Will Startup was the Braves' fifth round pick in last June's amateur draft. Startup is a left-handed pitcher from Cartersville, Georgia that pitched at the Univeristy of Georgia from 2003-2005. He became famous in 2004 with a superb season for the Bulldogs, posting a 2.22 ERA and 12 saves in 33 games, along with a fantastic showing in the College World Series.
Here is what Al Goetz, the Braves' scout for Georgia, had to say about Startup after the draft:
"For me, he's a Mike Stanton-type guy. I think for us he'll be a good setup guy for us down the road. He commands three pitches. Nothing real plus. He doesn't have a plus fastball or a plus breaking ball, but he's got plus command and outstanding makeup. He's a bulldog on the mound. This year in college he kind of had an off year on the mound compared to last year when he was a closer and knew his role. I think they confused him a little bit by closing him and then starting him on Sundays. I think he's going to get back to form. I think he possibly tried to do a little too much this year, instead of trying to pitch within his self and with his stuff. He's always come in and gone two or three innings and gotten out of there. Whenever you lengthen out a guy that's been use to closing, unless it's John Smoltz, you're changing your entire approach. He had to do both roles this year. He had a great year last year. He was probably one of the best closers in college baseball. He's an outstanding kid from a great family. They're real good people. Will just loves the game, and he's going to put everything he's got into being a big leaguer. He's excited about being a Brave, and we're excited to have him. He's another solid left-hander that can move up quickly through our ranks. I think any left-hander in our system right now or anyone that has the ability to command the strike zone like him has a chance. I think he's going to progress as quickly as we let him. He's a fastball, changeup, curveball guy. He'll throw a cutter. His big think is location. Every pitch is average, but his location, command, and his makeup make him a plus guy for me."
After the Braves drafted him, he went to Rome and had a terrific first season in the system. Startup was 3-2 with a 2.37 ERA in 25 games with five saves. He also allowed only 31 hits in 38 innings, with only 6 walks and 30 strikeouts.
Here is Jim Czajkowski, Rome's pitching coach, talking about Startup late in the 2005 season.
"He features a fastball, curve ball, slider, and a change up. He's very aggressive in the zone. He goes right at the batters. He's got that high leg kick, and I think that throws the hitters off a little bit because his foot actually goes over his head before his delivery. It's kind of funky, but it works for him. He's anywhere from 88-91. I like the aggressiveness."
Startup will head to camp with a chance to compete for a spot on the Myrtle Beach or Mississippi roster. The Braves made a point of drafting college relievers last June, and one reason was the prospect of getting them to the big leagues a bit quicker than a high school reliever, therefore helping a need on the big league club. Startup is a kid that could easily find himself knocking on the door of the big leagues late in 2006. If he starts out at Myrtle Beach, it's unlikely he'll finish the season there. Don't count out the possibility of having Startup in the Atlanta bullpen late next season. If not, it's very realistic that he could go to spring training in 2007 and compete for a job in the bullpen.
Click here to listen to Bill Shanks interview Will Startup. It's a rather long interview, but it's well worth listening to one of the Braves' top relief prospects.
The podcast is titled, "Will Startup Interview." Click on the headset with the podcast dated January 10th.
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. You can email Bill at email@example.com.
Audio Interview: Will Startup
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