Phillies Draft Retrospective: Gavin Floyd
The draft is less than a week away and my press credential application to attend the event has been denied by Major League Baseball. In effort to channel my grief and anger into something useful, I have been sat at my desk all day Friday, racking my brain for some good ideas for content leading up to next week’s selections. I’m not going to write up scouting reports on all the potential prospects the Phillies might select. You can find that information in literally dozens of places online, in print, and on TV the night of the draft. Instead you’re getting a look back at some of the Phillies more prominent draft picks from the past 20 years or so. Thanks to the fantastic information archived at the Baseball Hall of Fame’s new scouting exhibit and the prospect resources we have at our fingertips, we can start to look back at some developmental achievements and failures of well regarded young players at various checkpoints in their careers. I hope to bring several of these to you over the next week. In order to do that, these pieces will be more research intensive than writing oriented. We start with Gavin Floyd.
Baseball America’s Draft Report on Floyd prior to the 2001 Draft:
Floyd has been a known commodity nationally for most of his high school career, and scouts have compare him to a young Kerry Wood. (Eric’s note: In general, comparing players to other players is a bad idea. It’s lazy and misleading. Scouts often use “comps” in reports to paint a picture of a player’s physical appearance. Yeonis Cespedes physical comp: Bo Jackson) He has No. 1 starter stuff and command of three pitches. His fastball sits at 91-94 mph and has touched 97 this spring. His power curve is the equal of almost any pitcher in the amateur ranks. His arm action is clean and effective. At 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, his body is long and lanky–ideal for a pitcher. If anything, he has gotten stronger this year in the lower half of his body. The intangibles are all there as well. Floyd has excellent makeup and is focused in his approach to pitching. High school arms are normally the riskiest commodity in the draft, but scouts say Floyd is as safe as a high school pitcher can be.
Baseball America sources all of their information from scouting contacts in the industry. That report is a collage of opinion and evaluation from several observers on various levels of the scouting hierarchy. Opinions on a player can vary from scout to scout (You’ll see a really cool example of that next week in one of these pieces). Here’s what Marlins’ scout Phil Rossi (who was with the Indians at the time of Floyd’s high school graduation) thought of Floyd when he observed him as an amateur.
Rossi saw Floyd in autumn of 2000 when Floyd was pitching mostly out of the bullpen for a Fall Ball team in Maryland to limit his workload. This probably impacted his velocity in some way since Rossi’s gun readings were light compared to the numbers Baseball America was hearing. Rossi also wasn’t as infatuated with Floyd’s curveball as other seemed to be, grading it out as a present 4, a below average pitch(though he did project it to be a future 6 offering, a true weapon). Overall, Rossi liked what he saw from Floyd, and he certainly saw plenty of him, as he graded Floyd out with a 64 OFP (Overall Future Potential/Projection) which is somewhere between an above average regular and an All Star.
I dug up some video of a very young, very skinny Gavin Floyd: Baseball Factory TV – Gavin Floyd 2000 Pre-Season All-American
The sluggish pace of his delivery at the time is certainly irksome but may not necessarily have been a bad thing. He doesn’t really throw that curveball in the video at all.
The Phillies popped Floyd fourth overall in that draft. Joe Mauer, Mark Prior and Dewon Brazelton went ahead of him, Mark Teixeira immediately after. He was impressive enough as an amateur for Baseball America to rank him #3 in the Phillies system after the 2001 season:
Floyd’s brother Mike, an outfielder, was selected by the Phillies in the 22nd round. The Floyd brothers were enrolled at South Carolina and on campus before Gavin agreed to a club-record $4.2 million bonus. Floyd’s arm draws comparisons to Darryl Kile, Wade Miller and Brett Myers. He signed too late to pitch during the 2001 season, but he made a strong first impression in instructional league. Floyd showed his best stuff for Phillies brass, including an explosive 95-96 mph fastball that bores in on righthanders. Roving pitching instructor Gary Ruby, now with the Pirates, called Floyd’s punchout curveball the best he’s seen in 16 years of coaching in the minors. Floyd hasn’t had to use his changeup much, though it could be a plus pitch. He’s refined for his age but needs mechanical fine-tuning. He finished his delivery too straight up in instructional league.
