There Is No Such Thing As A Pitching Prospect. TINSTAAPP. Read it, remember it, tattoo it to the inside of the eyelids. Never take an ascendant minor league pitcher's development for granted.
In the case of left-hander Cole Hamels, there were many reasonable minds who doubted he'd ever throw a pitch in a big league game. Drafted in the first round in 2002, Hamels fell to 17th overall due to concern about a broken left arm - a non-pitching injury that left many scouts wondering if the substantial risk of injury overwhelmed the whip-thin high schooler's obvious talent.
After absolutely dominating parts of three seasons in the minors and numerous injuries both pitching related and "extra-curricular," the Phillies decided to bump Hamels up to AAA-Scranton this April to see how he would fare against the tougher competition, having pimp-slapped two A-ball leagues in five early season starts. The results were astounding: 0.39 ERA in three starts, 23 innings, 36 strikeouts and one walk. Sufficiently impressed, Phillies management decided that Hamels had nothing left to prove on the farm, and he was promoted the Philadelphia to make his first start on May 12 against the Cincinnati Reds.
While not as dominant as he had been in the minors, Hamels gave fans a good indication of what to expect in the future: Seven strikeouts through five innings, one hit allowed, with five walks and a lot of deep counts marring his debut and possibly indicating a case of the jitters.
He was mostly solid to spectacular as the season progressed, making his mark on the league with dominant performances against the Mets and Cardinals late in the summer, and earning raves from opposing players, coaches, and scouts for his poise, talent, but most of all his nearly unhittable changeup, one of the very best in the game behind Johan Santana's and that of the vintage Pedro. A few clunker starts, a kitchen accident, and some uncharacteristic wildness elevated his ERA and rate stats, but overall Hamels left no doubt that he was an important part of the team's future.
Injuries remain a concern; he went on the 15-day DL in late May/early June due to arm soreness. But as Cole Hamels celebrates his 23rd birthday today, having made it through the minors and achieved some success in the bigs, every team in baseball wishes they could have taken a chance on the young lefthander.
Cole Hamels 2007 ERA...
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