Bottom Line Up Front (BLUF): A project with good raw stuff. Needs to piece everything together to reach his ceiling as a good mid-rotation starter with an outside chance at a number two.
The Player: Chad James (LHP, Miami Marlins) – The Marlins top pick in 2009 he signed for $1.7 million at the August signing dealine. James showed tremendous raw stuff in 2010 with Greensboro but the results (5-10, 5.12 ERA) didn’t back that up. His numbers still didn’t look great in 2011 but there was some progress along the way. He finished the year with a 5-15 record, 3.80 ERA, 173 hits allowed in 149 innings with 124 strikeouts.
Body: Outstanding frame, gaining physicality. Body has improved since signing. Broad shoulders, long arms and some natural strength. Needs to improve through core and legs to maintain stamina.
Makeup: Works hard at conditioning and mechanics. Will get rattled on occasion during games and must control emotions better throughout his starts. Overall positive makeup, just needs increased maturity.
Delivery/Mechanics: Very slow and deliberate through windup. Gets a little stiff on his front leg at times, forcing his pitches up in the zone, may be helped by slight extension of stride. Will give hitter a long look at the ball on the back side, dips back side and doesn’t always catch up to his lower half. Needs to iron out mechanics and find something that works consistently.
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Wind-up): High – 94, Low – 88, Average – 90-91, Grade – 50/60
Fastball (FB) Velocity (Stretch): High – 93, Low 86, Average 88-89, Grade – 40/60
Fastball (FB) Movement: Four-seam can get a bit straight, particularly up in the zone. Two-seam will show some run at times. Needs to learn to manipulate his fastball better. Grade – 40/50
Overall Fastball: Showed better overall fastball in 2010 than 2011. Still believe the better fastball is in there and believe he could have consistent plus heater. Grade – 40/60
Curveball (CB): Showed promise in past years but really struggled in 2011. At best will show good 2-7 break with tight spin. More recently, lacked bite and frequently spun in the middle of the zone. Grade – 30/40
Slider (SL): Lacks the darting bite of some sliders, but has good spin and enough movement to miss bats. Throws with confidence in any count and can command better than curveball. Grade – 40/50
Change-up (CH): Gained feel throughout 2011. Maintains arm speed well and relies on grip to reduce velocity. Can turn it over to get some arm-side movement. Grade – 40/50
Control: Inconsistency in his mechanics works against him. Generally works around the zone but will lose it on occasion. Can nibble and try to work out of the zone too often when he needs to attack and get ahead more. Grade – 50/60
Command: Rarely locates his pitches within the strike zone. Will flash ability to locate the fastball. Not a plus athlete so projection for improved command ability is limited. Grade – 30/40
Summation: Raw stuff flashes average or better across the board and he throws enough strikes to earn some praise as a lefty with a pure number two ceiling. Inconsistency across his game leaves him with a more likely ceiling as a number three starter. Doesn’t field position well and pickoff move is easily read. Nuances of the game, including pitch sequencing and the intellectual side of pitching will require additional work. Needs more time in the developmental process to piece things together.
Relative Risk: High. Despite flashing good stuff and some impressive outings along the way, James carries considerable risk. He still has significant flame-out potential as a result of his raw mechanics and inconsistencies. The reduction in fastball velocity in 2011 is a concern.
Future: Early word has James heading to Double-A Jacksonville to start the 2012 season. Despite being very hittable in 2011 some of the scouts I spoke with still believe he could be in line for a breakout campaign with some minor gains across the board. I remain higher on James than many folks outside the Marlins organization, as I believe the hiccups experienced this year were a positive developmental step for him. He is probably a full two years away from big league readiness but that could coincide well with some potential openings in the Marlins rotation.