Misch Ready For His Chance

The Giants have long been a source for pitching prospects, but often people focus on the big names like Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez. Well, the Giants have others, and one of the most promising is Pat Misch, a slim southpaw that is on the verge of making his way into the Majors.

There was a time that Pat Misch was thought to be on the fast track to the major leagues.

That time was 2004.  Misch, drafted as a senior out of Western Michigan University in the 7th round of the 2003 draft, had been promoted straight from short-season ball to Double-A Norwich.  He responded by putting up a 3.06 ERA in 26 starts, using a heralded changeup and spectacular control to fool batters.

Then 2005 came around, and so did Fresno.  Misch was hit around in Fresno like a pinball, and though he did better when demoted back to Norwich, many seemed to forget about the young left-hander.  "My mechanics were off," Misch says of the year.  "Basically it was about 4 or 5 things wrong with my mechanics…For me, the mechanics always came easy for me."

Well, this season would be a good year to remember him again.

The 25-year old southpaw fixed his mechanics bounced back in 2006.  He put up a 2.26 ERA to star the year in Double-A, and then put up a respectable 4.02 ERA in his return to Fresno, and made his major league debut in September.  He spent most of the spring in the big league camp, and while he's already been optioned to the minors, this season could be the year he finally breaks through.

Misch's fast track may come as a bit of a surprise for a 7th round pick out of a non-major conference like the MAC, but for Misch, everything has always come natural.  "It's just how my dad taught me.  In college, that's how they recruited me, was because of my mechanics.  I wasn't the greatest pitcher out there, and they just said, we'll take a chance on you."  Of course, the MAC is no soft spot for major league players.  The Giants dipped into that pool again for one of last year's first round picks, Emmanuel Burriss.

Misch credits his dad with the development of his easy motion. "He was basically my coach all through little league," he says.  "I just kind of learned from him, playing catch with him in the front yard.  He helped me a lot."

Whatever he was taught, it's worked.  Misch has walked only 137 batters in over 575 professional innings, a spectacular number.  And while Misch is a four pitch pitcher with a good curveball and a high-80's fastball, it's his changeup that has brought about some of the biggest comparisons he got to a major leaguer; fellow giant Noah Lowry.

The comparisons don't go unnoted by Misch.  "To be compared to him is definitely awesome.  Look at him, he's been up there for two-and-a-half, three years so far, and he's done well," Misch says of Lowry.  "Noah's a great pitcher.  I love watching him.  He's got excellent stuff and he keeps the ball down really well.  That's something I would like to learn a little bit more."

Although Misch has already been optioned to Fresno, the opportunity remains for Misch to make an impact in 2007.  He says of his chance "I'd love to be with San Francisco, I'd love to help them.  Whatever happens, happens."

The biggest thing standing in the way of Misch is how the rotation stacks up for this year and next.  The Giants rotation looks very solid, and the returning Russ Ortiz has pretty much locked up the 5th spot.  And the Giants have the highly rated prospects Tim Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez also on the doorstep.  So while Misch will probably be a part of a power rotation that could contain Lincecum, Sanchez, Nick Pereira and newly signed Jesse Foppert in Fresno, Misch's best chance could be in the bullpen.

Misch had been exclusively a starter until last year, when he got one relief appearance in Connecticut before his promotion back to Triple-A, and his major league debut was also out of the bullpen.  However, Misch has gotten a lot more experience since, acting as a reliever exclusively in both the Arizona Fall League and this year's Spring Training.

"It's a little bit of a transition, but…from where I started, the first couple of innings to now, it's a big difference, and the comfort level has definitely changed."

Misch's pitching style is suited for more than the stereotypical lefty specialist role, as he is just about as equally effective against right-handed batters as left-handers.  A future in the bullpen could see Misch taking a role similar to the one Jeff Fassero had for several years, working as a long reliever and spot starter.  With the amount of uncertainty so far in this year's bullpen, a promotion is not at all unlikely if he does well in Triple-A.

Whatever happens this year, Misch may be overshadowed by some of the more celebrated names in the system.  But 2007 seems like the perfect time for a breakout for the 25-year old, and chances are, you'll see more of him in the major leagues before too long.
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