In case you’re unaware, one of the biggest pitching prospects in Major League Baseball made his debut last night. It wasn’t met with the hype and festivity of Strasmas, but Helloween certainly did not disappoint.
Helloween, of course, refers to the Rays’ Jeremy Hellickson. Hellickson’s debut came against a depleted Twins’ lineup – without both Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau – but it’s hard not to be impressed by his performance. The Twins mustered only two runs off Hellickson on three hits, a home run, and two walks. Hellickson struck out six Twins, including three against Jim Thome, one of the best power hitters in the history of the game.
Hellickson flashed three solid pitches last night (Brooks Baseball has the Pitch F/X values on the game). His fastball drew five swinging strikes and sat in the low-90s. His changeup was nearly 10 miles per hour slower, and was a nasty pitch for Hellickson, drawing six whiffs on only 26 pitches. With 15 overall strikes out of those 26 changeups it could mean that the best pitch in Hellickson’s arsenal is his changeup. He also showed a curveball, throwing a whopping 14 of 17 for strikes, even though “only” three of them were whiffs, for a still solid 17% whiff rate.
Helloween, for now, will be short lived. The Rays have already optioned Hellickson back to the minor leagues and will be bringing up first baseman Dan Johnson to shore up the bench and fill in for an injured Carlos Pena. That certainly doesn’t mean that we won’t be seeing more Hellickson as the season goes; right now, though, the Rays are set in the rotation and have no reason to stash a top prospect like this in the bullpen and possibly damage his development.
As our own R.J. Anderson reminds us, it’s only one start. But it’s one start backed up by a fantastic minor league career and an absolutely ridiculous arsenal of pitches. He’s not up for good, but he will be soon, and he could be one of the best, so get excited, fans of the Rays and fans of pitchers everywhere.
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