Name: Tommy Hunter
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: July 3, 1986
Entering the 2007 MLB Draft, most experts expected pitcher Tommy Hunter to be drafted around the third or fourth rounds. The Rangers felt differently, as they took him in the supplemental first round with the draft's 54th overall pick.
Because Hunter was a draft-eligible sophomore, some thought he would be a difficult sign. But that wasn't the case, as Hunter signed one month after the draft for a "slot-money" bonus of $585,000.
Professional clubs took notice of the big 6-foot-3, 255-pound hurler around his freshman year at the University of Alabama.
Hunter was named a freshman All-American with the Crimson Tide after going 10-3 with a 3.30 ERA in 2006. He followed that up with an excellent showing with Team USA later that summer. While playing with fellow 2007 Rangers supplemental draft pick Julio Borbon, Hunter worked out of the bullpen to post a 3-0 record with a 3.80 ERA for the stars and stripes. Hunter and Borbon helped lead the U.S. to the Gold medal at the FISU World Championships in Cuba.
The Indiana native showed off his versatility during his sophomore year at Alabama by leading the team in wins, innings pitched and saves. Hunter appeared in 26 games – making 11 starts – and went 7-5 with a 3.87 ERA. In 107 innings pitched, he allowed 100 hits, walked 35, and fanned 96.
It was because of the heavy workload that the Rangers opted to work Hunter out of the bullpen during his professional debut last summer. During that stint with short-season Spokane, the 21-year-old gave up five earned runs in 17.2 innings. He walked just one batter while striking out 13.
Despite his large frame – most scouts would initially say that his body doesn't past their ‘eye test' – Hunter is actually a good athlete. It is now a relatively well-known fact that he was a two-time junior Olympic champion in judo. The talent seems to run in the family because, as Hunter pointed out in an earlier interview, his sister won the competition the year before he did.
Although he pitched out of the bullpen in 2007, Hunter will spend the 2008 season working in the rotation for High-A Bakersfield. He was regarded as one of the most polished pitchers in the entire 2007 MLB Draft and he could be contributing with the Rangers as early as mid-season next year.
Also See: Lone Star Dugout Q&A: Rick Adair (August 25, 2007)
Sizing up the right-handed pitching prospects (October 16, 2007)
Arizona Notebook (October 19, 2007)
Hunter changing it up (October 23, 2007)
Repertoire: Fastball, Curveball, Changeup.
Hunter goes to battle with a low-90s fastball, an above-average curveball and a changeup. The right-hander throws a hard 82-84 mph curveball with a two-plane break. The pitch is already well-advanced and should become a plus big league offering in short order. Hunter made a mechanical adjustment late at instructs that helped out all of his pitches, especially his changeup. Instead of stepping off to the side, Hunter now steps back off the mound in an effort to keep his momentum straight forward. While all three of his pitches – especially the changeup – had a bit of natural cut on them because he was going to the side, the adjustment helped eliminate that. The changes have allowed Hunter to throw a better changeup in addition to giving him a more consistent curveball. Hunter is an aggressive pitcher who is not afraid to attack the strike zone early and often.
Projection: Hunter does not have dominant stuff, but he is likely to develop two strong big league offerings and has a chance to get a third. His stuff and durable body allow him to project as a possible mid-rotation starter in the Majors. If he does not work out as a starter, many believe Hunter could be an effective late-inning reliever in the Majors because of his strike-throwing abilities and plus curveball.
2008 Outlook: The Rangers used Hunter as a reliever during his debut with short-season Spokane last summer, but he will be a starting pitcher for all of 2008. The Alabama product is currently beginning his season with High-A Bakersfield, but he is polished and could finish the season in the rotation with Double-A Frisco. Hunter may very well be the first 2007 Rangers draftee to reach the big league club.