Gavin Floyd: Mediocre Prospect

I don't trust Gavin Floyd. I don't trust his stuff, with the loss of velocity on his fastball over the course of last year. I don't trust his control. I don't trust that he can miss bats.

Here's the thing: I didn't trust him before 2005. There's nothing in his minor-league record that suggests to me Floyd's going to be an especially good major leaguer. He's never posted an impressive strikeout rate, he's never shown particularly good control (based on walk rate), and he's been pretty inconsistent in hit rate and home run rate.

Let's take a look at his pre-2005 pro career, shall we? (All stats courtesy of

Year     Team    Age     Level    G    IP     ERA      h9         hr9      w9       k9       whip
2002    Lkwd    19      A       27   166    2.77      6.45      0.70    3.47     7.59    1.10
2003    CLW    20      A       24   138    3.00      8.35      0.59    2.93     7.50    1.25
2004    Rdng    21      AA      20   119    2.57      7.03      0.38    3.48     7.11    1.17
2004    SWB    21      AAA    5    30     4.99      11.45     1.17    2.64     5.28    1.57
2004    PHI      21      MLB    6    28     3.49      7.94      0.32    5.08     7.62    1.45

In his first two years and his stop at Reading in his third, he posted very good ERAs, but the other numbers are much less inspiring. Particularly look at the trend in the K/9 numbers: decreasing at each stop.

And then last year happened.

Year     Team    Age     Level    G    IP     ERA      h9         hr9      w9       k9       whip
2005    SWB    22      AAA    24   137    6.16      10.16     0.72    4.33     6.36    1.61
2005    PHI      22      MLB    7    26     10.04     10.38     1.73    5.54     5.88    1.77

Not exactly trust-inspiring, was it? His winter performance (3.89 ERA in 34.2 innings) was much improved from last year, but not especially impressive. And while he's been good this spring (2.30 ERA, 14 K vs. 7 BB in 15.2 IP), we're talking about two real starts worth of innings.

Some have talked Floyd up as if he's a viable candidate for a slot in the Phillies' starting rotation, perhaps bumping one of the Ryans to the bullpen. I don't see it. He needs to show he can get AAA hitters out consistently before I'd be willing to turn him loose again in the majors. I have high hopes for this season; I'm not willing to let a guy with a real shaky history hurt the Phillies while he works out his problems.

Some have also speculated that the reason for his collapse last year was the way he was handled. Allegedly, Charlie Manuel stated after Floyd's excellent start against St. Louis that Gavin would be moved to the bullpen when Vicente Padilla was healthy. Also, the quick demotion to the bullpen, and shortly thereafter to AAA have been cited as psychological blows to Floyd. As it turns out, he was moved to the bullpen after a disastrous start on 4/15 against the Braves. He followed that up with an atrocious relief appearance on 4/19 (in relief of Padilla, who also was shelled that day). He made one more relief appearance after that, getting bombed once again, and then was sent down. I have a problem with the idea that a prospect should be psychologically damaged by the notion that he might be bumped by a pitcher with a track record of major league success. I have even more trouble with the notion that being demoted to AAA after totally losing it in the majors should be considered hurtful. If Floyd can't handle the fact that he hasn't earned a spot in the rotation, then I seriously question whether he has the stuff between the ears to ever stick in the majors.

Now, lest I be called a typically pessimistic Negadelphian, let me point out one comparison I read somewhere (I think it was on John Sickels blog that intrigues me: Ben Sheets. Sheets, like Floyd, sports a low-to-mid 90's fastball and a big curve. Sheets, like Floyd, had spotty numbers in the minors and didn't particularly impress in his few years in the majors (although he never imploded the way Floyd did last year). Then, in 2004, he exploded, posting a stellar 2.70 ERA and huge improvements in almost every peripheral stat category (in fact, he was arguably better than the NL Cy Young award winner [Roger Clemens] that year). And one point in Floyd's favor: He is just 23 this year, the same age Sheets was in his first year in the majors, and three years younger than Sheets was in his breakout season.

I don't mean to say that I think Floyd will turn into Sheets in a few years, only that a guy with his raw stuff clearly has potential. But he has a long way to go before (if ever) he reaches it.