Toe to Toe: Hochevar vs. Lincecum
Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 4, 2006
Tim Lincecum's fastball typically sits 92-97 and he's sustained the high end of that spectrum throughout seven and eight inning starts. He'searned a rep for having a rubber arm.
Hochevar worked 92-95 during his junior year at Tennessee but after the long layoff has shown a slight, but expected dip into the 89-92 range. In his most recent outing with Fort Worth, the 22-year-old regularly hit 93 and 94 on the gun.
Their fastballs grade very similarly when movement and pitch control are considered, which is where Hochevar catches up despite the slight differential in velocity.
Lincecum's fastball isn't Andy Benes straight, but Hochevar regularly gets more run and sink with his four-seamer.
Lincecum's curve may be the best pitch of any arm in the draft, while Hochevar only shows the pitch on occasion.
Lincecum does use a slider and showed improvement with the pitch in 2006, but it's hardly a major league pitch at present time.
Hochevar's slider is his out pitch and when he shakes off the rust it'll show up in the break of his slider.
Neither pitcher has a plus change, but Hochevar's has far better action. It's a feel pitch and scouts haven't seen much of it in Fort Worth as it's his third best pitch, but it's a passable big-league offering.
Lincecum's curve ball is so good that he didn't use his change much, but if he were to add an average changeup or a split-finger, he'd be devastating in any role.
Neither right-hander has plus command and will need to improve in that area before tasting success in the majors, but Lincecum's control problems are a major red flag.
Since workload and long-term durability are the two main concerns with him, the fact that he goes deep into the count so often and issues a high number of bases on balls just adds fuel to the fire.
Hochevar's overall walk numbers aren't great but they are more than reasonable for a power pitcher.
Lincecum obviously comes with more risk, particularly when factoring in his size and durability concerns. At 5-11 and 170 pounds, he'd be among the few shortest and lightest starters in the majors right now.
Hochevar is built like a frontline arm at 6-5 and 215 pounds. There isn't much risk in his mechanics, though most of the top scouts see a few glitches that can be molded out of his delivery.
There has been far too much worry about Lincecum's delivery, since "It does nothing to expose his arm, mid-section or back", says one NL Central scout that has seen Lincecum on at least a dozen occasions.
"It's odd looking, but I've seen far worse deliveries on healthy pitchers."
Overall, there is a somewhat significant risk with Lincecum than there is with Hochevar.
Lincecum is a coaches dream and his bulldog approach will be adored by any club that takes a chance on him. He's a diamond dog and a tireless worker that is evident in his welcomed workload.
Hochevar had plus grades across the board in the areas of work ethic, coachability and overall makeup – until the fiasco with his agent(s) and the Los Angeles Dodgers over the past year.
His effort level, however, has been "as high as anyone we've seen," said an A's scout. "There are no issues here, at least that we have witnessed. And we snuck around and watched workouts."
If Lincecum reached his ceiling, the club that takes him will have themselves a No. 1 starter. That's without question. He's got the best stuff in the draft and his intangibles grade very high.
If he sheds some of his control issues, he's got a great shot to be the right-handed version of Scott Kazmir. Except with a plus-plus curve ball instead of a plus slider. The durability questions will follow him until he's out of baseball, or until he produces numerous 200-inning seasons.
Hochevar's ceiling is probably as a No. 2 starter – but don't run off now and wonder why the M's would take him over Lincecum. A No. 2 starter is a 17-win, 210-inning pitcher with ERA's in the low-to-mid 3's.
Hochevar is much more likely to become a 200-inning No. 2/3 starter than Lincecum is, due to the aforementioned risk factors.
Note: Justin Verlander was seen as a high No. 2 starter also until he proved he could sustain his 98 mph velocity.
If Hochevar improves his changeup to above-average status and adds consistency to his slider we're probably talking about Freddy Garcia at worst, and Roy Halladay on the extreme high side.
I'm thinking Chris Carpenter.
The crazy talk of Lincecum perhaps donning a big-league uniform in 2006 to help a club downt he stretch is insane on many fronts.
1) It's misleading when Baseball America says this without explaining any caveats involved in the idea
2) Lincecum's 125.1 innings and regularly high pitch counts may preclude from pitching competitively again until 2007. The club he is drafted by may not want to take the risk of overworking him.
3) Why would any club in the top 5 need Lincecum down the stretch? None of them are anywhere near the race – sadly, Seattle is five games back and that's closer than any of the four in front of them.
4) Even if Detroit, Los Angeles or Cincinnati took Lincecum, the chance that they believe he can help them deep into the postseason without the risk factors overtaking the idea is pretty insurmountable.
While the Reds and Dodgers could use help in the rotation and the pen, Detroitdoesn't need help in that manner.
5) All of this is assuming Lincecum signs quick enough to even suit up for the shortseason club, which is no given.
Lincecum, realistically, should probably see the bigs in 2007, and I'd guess sometime after June so the organization can limit his workload in the minors for awhile, much like the Mariners did with Felix Hernandez a year ago.
Hochevar's layoff rusted him up, but it may have just as good a shot to speed up his ascent to the bigs as it does to result detrimentally.
Either way, expecting him to break into the big leagues before June of 2007 is unfounded thinking. Sure, anything can happen, but the Mariners can win the World Series this year, too.
Barring health setbacks of any kind, Hochevar could be in line for a late 2007 callup, depending on where his club is in the standings.
Financially, the biggest differences between the two pitchers may be the type of contract demands being thrown around in negotiations.
Scott Boras will surely be demanding a major league deal for Hochevar and while Lincecum's agent is NOT Boras, he could be asking for the same thing.
What this does is place the player ont he 40-man roster immediately, which scares some teams away. The bonuses should be between $3.5 and 4.5 million for each player, though I wouldn't be surprised to hear rumors of more than $5 million.
Hochevar was offered $2.98 by the Dodgers – twice – and Lincecum was asking for $2 million LAST SEASON when he was a 42nd round pick by the Cleveland Indians.
If I were a scouting director, I would not shy away from Lincecum due to his size and delivery. His workload and command problems would push Hochevar, Andrew Miller and Brad Lincoln ahead of him on my draft board, but Lincecum surely grades right up there with Max Scherzer, Daniel Bard and Brandon Morrow, and he's better than all three.
|Toe to Toe
|Luke Hochevar||Category||Tim Lincecum|
|Luke Hochevar, RHP
|2003 – Tenn.||21 G/5 GS, 6-5, 4.64 ERA, 77.2 IP, 87 H, 24 BB, 73 K|
|2004 – Tenn.||11 G/9 GS, 4-2, 2.86 ERA, 63 IP, 52 H, 23 BB, 60 K|
|2005 – Tenn.||19 GS, 15-3, 2.26 ERA, 139.2 IP, 104 H, 54 BB, 154 K|
|2006 – Ft. W||4 GS, 1-1, 2.38 ERA, 22.2 IP, 20 H, 11 BB, 34 K|
|Career||55 G/37 GS, 26-11, 3.00 ERA, 301 IP, 112 BB, 321 K|
|Tim Lincecum, RHP
|2004 – UW||18 GS, 10-3, 3.53 ERA, 112.1 IP, 83 H, 82 BB, 161 K|
|2005 – UW||16 GS, 8-6, 3.11 ERA, 104.1 IP, 62 H, 71 BB, 131 K|
|2006 – UW||17 GS, 12-4, 1.94 ERA, 125.1 IP, 75 H, 63 BB, 199 K|
|Career||51 GS, 30-13, 2.80 ERA, 343 IP, 220 H, 216 BB, 491 K|