San Francisco Giants
Position: RHP Height: 6-6 Weight: 210 Born: 7/10/80 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Jesse Foppert was a second-round draft pick in 2001, from the University of San Francisco. He didn't pitch much before his junior year in college, but did well enough that season to get noticed for the draft. He led the Northwest League in ERA after signing, while allowing just 35 hits in 70 innings. Foppert emerged on the mainstream radar screen with an excellent 2002 campaign, punctuated by several overpowering performances, and ending the year being regarded by many experts as the best pitching prospect in the game. He began 2003 in the minor leagues, but was recalled to San Francisco after one start for Triple-A Fresno.
Despite his lack of extensive amateur experience, Foppert has a lot of polish. His mechanics are clean, smooth, and consistent, which helps him throw strikes more consistently than most young power pitchers. His fastball is his best weapon, timed at a consistent 94-95 mph, occasionally peaking at 99. He mixes the fastball with a slider and a splitter, both additional offerings being potentially above-average. The splitter is quite nasty when he is throwing it well. Foppert has good pitching instincts and a fine work ethic. He needs a better changeup, and still needs to sharpen his command, learning the difference between throwing strikes and throwing quality strikes. All of his weaknesses should be resolved with additional experience.
The strongest note on Foppert's statistical resume is his strikeout rate. It's always been very high, and has been exceptionally so in Triple-A, with 118 strikeouts in 84 career Triple-A innings. K/IP rate is the best indicator of long-term potential, and Foppert has that in spades. His walk rate needs to come down, but given how far he's advanced in the last two years, it's not surprising he still has trouble with command. Aside from the higher-than-ideal walk rate, his statistics are impeccable.
Foppert has had no significant injuries. He lost velocity last August and there was concern he was wearing down under a workload he wasn't used to, but his velocity returned to normal this spring. Given his size, strength, and mechanics, he has a good chance to be a durable pitcher if he isn't abused over the next couple of years.
What to expect
With Ryan Jensen out with a sore back, Foppert is now in the majors. His first two games have been relief appearances, though he will get his first start on Tuesday against Pittsburgh. He could probably use additional Triple-A time, to refine his command and improve his changeup, but even with his current skill base he can be successful in the major leagues. Foppert remains one of the most intriguing young pitchers in baseball, and will have a good career if he remains healthy.
John Sickels is the author of the 2002 Minor League Scouting Notebook, and is now working on the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book. His biography of Bob Feller will be published next spring. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas, with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com, or you can visit his homepage at JohnSickels.com.