Atlanta Braves rookie Jordan Schafer got the 2009 MLB season going with a bang for his fellow rookies last night with a home run in his first Major League at-bat. One can only hope that the fireworks is a sign of good things to come from the 2009 rookie class.
Texas Rangers prospect Tommy Hunter has a good chance to see significant time in Arlington this season, even though he will begin 2009 in the minors, likely at Triple-A Oklahoma. The right-hander rocketed through the minors in 2008 after being selected in the supplemental first round of the 2007 amateur draft out of the University of Alabama.
The 22-year-old hurler threw just 17.2 innings in his pro debut in 2007 but then tossed more than 160 innings at three minor league levels in 2008. He added an additional 11 innings at the MLB level, where he was over-matched and allowed 23 hits (18.8 H/9) and 20 earned runs. In fact, Hunter was hittable at every level that he pitched, allowing 170 hits in 163.2 minor-league innings.
He did, though, show very good command with a 1.84 BB/9 rate. His strikeout rate was not as promising, as it was above 7.00 K/9 at High-A ball and in the Majors, but it was below 5.00 K/9 in Double-A and Triple-A. In total, his minor league strikeout rate was just 5.72 K/9, which is below average for a potential No. 3 starter. With experience, Hunter has room to improve his ‘K’ rate, as his repertoire includes an 89-94 mph fastball, plus curveball, slider and change-up.
Hunter will probably benefit the most if he can remain in Triple-A until at least June or July. Knowing the state of the Rangers’ pitching, though, he could very well be up by the end of April. The big league rotation currently includes Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, Kris Benson, Brandon McCarthy, and Matt Harrison. If Hunter does appear in the Majors for a significant amount of time in 2009 then he could provide innings and maybe some wins (He also won’t hurt you in the walks department), but there will probably be a fair number of hits allowed, and possibly a low number of strikeouts. Hunter does not have the ceiling of Neftali Feliz or Derek Holland, but he’s probably more MLB ready and of more value to fantasy baseball managers in 2009.
Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.