When evaluating the statistical track record of a pitching prospect, I like to look at three main things:
Ground ball rate.
Obviously, components like velocity, scouting report, and the level at which the pitcher played are very important. But these three things tend to be the best way to quickly evaluate a pitching prospect. Guys who are above average in one of these three things can often be adequate major leaguers (assuming they can be above-average in the majors). Guys who are above average in two tend to be decent/pretty good major leaguers. And guys who are above average in all three tend to be very good.
David Huff is above average in all three.
Huff is not particularly dominant, and is unlikely to be an ace – either in real life, or in fantasy. However, he is above average in all three important factors. Furthermore, he throws in the low 90s and is very close to the majors.
Drafted in the first round back in 2006, Huff has shot through the Indians minor league system. He performed well in his first professional season in 2007 (he pitched in seven innings in 2006, but I won’t count those), posting a 46/15 K/BB ratio in 59 innings, while allowing only four homers. He induced a decent number of ground balls – 40.1% – but not a tremendous amount.
In 2008, Huff was promoted to double-A and improved in every area. At double-A Akron he posted a K/BB ratio of 62/14 in 65 innings, and induced grounders on 48% of his balls in play. Huff earned a promotion to triple-A, where he pitched in 80 innings, racking up 81 strikeouts while allowing only 15 walks. He even upped his ground ball percentage, inducing grounders on 50.9% of his balls in play. Furthermore, batters swung and missed at 9.8% of Huff’s pitches in triple-A (average at the major league level is around 7.5%).
In 2009, Huff is likely to begin the year in triple-A once again, as the Indians have several pitchers ahead of him on their depth chart, and they probably will not want him to begin accumulating service time on opening day. However, the Indians possess few pitchers who are as good as Huff, and the 24-year-old is almost certainly ready to perform at the major league level. Therefore, he will probably force his way into the Tribe’s rotation within the first month or two of the season.
David Huff doesn’t get a huge amount of strikeouts, or a huge amount of ground balls, but he’s shown the ability to accumulate an above-average amount of both. He’s also shown excellent control, which should be at least above-average at the major league level as well. Huff’s biggest strength is a lack of any pronounced weakness, and this should translate to a solid #3/4 starter in a big league rotation. While he lacks significant upside, Huff should be a nice late-round flier in AL only leagues (or very deep mixed leagues), and could be a nice addition off of the waiver wire in relatively shallow mixed leagues when he gets called up to the majors.