Entering the 2010 season, USC baseball right-hander Andrew Triggs had earned quite a following among major-league scouts.
He was, at that time, nearly a perfect prospect, ranked the 38th overall player for Monday's draft (3 p.m. PT, MLB Network) according to Baseball America.
Why? Triggs had what every pro team looks for in a prospect: a dominant pitch — in his case a hard sinking fastball that allows him to pile up quick outs in a Brandon Webb-esque manner. Talk to pro scouts and a consensus emerges — give us one great pitch and we'll develop the rest.
True to form, Triggs' following had only grown midway through the season. Despite a disappointing win-loss record, he was nearly duplicating his earned-run average numbers from his redshirt freshman season as the Trojans' Friday starter, regularly matching up against some of the best college pitchers in the nation and holding his own.
USC right-hander Andrew Triggs is trying to prove to major-league teams that the sore shoulder that sidelined him for the end of the Trojans' 2010 season won't prevent him from utilizing his heralded sinking fastball at the next level.
Then came the injury, suffered on the last of April at home against Arizona, a team now playing in the postseason in the NCAA Regionals. Triggs had perhaps his best start of the season (seven innings, three hits, no runs) before exiting and earning the win, only his second on the year.
That was the last time he would pitch for the Trojans in 2010. Sometime between that start and his next scheduled start — against Utah a week later — the 6-foot-3, 210-pound Triggs came down with a sore throwing shoulder. He was held out of action against the Utes and against UCLA the next weekend while waiting on an official diagnosis, leaving USC extremely short-handed on pitching.
Only after the season did an MRI exam reveal the true problem: minor inflammation of the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder.
USC coach Chad Kreuter recently attributed it to natural compensation as a result of the Tommy John surgery Triggs underwent during his senior year of high school. The throwing motion moves pressure onto other parts of the arm with the elbow still in a healing state — and, ergo, a sore shouder.
It's a common injury, surely, but one that has come at a very inconvenient time for Triggs.
"Long term, it's not something I'm really worried about," Triggs said this week from his home in Nashville, Tenn., where he is currently rehabbing the injury and faxing off detailed medical reports to major-league clubs around the country who have expressed interest. "But, as for right now, the timing couldn't really be any worse."
"I'm in a perpetual state of limbo at this point."
Not that all potential draftees aren't, although Triggs' case is particularly interesting in that he has heard projections anywhere from the fourth round to the 40th round.
The difference between being selected in the two rounds? A whole lot of waiting, as the late rounds don't happen until Wednesday — and roughly $250,000. A typical fourth-round selection pulls in a signing bonus around that amount, while a 40th-round selection famously earns a plane ticket to his rookie ball destination and a few dollars of spending money.
This, after entering the season as a projected first-round supplemental selection, a spot where a signing bonus in the millions is often the norm.
"It's unfortunate," said Triggs, who earned both Pac-10 Honorable Mention and All-Academic honors after a freshman season where he posted a 5-3 record and 3.95 ERA. "If the season had just finished after that Arizona start, I probably would've been in a much better position — if I just hadn't had the little hiccup with the injuries."
Now, Triggs is in the middle of a doctor-ordered rehab program — he's currently on week two of a three-to-four week process, he said — and his plan is, wherever he is selected, to take some time to prove to the team that drafts him that he is worth a sizable signing bonus. Teams have until mid-August to sign draft selections. By then, Triggs said, he hopes to be back to 100 percent.
But, as a redshirt sophomore, he is also lucky to have the option to return to school and still have leverage following the end of the next season — a key aspect in negotiation that can net a prospect many thousands more dollars from a professional team.
"There's a very, very real possibility I end up coming back to SC next year," he said. "I'd obviously like to sign, but, given my situation, I'm realistic. I know how teams view injuries, especially leading up to the draft. My expectations are tempered, and I'm not going to try to read into the situation more than I can."