Chris Tillman was seen as a first-round talent by most that scouted him, analyzed him and faced him from 60+ feet away. But the way the chips fell last June favored the Seattle Mariners more than Tillman, who dropped into the club’s lap in round two.
Let’s see, a 6-foot-5 pitcher who approaches the mid-90s with his fastball and has a bigtime breaking ball to go with the potential for two more useful offerings?
Yes. Yes, please.
Chris Tillman is No. 6, and with as much helium, as they say, as any arm in the system.
Strengths: Tillman has a prototypical physical build at 6-5 and 195 pounds, which allows for young pitchers to rely on their natural abilities rather than trying to do more than they are capable of, which can lead to major injuries, particularly to one’s elbow or shoulder.
The M’s 2nd rounder last June has two quality pitches, a plus fastball and an above-average curve, and is working to develop a quality split-finger or change to compliment his out pitches.
Tillman showed good stuff last year in Peoria, and then again in Everett where his numbers showed he has work to do, but his stuff is certainly big-league quality.
Weaknesses: Other than being raw, which is more than just common among prep arms, Tillman just needs experience and time to work on his command and mechanics. His work ethic will be challenged in pro ball where high school antics get you nowhere – ask Jermaine Brock – and hard work and total dedication means everything.
Many believe the differences between Tillman and the club’s third-round pick last summer go a lot further than the hand in which they throw, the round they were chosen and the names on their backs. Tillman has some work to do to prove he was worth being among the top 50 players chosen, but the desire is there, as are the pitching tools.
He’ll just need to shed some tears, wipe some sweat from his brow and bleed through his uniform a little bit, after showing signs of slacking in high school, though that may very well have been due to a lack of interest or competition, since he played on a prep team that did not compete for the state title his senior year.
||Right||Right||Draft, 2006 – 2nd Round
Fastball: Tillman sat anywhere from 90-93 in his pro debut last season, occasionally touching 94 or 95, which could ultimately become his average fastball. He’s a candidate to learn the art of the two-seamer in order to induce more ground balls, but the club sees him as the type of pitcher, being taller, who can learn to stay on top of his pitches and keep the ball down, so a different heater may not be necessary.
With plus velocity, Tillman has the makings of a very good four-seamer.
Curve: Tillman’s 12-6 style curve is his bread and butter and is thrown in the 75-77 mph range – potentially a true power curve. As always, his command of the pitch needs improvement, but it’s got sharp, late break and solid depth, though it may endure some altering on his path to the show.
The Mariners do not want to see their kids throw too many curves or sliders, so watch for Tillman to be asked to use his curve sparingly, particularly later in the year as his workload tops out.
Splitter: Tillman began throwing a split-finger in high school, but the M’s prefer he learns a true change to save his valuable arm as he continues to mature physically. In a few years, they’ll remove the limitations and the better bet is that he sticks with the splitter, as a true change, usually of the circle grip variety, is much more difficult to master.
He can throw the true changeup and will be asked to develop it further.
Command: Other than growing up and learning how to be a professional, Tillman’s crutch is currently the control and command in which he throws his plus stuff. He’ll need to become more confident in his pitches and avoid trying to go for the strikeout in every situation, which in turn will improve his walk rates.
If he’s able to develop solid mechanics that are conducive to keeping the ball down in the strike zone, the home run totals will plummet.
Mechanics: The club is still analyzing and tinkering with the basics with their second round choice, and as he climbs through the system he’ll certainly continue to make adjustments along the way.
The most glaring red flags among most prep arms are about following through, balance and keeping the front shoulder closed, and Tillman is no different – he’ll need to be watched, though he’s shown a fairly clean delivery and no hitches in his arm action.
Future: Tillman’s ceiling is as a No. 2 starter with “Gil Meche” type stuff. Hopefully for the M’s Tillman avoids the operating table and develops better command sooner in his career than did Meche.
In the end, it’s all about command for Tillman, who’s already got two big-league offerings.
The right-hander will start his first full season in pro ball with Wisconsin in the Midwest League, where his mistakes will be minimized by the poor weather conditions and a few larger ballparks.
A quality first half could spring him to the Cal League for a look-see, provided he’s got room in his workload.
MLB ETA: 2010
MLB CLONE –
Ceiling: Brett Myers
Median: Gil Meche
Cellar: Zach Miner
PI Projection 2007: 4.3 ERA, 8.5 K/9, 4.1 BB/9, 1.22 G/F