By Mike Steffanos
Phil Humber was the Mets first round selection in the 2004 Amateur Player Draft. The Mets had the third overall pick that year. Courtesy of MLB.com, here is Humber's scouting report at the time of the draft:
School: Rice U
Position: RHP B/T: R/R
H: 6-4 W: 220
Born: 1982-12-21 Class: SR
Scouting report: Large frame. Broad, sloped shoulders. Strong, durable, overall build. More developed lower half. Body type similar to Kevin Millwood. No windup, high 3/4 delivery. Plus arm strength. Comfort zone 91-93 w/ run & sink when down. Curve Ball, Major Laegue out pitch w/ big, tight, sharp 11-5 bite. Changeup w/ sink & deception. Other pitch, split, w/ short down break. Big, strong, durable workhorse w/ pitchability & mound presence. Stuff for quality Right Handed Starter at Major League level.
Humber wasn't signed in time to pitch any professional innings in 2004 after pitching 115 innings as a junior at Rice. He came to spring training with the Mets in 2005 after signing that winter, and was impressive. He struggled some with St. Lucie of the Class A Florida State League, with a fastball in the high 80s rather than in the low 90s. The Mets promoted him to Double-A Binghamton in June, but he left his first game there with elbow pain that would lead to season-ending Tommy John surgery.
When spring training got under way in 2006, Humber wasn't cleared to throw yet and 2005 first round pick Mike Pelfrey drew the attention in camp. It was well into the summer before Humber took the mound again, but he was so impressive in St. Lucie that the Mets promoted him to Binghamton. With the return of his low 90s velocity and his very good complementary pitches, Humber put himself back on the prospect map. He pitched 2 innings in relief for the Mets in September, and another couple of innings in the Arizona Fall League before some minor stiffness caused the Mets to shut him down for the year. Still, it was an amazing comeback from surgery for the young right-hander.
Here are Phil Humber's minor league numbers from last year:
|2006 Minor League Stats -- Phil Humber|
|Gulf Coast (Rookie)||1||4||15.8||15.8||2.3||0.0||6.75||.389|
|St. Lucie (A)||7||38||5.7||8.5||2.1||0.9||2.37||.178|
Most prospect lists see Humber and Mike Pelfrey as fairly even, with some preferring one and some the other. Here is the scouting report on Humber from Scout.com, who rank him as the Mets #4 prospect, 2 slots below Pelfrey:
Humber will be the first to tell you that Tommy John surgery, while setting him back in his development in one respect, actually made him a better pitcher in the long run. Able to sit 91-94 MPH with his fastball and possessing a wicked curveball, he was only allowed to work on his changeup in the early part of his rehab and now he throws an average to above average changeup, making him a more complete pitcher.
Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus has Humber at #2 on the Mets prospect list, one slot ahead of Pelfrey:
Return from Tommy John surgery was not only quick, it was remarkable for how quickly the stuff came back. Throws strikes and works all four quadrants of the zone with a low 90s fastball and a hammer curveball, as well as a power change up. All three pitches are capable of generating swings and misses, and Mets brass are still buzzing about the inning of relief against Atlanta during his big league debut when he touched 96 and looked dominant.
... In A Perfect World, He Becomes: A No. 2 starter capable of winning 15-to-18 games annually with an upper-echelon team.
In the just released top 10 Mets prospect list from Baseball America, Matt Meyers rates Humber as the #4 prospect in the system, 3 notches under Mike Pelfrey, and says:
Strengths: Humber's curveball is one of the best in the minors. Thrown at 74-78 mph, it has tight rotation with a powerful downward action. His fastball sits at 90-94 mph. He also features a developing low-80s changeup with late sink. He throws strikes with all three pitches.
The Future: Though his Arizona Fall League stint ended with a sore shoulder, an MRI revealed no damage and Humber is primed for his first full-season workload. Though his stuff is good enough to pitch in the big leagues, Humber will probably be better served with a full season in Triple-A to improve his endurance. He profiles as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
It's Humber's curveball and changeup that separate him from Pelfrey, who is still searching for the complementary pitches to that electric fastball. Stuff-wise, Humber is ready for the majors right now, and possesses the excellent mental makeup to succeed at that level. In spring training he'll be a full twenty months along from his Tommy John, so he could be expected to be fully recovered from the surgery. Still, with about 80 innings under his belt in 2006 the Mets would quite understandably want to go slowly with this kid. A likely scenario would see him start the year in AAA New Orleans and be one of the first call-ups.
Still, with a wide-open battle for rotation slots and the stuff and poise Humber brings to the table, I wouldn't want to bet my bankroll that he wouldn't steal one of those jobs right out of camp. I do think he will see some early minor league time, but barring health issues, he will be a sure bet to make a contribution at Shea in 2007. I could see him making 12-15 major league starts, or possibly coming out of the bullpen.
Note: This preview was updated 1/8/2007.
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