Q&A with Jeremy Hellickson

In his first full season of professional baseball in 2006, Jeremy Hellickson impressed a lot of scouts by finishing the year 3-3 with a 2.43 ERA for the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York Penn League. Currently, Hellickson is ranked as the 9th best overall prospect in the organization by Scout.com. Hellickson recently sat down for an interview with Rays Digest.

Jeremy Hellickson was regarded by many scouts as one of the top overall pitching prospects in the high school draft class of 2005. Some scouting agencies even regarded the Des Moines, Iowa native as a potential first round pick. However, his commitment to LSU and questions about his size dropped him to the fourth round. Hellickson also had to fight a northern bias coming from a high school program that did not start their schedule until several of the top programs in warm weather states had already finished their seasons. Shortly after he was selected in the 2005 draft, Hellickson signed with the Devil Rays and reported to Princeton. In four Rookie League appearances at the end of that season, Hellickson allowed 4 earned runs in 6 innings.

In his first full season of professional baseball in 2006, the young right hander impressed a lot of scouts finishing the year 3-3 with a 2.43 ERA for the Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York Penn League. Following the season, Hellickson was selected as the Renegades pitcher of the year. In 77.2 innings the 19 year old only allowed 21 earned runs and 55 hits. After his strong performance last summer, Hellickson quickly moved up our list of top prospects in the Tampa Bay organization. Currently, Hellickson is ranked as the 9th best overall prospect in the organization by Scout.com.

Hellickson has an electric arm with a fastball that can tough as high as 95 MPH, but his most impressive pitch is his slider. When he is on, Hellickson's slider falls off the table and is nearly unhittable for young hitters. Keep an eye on Hellickson because he is one of the most talented players in the entire minor league system. Even with several top pitching prospects including J.P. Howell, Jeff Niemann, and Mitch Talbot ranked ahead of him on our list, Hellickson could very well find himself in the Tampa Bay rotation within the next three years. In his first start of the season for Columbus, Hellickson lasted 6.0 innings and only allowed 1 run with six strikeouts to earn his first victory of the year. Hellickson did not begin the season with club after staying in Florida for extended Spring Training.

Hellickson recently sat down with Rays Digest for an interview about his future in the Devil Ray's organization.

RaysDigest.com- Jeremy, thank you for taking the time to talk with us this afternoon-

Jeremy Hellickson- It is my pleasure.

Rays Digest.com- After many scouting agencies ranked you as a consensus first round pick, were you surprised you dropped down to the fourth round back in 2005?

Jeremy Hellickson- I was just happy that I was drafted at all. It is a blessing to be playing baseball professionally.

RaysDigest.com- Do you think your height (6'0) hurt your draft status?

Jeremy Hellickson- That is what a lot of people have said. I am working hard to prove anyone that ever doubted me that I can be a successful pitcher at the big league level some day regardless of my size. Size definitely helps some pitchers out, but I think my stuff will get me where I want to be.

Raysdigest.com- What do you consider your best pitch and where does you fastball top out at?

Jeremy Hellickson- My fastball is my best pitch in my opinion and I can hit around 94-95 when I am on, but my slider can be an effective pitch as well for me.

Raysdigest.com- How far away do you think you are from being ready to reach the major leagues?

Jeremy Hellickson- I am still along way away and I am trying to learn everything I can. I have at least 2-3 more years before I will be ready to join the big league club.

RaysDigest.com- If you did not sign with Tampa Bay out of high school, what were your plans after graduation?

Jeremy Hellickson- I signed a letter of intent to play baseball at Louisiana State University, but I was pretty focused on starting my professional career as soon as possible.

RaysDigest.com- Are you happy with the decision to opt out your college years?

Jeremy Hellickson- Yeah, I don't regret it at all. College would have been fun, but I am getting paid to the thing that I love the most, play baseball. What could be better?

RaysDigest.com- How do you feel you performed at Hudson Valley in your first full professional season in 2006?

Jeremy Hellickson- I felt at I had a pretty good year, but I am working hard to do even better this season. I just want to keep improving every day.

RaysDigest.com- What has been the highlight of your minor league career to this point? Winning the Most Outstanding Pitcher at Hudson Valley last year has to be up there.

Jeremy Hellickson- Yeah, but making my first professional start is definitely number 1 and it will be until I make my first big league start.

RaysDigest.com- Did you play with Josh Hamilton in Hudson Valley last year?

Jeremy Hellickson- Yes, for about 20 games. He is a great guy. I knew he would make it, but just not this fast. He has a great work ethic and passion for the game. He is going to be a great player in this game for a long time. He is very talented. I wish him the best of luck.

RaysDigest.com- Speaking of talented young players, who has been the best player you have played with or against to this point in your career?

Jeremy Hellickson- I have played with and pitched against Andrew Mccutchen and he is unreal. He is unbelievable skills wise and he is also a great guy.

RaysDigest.com- Jeremy, I appreciate you taking the time to do an interview with me today. Good luck in 2007 and with the rest of your promising baseball career.

Jeremy Hellickson- Thank you.

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