who noted improved feel for pitching from the former quarterback, who attracted Southeastern Conference football offers out of high school. Barthmaier is athletic and competitive, two traits that make him a possible front-of-the-rotation starter, and he had the best breaking ball in the SAL. "He's figuring out how to locate and mix his stuff," Bogar said. "His curveball is an above-average pitch, a real strikeout pitch, and his fastball sits 91-93, sometimes it will just sit 94. He's getting better about locating his fastball. He needs more feel, but he's learning that he can be a top-shelf kind of guy."
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Breaking Pitch in the International League in 2008
- Rated Best Breaking Pitch in the Carolina League in 2006
- Rated Best Curveball in the Houston Astros in 2006
- Rated Best Breaking Pitch in the South Atlantic League in 2005