Introducing Jason Windsor, RHP

For the first time this season, the Oakland A's will be sending a rookie to the mound to make his major league debut. The honor goes to Jason Windsor, who is hoping to follow in the footsteps of homegrown A's hurlers such as Tim Hudson, Barry Zito and Rich Harden who made their debuts in the second-half of a season in which the A's were in a pennant race. We have an overview of Windsor inside...

Background

Jason Windsor was part of a 2004 draft class for Oakland that has already produced major league closer Huston Street and includes top prospects Kurt Suzuki (who was Windsor's catcher in college), Landon Powell and Richie Robnett. Windsor was selected in the third round of that draft out of Cal-State Fullerton.

Fortunately for Oakland, the draft was before the start of the College World Series. Had the draft come after college baseball's seminal event, Windsor may have been given more notice by other teams earlier in the draft. Windsor was the star of the CWS that year, putting his Titans teammates on his back en route to a World Series championship. He was crowed the Series' Most Outstanding Player.

During his senior season at Fullerton, Windsor went 13-4 with a 1.72 ERA and had 148 strikeouts in 162.2 innings. In addition to his Series MVP award, Windsor was also named the Big West Conference Pitcher of the Year and a Second-Team College All-American that season.

Professional Career

Windsor began his professional career under a bit of a cloud of controversy, as A's GM Billy Beane was very vocal in his displeasure with the Titans' decision to allow Windsor to throw so many pitches during his senior season. Consequently, Windsor's innings were severely limited in his first professional season.

He made four relief appearances for Vancouver that season, allowing only four hits in five scoreless frames. He struck out five. Windsor then became the second pitcher in his draft class (after Street) to be promoted to a full-season affiliate. He joined the Kane County Cougars late in that season and made nine relief appearances, allowing four runs in 13 innings (2.77 ERA). He won a game and saved three for Kane County.

In 2005, Windsor began the season in High-A Stockton, where he teamed with Dallas Braden to give the Ports a dominant early-season rotation. In 10 starts with the Ports, Windsor went 2-2 with a 3.58 ERA. Most impressive was his K:BB ratio, which was a staggering 64:8 in 55.1 innings with the Ports.

That early-season performance earned Windsor a promotion to AA on May 31. Windsor began his stint with the Rockhounds on fire, allowing only eight runs in his first 28.2 innings. However, Windsor struggled in his next seven starts, allowing 28 runs in 28 innings. He was shut-down with a sore shoulder on August 8 after a start the previous day in which he allowed a career-high eight runs in 3.2 innings. It was the second time that Windsor was on the shelf with a sore shoulder and the A's decided to end his campaign there to guard against future injury.

That decision appears to have been a wise one, as Windsor has been strong throughout the 2006 season. Windsor began this year back in AA-Midland, where he was the Rockhounds' Opening Day starter. Windsor lost that start, but hasn't lost one since. In six starts with Midland, Windsor allowed 11 runs in 33.1 innings (2.97 ERA) with 35 strikeouts and 10 walks. He allowed two homeruns in that Opening Day start and then didn't allow another one over the next 28 innings.

On May 5, Windsor was promoted to AAA-Sacramento, where he picked up where he left off in AA. In 12 starts with the River Cats, Windsor has gone 8-0 with a 4.07 ERA in 66.1 innings pitched. He has struck out 75 batters and walked only 20 over that span. Not counting his last start for Sacramento where he was limited to three innings in preparation for his big league debut, Windsor struck out six or more batters in each of his starts, save for the first one. He allowed only three homeruns in those 66.1 innings.

Scouting Report

Windsor is a big-bodied pitcher, with a build similar to a Kevin Millwood. He uses an over-the-top arm slot to release his pitches and repeats his delivery well. Despite his over-the-top delivery, Windsor hides the ball well, as he holds it almost behind his leg before bringing it into a throwing position.

Windsor has four pitches, a fastball that sits in the mid-to-high 80s with good movement, a big 12-6 curveball with similar action to that of A's reliever Justin Duchscherer (although he doesn't throw it with nearly as much accuracy as Duke does at the moment), an average slider and an outstanding change-up that works to keep hitters off of his average-ish fastball.

Windsor has had good to great control throughout his minor league career and has maintained an excellent strikeout to innings pitched ratio throughout his minor league career. Some within the A's organization have compared Windsor to current A's fourth starter Joe Blanton and they have a similar pitching arsenal. However, Windsor has consistently struck out more batters per inning than Blanton did in his minor league career, so that could bode well for Windsor, as Blanton has, at times, struggled to avoid contact in the major leagues.

In terms of make-up, Windsor grades at the top of the scale. He has been a big-game pitcher throughout his career, especially when he was in college, where Windsor not only won big post-season games for the Titans, but also came-up big in a number of late-season Big West Conference contests.

Windsor has had little trouble adjusting to new levels of competition as he has progressed through the A's system and the only period of struggle he has encountered in the minors was in the second half of last season when he was pitching through shoulder soreness.

Windsor does not have Rich Harden-fireball stuff, so he will need to maintain his pinpoint control to find success at the major league level. However, the A's have had success with "soft-tossing" control pitchers over the past few years, with Duchscherer and Blanton being two recent success stories.

Windsor turned 24 on Sunday so he should be just entering his prime years for pitching. He will have a tough assignment for his first outing, taking on the potent Baltimore Orioles offense at the hitter-friendly Camden Yards on Monday. If he has success on Monday, Windsor could be a big factor for the A's during the second half of the season, especially since it appears Harden is nowhere close to returning to the starting rotation.

OaklandClubhouse has been tracking Jason Windsor's career since he was drafted by Oakland in 2004. For all of our Windsor-related stories, please click here.

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