Position: Left-handed Pitcher
Furbush has an interesting background, not one seen associated with many 4th round picks. The Tigers selected him after a rough year at Louisiana State, and hope he will regain the form he showed on the Cape in 2006. During the 2007 season, Charlie started 16 games for LSU, going 3-9 with a 4.95 ERA. Despite being named to the 2007 Roger Clemens Award watch list, Furbush couldn't replicate his previous successes.
On the Cape in 2006, Charlie posted a sparkling 1.83 ERA in 54 innings of work for the Hyannis Mets. He was named to the League's All-Star team and was honored with the John Claffey New England Top Prospect Award after tossing a no-hitter against the Bourne Braves; the franchise's first since Major Leaguer Matt Morris hurled one in 1993. Over the summer, Charlie transferred from Division III St. Joseph's College, where he had dominated the lower competition. During his two years at St. Joseph's, Furbush managed a 17-2 record and 185 strikeouts. He was named the North Atlantic Conference Co-Player of the Year as a freshman, and came close to winning the award again as a sophomore. Furbush's sophomore season at the D-III level was littered with award, including the Division III New England Player of the Year, New England Region 1st Team, 1st Team All New England and All Conference, as well as his team's MVP.
After turning pro in June 2007, Charlie made three starts (four appearances) for the GCL Tigers where he went 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA. The Tigers quickly promoted the polished lefty to West Michigan to help with their drive towards another Midwest League title. While with the ‘Caps he managed a 4-1 mark in 45-2/3 regular season innings, with only eleven walks versus 46 punch outs. Despite a lot of optimism heading towards his 2008 season, Furbush was sidelined with Tommy John surgery before the campaign began.
Charlie carries an imposing presence and a power arsenal to the mound; flashing a 94 mph fastball at times. He routinely sits in the 88-92 range, but can dial it up when necessary. It remains to be seen how his velocity will fair post-surgery, but early indications are it was coming back nicely. He has a live fastball that can dominate hitters when it is on, and he can work it to all four quadrants with ease. He has excelled working his fastball to the right side of the plate (in, on righties), but must improve his command to the arm side.
His slurvy breaking ball shows plus potential, and when his fastball is on, gives him two plus pitches from the left side. He works the breaking ball down in the zone and is able to generate consistent late depth on the pitch. His change-up had seen little use prior to transferring to LSU, and he must improve the quality and consistency of the pitch to remain effective once back on the mound. He has showed flashes of bringing the pitch to an above-average level, and his natural arm-side fade should help him keep righties off balance.
The key for Furbush will be to keep his mechanics in order; keeping his arm moving with the rest of his body. He has a tendency to get ahead of his arm, causing him to fly open and lose pitches up on the arm side. When he stays compact, balanced over the rubber, and works down the plane of the mound, he can be a dominating force. His short arm-action on the back side allows him to hide the ball and add a hint of deception to his delivery.
Did Not Pitch - Tommy John Surgery
At last check, Furbush's recovery from Tommy John surgery last spring was going well. He was slated to be back on the mound in spring training, though he might not quite be ready for Opening Day 2009. It is said all the time, but despite improving track records for recovery from UCL surgery, Furbush's recovery is no sure thing. His control will likely lag behind in his return to the mound, but there has been optimism of a full recovery based on early results from his rehab.
When Furbush is ready to take the hill in game action, it is likely he will report to one of the full season A-ball clubs; either West Michigan or Lakeland. His assignment will hinge largely on the vacancies within those pitching staffs. All things being equal, I would assume he moves quickly to Lakeland and his performance dictates the rest.
If Charlie is able to regain his pre-surgery arsenal and keep his mechanics in order, he has solid mid-rotation potential and an outside shot to be a quality #2 if the curveball and change-up really take steps forward. He may still be two full years from being ready for the big leagues, but he warrants plenty of attention as he returns to the mound.
Mark Anderson is TigsTown's Managing Editor and feature Minor League writer. He can be reached at Mark@TigsTown.com.