Top Prospect #48: Darren Byrd

Darren Byrd did a couple of pleasantly surprising things after the Phillies drafted him out of high school. The Phillies made Byrd their 18th round pick in the 2005 Draft and got more than they might have thought they ever would from the 18 year old.

The Phillies expected very little from Darren Byrd in 2005. In fact, they expected nothing from him. They drafted him, figuring that he would head off to Okaloosa-Walton Junior College and the Phillies would have to just wait and see; in baseball terms, draft-and-follow. Instead, just days after being drafted, there was Byrd with a pen in his hand inking a deal that would send him off to the Gulf Coast League for his first taste of professional baseball. Even so, the Phillies didn't set their expectations too high. After all, Byrd was just 18 years old and had a lot of learning to do.

When he hit the GCL, Byrd on July1, things didn't start well for Byrd. He was hit for three runs in two innings of work. A week later though, things had improved and in his second outing, he pitched four innings, giving up just one run. From there on out, except for a shaky outing here and there, Byrd was impressive. He finished the stint with a 3-1, 2.66 mark in nine games. The young right-hander settled into the starting rotation and made himself right at home.

'05 Gulf Coast League 3 1 2.66 0 9 8 44.0 36 14 13 1 10 24

Acquired: Drafted by the Phillies out of Pine Forest High School in Pensacola, Florida in the 18th round of the 2005 Draft.

Repertoire: Byrd throws the basic mix of pitches and features a fastball that is generally in the mid-to-upper 80 mile per hour range. He gets good sinking action on his fastball and knows how to keep it away from hitters. Since he's only 18, there is still some physical developing to do and with a little work, his velocity should show an increase. His curveball isn't as consistent as it will need to be, but many scouts believe that with work, he'll develop into a real good curveball pitcher who will be able to mix his pitches to keep hitters off pace.

Projection: The Phillies are likely to keep Byrd in the starting rotation for the time being. It won't hurt to put a few innings on his arm and let him work on developing his curveball and see where that takes him. There is a temptation to put him in the bullpen, since he does have such good sinking action on his fastball, but with the added weapon of what will likely be a plus-curve, he's likely suited to start. It's not too likely that Byrd will be rushed and he'll probably start 2006 in extended camp and then pitch for Batavia once the short-season begins. It's not out of the question that if he develops well in extended camp and pitches well at Batavia that he could get a start or two at Lakewood, but that would be a best-case scenario for Byrd.

ETA: Byrd is much too young to try to figure on when he'll be in Philadelphia or anywhere near. He has a lot of work ahead of him and a lot of his progress will be determined by how quickly his curveball and his other secondary pitches develop. For now, the Phillies are just glad that he signed and got himself into their organization as quickly as he did.

Comparison: From a build perspective, there are comparisons to Andy Ashby. Some scouts believe that he'll be a similar type of pitcher as to what Ashby was in his prime, which would be a nice find for the Phillies.


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