Note the fastball velocity. On to BA’s assessment from 2002, when Floyd was named the #1 prospect in the system:
Floyd made a strong pro debut in 2002, ranking among the low Class A South Atlantic League leaders in several categories. Managers rated him the league’s top prospect. The Phillies handled Floyd cautiously, starting his pitch count at 70 and stretching it to 100 as he gained strength and durability. Floyd came to the Phillies with two plus pitches: his fastball and hard, sharp curveball. He throws the fastball 89-92 mph, peaking at 94-95 mph, with rapid arm action and a smooth delivery, and he used it almost exclusively to no-hit Lexington on July 24. Nevertheless, his knee-buckling curve is his best pitch because it can be unhittable at times. The organization asked Floyd to lay off his curve last season, urging him to develop the changeup that he never needed in high school. He has a nice feel for it now, and it could become a third plus offering. Floyd profiles as a #1 starter.
There are a few things there that might make you throw up in your mouth a little bit. First off, Floyd has lost a full grade, maybe more, off his fastball. Lots of guys never throw harder than they do while they’re in high school. There’s a huge difference between pitching once a week for three months and once every five days for seven. But the sort of dip it seems Floyd dealt with here is alarming. The other issue here is the Phillies decision to “lay off his curve.” The extent of the curveball’s exile during this season can’t be determined but the long term effects of it were at least anecdotally detrimental. Last August on a Baseball Today podcast, Keith Law and Kevin Goldstein brought up this aspect of Floyd’s development when discussing Baltimore’s disdain for Dylan Bundy‘s cutter. I can’t pull up the podcast online (I think a lot of Goldstein’s ESPN stuff has been scrubbed since the Astros hired him) to get an exact quote but I believe it was Law that said something along the lines of, “I never thought he curveball was ever quite as good as it was before they shelved it.” Moving on to 2003, Floyd moved down to #2 in the Phillies system, behind Cole Hamels…
Floyd entered his pro career with two plus pitches, a 92-95 mph fastball with movement, and a shoulders-to-shoelaces hard curveball that rates 80 on the 20-80 scouting scale at times. His main focus since has been developing a changeup, which now rates average. Floyd works hard at improving his skills and shows above-average makeup. A longtime fan of Kevin Millwood, Floyd tried to emulate his idol’s deliberate delivery after watching him in spring training. It cost Floyd his rhythm and deceptiveness, and it took a month to remedy the problem. He must continue to hone his location and ability to repeat pitches, but he’s still ahead of most pitchers his age.
Notice that the line is, “He entered his pro career with…a 92-95mph fastball” and nothing is said about it’s present velocity. The whole Millwood thing is very upsetting. How do the presumably several pitching coaches hanging out around Spring Training not notice and squash Floyd’s ridiculous mechanical alterations? This is one of the system’s prizes. Pay attention. Moving on to 2004.
His fastball sits at 89-90 mph, topping out at 94. His changeup has improved to a consistent solid-average pitch that’s a plus offering at times. Floyd’s velocity tailed off and his delivery was less consistent at the end of 2004. He must improve his stamina and lower half strength. Floyd also needs to command his fastball better. Floyd could make the 2005 rotation, but will return to Triple-A if he’s not ready. He projects as a No. 2 or 3 starter.
Velo is now just a tick above average and there are now several warts mentioned in the write up. His projection had taken a serious hit. Of course, we all know what Floyd’s ultimate fate with the organization was. He would soon be traded to the Chicago White Sox for Freddy Garcia along with Gio Gonzalez. Floyd has been a part of the White Sox rotation ever since.
Knowing what you know about Gavin Floyd, just off the top of your head, would you say he’s lived up to his status as the #4 overall pick? When I asked myself that question before digging deep into Floyd’s statistical profile, my answer was a quick, “no.” But when you open up his Fangraphs page you’re confronted with a bizarre statistical enigma. Floyd has had an ERA under 4.00 just once in his career, in 2008. That was also the only year Floyd has topped 200 innings of work and yet it’s the year in which he posted the second lowest WAR total as a full time starter. His FIP and xFIP are always lower than his ERA even though he’s had just one year in which his BABIP was over .300. That year his infield defense most often consisted of Paul Konerko (meh) Gordon Beckham (decent) Alexei Ramirez (quite good) and Omar Vizquel (above average at that age over at 3B) which is an fine defense to pitch in front of. He’s posted three seasons of 3 WAR or better for a total of 16 Wins Above Replacement which is right about what you’d expect for a player drafted there. And all of this was done with Don Cooper, one of our era’s best pitching coaches, guiding Floyd into the fray.
From top to bottom Gavin Floyd has had a strange career, one that’s hard to grasp and evaluate even with the myriad of tools we have at our disposal to do so.