Position: Right-handed Pitcher
Rick joins the Tigers as their top pick in the 2007 draft (27th overall), despite being ranked as the top high school arm available. As a senior at Seton Hall Prep, Porcello has led his team deep into the New Jersey state tournament. After throwing a 77-pitch perfect game against Newark Academy in the Greater Newark Tournament, Porcello was named the Gatorade National Player of the Year. With some games left on his schedule, Porcello's record sits at 8-0 with a 0.63 ERA and 95 strikeouts in 56 innings. He has also hit .470 with 10 home runs for the Pirates this season.
While Porcello and his Seton Hall teammates steam towards the championship game this season, the can look back and rely on the experience of having seen Porcello lead them to the 2005 and 2006 New Jersey state titles. In 2006, he posted a strong 6-0 record and 0.30 ERA, to go along with his .380 batting average and slick fielding at shortstop. Success wasn't limited to his final two years at Seton Hall, as he logged a 4-1 mark with a 1.03 ERA, 18 hits, and 50 strikeouts in 34 innings as a sophomore. Rick was also named an AFLAC High School All-American in 2006, to go along with an endless list of state and local honors.
Porcello is a classic power pitcher, with a power pitchers frame that should add some bulk as he matures. His fastball sits comfortably in the mid-90s, and has routinely been run up to around 98 mph this spring. He can command his fastball to both sides of the plate, and pounds the lower half of the zone with strikes. He's fearless on the mound and willing to take back the inside of the plate.
His breaking stuff is very advanced for his age, as he mixes two breaking balls; a power slider with good depth that sits in the 79-82 range, and a very advanced curve ball with good late bite. His change-up has been used very little the last two years, but he has shown a feel for it, and the general belief is that with some work it will be an average pitch. With three above-average to plus pitches, there is little doubt that Porcello rates as a big time starter in the mold of Justin Verlander.
His delivery is repeated well, and is generally clean. Rick can come up a bit short on his follow through, but it's unlikely the Tigers will tinker with this unless it starts to pose him problems. His arm speed is tremendous on all his pitches, as he remains deceptive out of his three-quarters arm slot. Playing against top level competition for years, Porcello has an advanced feel for pitching, and mixes all four offerings with aplomb, keeping hitters off balance rather than just blowing his fastball by them.
Rick is a very good athlete, one that fields his position well, and can make all the necessary plays. He has baseball in his blood, as his grandfather (Sam Dente) played professionally in the 50s.
His overall ceiling is not in doubt, its more a matter of how quickly he can become the ace pitcher he is capable of. He's a legit big time starter, with tons of talent.
Performance Level Team W-L ERA G GS SV SO BB IP AVG HS
Seton Hall (NJ)
Seton Hall (NJ)
Porcello has been healthy throughout his high school career, and having pitched in the north, he hasn't been exposed to some of the heavier workloads of many high school pitchers. Expect the Tigers to be careful with him over the first couple of seasons, as his arm is too valuable to chance.
Porcello's bonus demands are likely to keep him off the field for much of the summer, as he is rumored to be looking for an eight figure deal, and agent Scott Boras will stick to that as long as possible. It is unlikely that his commitment to North Carolina will pose problems, but the new MLB rules dictating that he must sign by August will put some pressure on the Tigers to get the deal done.
Look for Porcello to sign late this summer, and maybe make some token appearances with either Oneonta or the GCL Tigers late in the year. His first true test will come in 2008, as he is likely to taste full-season ball for the first time. Rick's talent level alone could force him through the system quickly, and he could see Detroit as early as the close of the 2009 season.
Mark Anderson covers the Tigers' minor league system and all of minor league baseball for TigsTown.com. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.