Apr 16, 2010, 11:45 AM EDT
Madison Bumgarner was the 10th overall pick in the 2007 draft and ranked as the game’s ninth-best prospect by Baseball America heading into last season, one spot ahead of Rangers flamethrower Neftali Feliz.
He lived up to the hype, going 12-2 with a 1.85 ERA in 25 starts between Single-A and Double-A, and reached the majors a month after his 20th birthday. Unfortunately once there Bumgarner’s velocity was well below his peak levels, with his average fastball clocking in at 89.2 miles per hour.
Certainly plenty of 19-year-old pitchers tire late during a season, so Baseball America ranked him as the game’s 14th-best prospect this season and Bumgarner’s declining velocity wasn’t a huge story until he showed up at spring training to compete for the fifth spot in the Giants’ rotation. His fastball rarely topped the mid-80s and he predictably got rocked for a 6.43 ERA while handing out seven walks with zero strikeouts.
Bumgarner lost the fifth-starter competition to veteran Todd Wellemeyer and reported to Triple-A, where things have gotten even worse. He gave up 11 hits over three innings in his debut last week and was pasted for seven runs on 10 hits in four innings yesterday. Through two starts Bumgarner has a 14.14 ERA and .538 opponents’ batting average after coming into the season with a 27-5 record and 1.65 ERA in the minors.
In the span of just a couple months he’s gone from elite prospect competing for a rotation spot at age 20 to likely midseason call-up to … well, now it’s tough to figure exactly what the Giants plan to do with Bumgarner. His fastball is missing 5-10 miles per hour and Triple-A hitters are teeing off on him. Something clearly isn’t right with him physically at this point and the Giants need to figure it out before things get totally out of hand.
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