Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Take 2
A couple of months ago, I was fortunate to catch lightning in a bottle and see the freshly-drafted pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx make his first (and, to this day, only) appearance at Cheney Stadium. I didn't write much of a recap, because I took a lot of pictures (and you know about how many words a picture says), but I remember being intrigued by his pitching style, and how he was able to fill in for two innings and strike 5 Portland Beavers out in those two innings, having just arrived from the draft.
Now that he's had a few months to begin to settle into a professional career, people are starting to notice the numbers he's putting up. While I have yet to watch him in a game again, I have kept a bit of an eye on him myself (mostly through J's game recaps and through his game log on the minorleagusplits.com site). Recognizing that these types of pitchers often fall of the larger top-40 prospect radar (generally reserved for flamethrowing starters), I've adopted Austin as one of my SportSpot Adopt-a-Players, and continue to cheer for him even if it's behind the scenes a bit.
One of the things I look for in a relief pitcher is his ability to keep folks off of the bases, limit the walks, up the K's, and limit the damage done by the hits. Strikeout pitchers aren't always completely dominant -- 10K; 5BB; 10 H nights are not all together uncommon for starters. No pitcher is completely unhittable all the time, of course, so singles are obviously preferred to doubles and HRs. Austin had a rough night on August 4th, but a good majority of the time he's been a strikeout machine. Looking at his game log, you'll notice that most of the time, his K rate is at least 1 per inning, and there are several appearances where he struck out 2 an inning.
I'm by no means an expert on minor league baseball -- I defer to guys like J, G_Moneyball, and Dave Cameron -- but it appears even to me that Austin is a guy well on his way to a very decent career as a MLB reliever. There's been some discussion about Dan Quisenberry as a potential comp, and indeed that would be nice. I'm not totally surprised that it's hard to get info on a guy who was drafted as a relief pitcher later in the draft -- and therefore isn't a guy the organization is going to invest a lot in. But you do have to kinda take notice of a player like that -- who comes seemingly outta nowhere to hold his own on a professional baseball team (after all -- isn't Salem-Keizer, like, kinda nowhere -- I drove through there last week. I should know. Kidding of course -- I actually like the Salem-Keizer area quite a bit ;-) .
The M's have some serious need for effective relief pitching. They'd need to clear a spot on the 40-man of course, so it's probably out of the question for 2006. Even still it would be really nice to be able to see him in Tacoma again. With the starting pitching in Seattle wearing out the bullpen, I'm sure we'll see some room made in Tacoma and Seattle for some fresh arms. It's not entirely unprecedented for a pitcher to come out of nowhere and do well in the majors.
See Lowe, Mark...