2009 Breakout Candidate: Graham Godfrey

Last off-season, the Oakland A's made a number of trades in order to restock the farm system with talent. The first of those trades involved the Toronto Blue Jays, who sent two pitching prospects – Graham Godfrey and Kristian Bell – to Oakland for Marco Scutaro. Godfrey took his lumps last season in the hitter-friendly California League, but he looks to be poised for a breakout campaign in 2009.

Vital Statistics
Name: Graham Godfrey
DOB: 08/09/84
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 205
B/T: R/R

Godfrey was the headline prospect in the Marco Scutaro trade. The right-hander was a 34th round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2006 out of the College of Charleston. He signed with the Blue Jays late and made his professional debut in 2007 in the Midwest League. He pitched well for Lansing, posting a 3.99 ERA and walking only 36 in 110.2 innings.

Once Godfrey joined the A's, he was assigned to High-A Stockton. He would spend the majority of the season with the Ports, with the exception of a week early in the season when he was sent up to Triple-A Sacramento when injuries and promotions depleted the River Cats' pitching staff. Godfrey held his own in his first taste of Triple-A, allowing three runs in 6.2 innings stretched over two appearances.

The rest of Godfrey's season was spent with Stockton, where he made 29 appearances (24 starts) and threw a team-high 134 innings. His ERA was 5.10 and he went only 5-8. There were some good points to Godfrey's statistical line, however. He struck-out 119 and walked only 37 in those 134 innings. Godfrey's control was especially good over his final 10 starts, during which he issued only nine walks while striking out 51 in 55 innings.

Godfrey also appeared to suffer from the hitter-friendly nature of the Cal League. His batting average for balls in play (BABIP) was .352, leading to 157 hits allowed in 134 innings. Godfrey's BABIP was even higher on the road at .370, not a surprising statistic given some of the bandbox stadiums in the southern portion of the league. Godfrey's fielder independent ERA was 3.28 and 3.98, respectively, over the final two months of the season. He continued his strong pitching into the post-season, when he won both of his starts and allowed only two earned runs in 13 innings.

Godfrey has a well-developed repertoire of pitches, a two-seam fastball that sits primarily in the 90-94 range, a sharp slider, a change-up and a curveball. He experienced considerably more success last season against right-handed batters (.249 BAA) than he did against lefties (.338 BAA), an indication that he may need to add another pitch (such as a cut fastball or a splitter) or throw his curveball more often against left-handers. The curveball was his least utilized pitch last season.

Godfrey gets some natural sink on his fastball and he induces more groundballs than flyballs, although he isn't an extreme groundball pitcher. Despite the small dimensions and light air of many of the Cal League stadiums, Godfrey did a fairly good job keeping the ball in the ballpark throughout the season, allowing 14 homeruns.

In many ways, Godfrey's 2008 season in Stockton was very similar to the campaign that right-hander Vince Mazzaro put together for the Ports in 2007. In 2007, Mazzaro posted a 5.33 ERA and allowed 159 hits in 153.2 innings for the Ports with a 115:71 K:BB ratio and 13 homeruns allowed. Freed from the Cal League in 2008, Mazzaro had a breakthrough season, posting a 1.90 ERA in 137.1 innings for Double-A Midland and a 2.74 ERA overall in 171 innings for Midland and Triple-A Sacramento. Mazzaro won the Texas League's Pitcher of the Year honors.

Godfrey is older than Mazzaro (Godfrey will be 24 throughout most of the 2009 season, while Mazzaro will be 22), and, therefore, he isn't likely to see the physical changes that Mazzaro experienced last off-season when he finally grew into his body. His physical maturation gave Mazzaro a few more miles per hour on his fastball, something that certainly helped him make his dramatic improvement. It would also be unrealistic to expect anyone to match Mazzaro's 2008 Midland numbers. Nevertheless, Godfrey is a strong candidate to see a marked improvement in his statistics in 2009.

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