Name: Eric Hurley
Position: Starting Pitcher
DOB: September 17, 1985
Acquired: 2004 Amateur Draft, 1st round
Eric Hurley's career is hanging in the balance, and there's no telling where he'll go from here.
At least, not until he steps back on the mound in a competitive situation.
Hurley last pitched in 2008, the same year he made his big league debut with the Rangers. The 6-foot-4 hurler fought through shoulder troubles all season, and he landed on the big league disabled list after just four starts. The Rangers brought him back one month later–on July 27–and he lasted only two innings in a start against the Oakland Athletics.
That was the last time Hurley pitched in a game. The former first-round pick was shut down for the remainder of the season, and after attempting to rehab the injury, he underwent surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff and a frayed labrum in April 2009.
As a result of the surgery, Hurley missed the entire '09 campaign, but the rehab process has apparently gone well thus far and he is working his way back to health.
According to the Fort Worth-Star Telegram, Hurley is currently throwing bullpen sessions once every five days, and he aims to be facing hitters before the end of Spring Training. He is targeting early-to-mid May as his return to the mound for a minor league club, whether it be Double-A Frisco or Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Hurley could still have an opportunity to help the Rangers this season, but labrum injuries are tricky. The bounce-back rate isn't nearly as high as Tommy John surgery, and similar ailments have effectively ended the careers of talented pitchers like Mark Mulder and Wade Miller.
Still, many pitchers are able to return to full health and have solid careers. Obviously only time will tell in Hurley's case.
The 24-year-old Hurley was once regarded as the system's top overall prospect, and before the surgery, he still had promising stuff that included a hard fastball and two solid offspeed pitches.
Hurley's 32nd overall ranking on this top 50 list may eventually prove to be far too low––if he returns at full-strength and keeps his power repertoire in-tact. At this point, it's simply a guessing game.
Also See: Sizing up the right-handed starters (December 9, 2009)
Repertoire: Fastball, Slider, Changeup.
Fastball: When Hurley was last on the mound in 2008, his fastball sat in the low-to-mid 90s. Through each of his professional seasons, the right-hander gained a reputation as a pitcher that picked up steam as the game progressed. Generally around the third or fourth inning, Hurley's fastball began sitting around 92-95 mph consistently, and he could usually dial it up another tick when necessary.
Hurley features a heavy fastball that is tough to square up when he hits his spots down in the zone, but–particularly in '07 and '08–he became home run-prone, as he often left his fastball up, where it straightened out. Hurley surrendered 26 total round-trippers in '07, and he gave up 20 in just under 100 innings in '08. His fastball command took a step back after reaching the Majors two seasons ago, but that may have been a product of the labrum injury.
Other Pitches: At the time Hurley was drafted, he was regarded as a pitcher with a plus fastball but not much in the way of secondary stuff. Over the next few seasons, he did an excellent job of developing his slider and–later–his changeup. Before the injury, both offspeed pitches had developed into at least average big league offerings [flashing above-average at times], though his slider remained a bit more advanced than his changeup. It will be intriguing to see how well Hurley's secondary stuff [particularly his vulcan change] holds up coming off the labrum surgery.
Projection: Prior to the injury, Hurley looked like a prospect with solid mid-rotation potential because of his ability to throw his power three-pitch repertoire for strikes. There is obviously no telling how he'll react to the injury––and whether or not he'll have similar stuff; but there is a chance he could still fulfill the mid-rotation potential. Hurley only has one career relief appearance in full-season ball, but if his shoulder is unable to hold up as a starter, a move to the bullpen wouldn't be out of the question.
2010 Outlook: Hurley's 2010 season is basically one large question mark at this point. He is currently throwing bullpens and should return to official action by May. At that point, Hurley will rehab his way through the system, and once at full-strength, he should end up in the rotation at Triple-A Oklahoma City. If he stays healthy and everything goes according to plan, Hurley will almost certainly see some time with the Rangers this season. He has the potential to make an impact––once again, as long as he is healthy.
|2004||AZL Rangers (RK)||0-1||15.1||20||4||15||2.35|
|2009||DNP – Injury||---||---||---||---||---||---|