Toronto Blue Jays
Position: RHP Height: 6-3 Weight: 220 Born: 3/24/82 Bats: Right Throws: Right
Dustin McGowan was drafted in the supplemental first round in 2000, out of high school in Georgia, the Blue Jays receiving the pick to compensate for the loss of Graeme Lloyd to free agency. The current Blue Jays administration shies away from high school pitchers, so it is somewhat ironic that their best pitching prospect is from those ranks. McGowan had some command problems in the New York-Penn League in 2001, but held his own overall. He made progress refining his command in '02, then broke out with an excellent campaign in '03, finishing the year pitching quite well in Double-A.
McGowan's best pitch is his fastball, a 95-mph sinker. The pitch has good movement, and can be quite overpowering. His secondary offerings include a curveball, a slider, and a changeup. All three are solid most of the time, occasionally excellent. He's been much more consistent with them over the last year. McGowan has improved his control, and his command is very good for a young power pitcher. He's a fine overall athlete, being a former high school basketball star despite not being extremely tall. Good athleticism helps him repeat his delivery, which helps keep his command consistent and should, theoretically, help him keep healthy. Command problems that hurt him at times in 2002 were not evident last year, and he adapted well after his promotion to Double-A. McGowan has the mental and emotional intangibles scouts and coaches like in young pitchers.
Statistically, high strikeout rates, and improving K/BB and BB/IP figures, mark McGowan's track record. This is a clear sign of a rising young pitcher. Note how he maintained a strong strikeout pace after his promotion to Double-A, while actually dropping his walk rate slightly. Although he gave up more than a hit per inning at New Haven, he still came out slightly better than the Eastern League average in H/IP, while maintaining very strong ratings in the other categories. He gave up just two homers last year, testifying to the good sinking action on his pitches.
Since turning pro, McGowan has had no serious health concerns. He did have a tender elbow during his senior year in high school, but it hasn't recurred. Like all pitchers in his age group, he has significant injury risk due to the nature of his profession. But he's efficient for a young power pitcher, and the Jays monitor his workload carefully.
What to expect
McGowan is one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. In my 2004 book, I've given him a Grade A-, rating him as the No. 7 pitching prospect in baseball, just ahead of the more-heralded Adam Wainwright and Gavin Floyd. Objectively and subjectively, McGowan has everything in his favor. If he stays healthy and maintains his command, he could be a No. 1 starter. Expect to see him make the Show sometime this year.
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John Sickels is the author of the 2003 Baseball Prospect Book, which can be ordered from his Web site, JohnSickels.com. His biography of Bob Feller will be published this fall by Brassey's. He lives in Lawrence, Kan., with his wife, son, and two cats. You can send John questions or comments at JASickels@aol.com.