February 20, 2009
To prepare you for the upcoming draft season, the Noise, every Friday until opening day, will feature a lesser-known prospect that has excellent odds of making an indelible fantasy impact this season. Obvious products David Price and Matt Wieters, and charitable Bon Jovi songs, need not apply.
If you're sitting in a dunk tank and Dave Huff steps up to throw, prepare to get soaked.
The former UCLA ace is a master in the art of deception. Often compared to future HOFer Tom Glavine and Barry Zito -- when his WHIP didn't resemble a beached sea elephant -- the elusive southpaw is a command freak with one of the finest changeups in any system.
Huff's fastball, which was routinely clocked between 88-92 mph last year, doesn't overpower hitters. But because of his bulldog demeanor, smooth delivery and remarkable accuracy, he's very difficult to pinpoint. Several AL scouts have been astonished by his pitch placement.
"He's not going to blow you away, but he's a strike-thrower who commands the zone with four pitches. He moves the fastball in and out, up and down very well. And then he's got a pretty good slider and softer breaking ball to go along with that changeup."
Overshadowed by more prominent AL pitching prospects (i.e. David Price, Neftali Feliz, Derek Holland, Trevor Cahill and Brett Anderson), Huff has quietly amassed standout numbers in two-plus minor league seasons. Last year in 146.1 innings between Double- and Triple-A, the 24-year-old posted a 2.52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 1.79 BB/9 and 8.81 K/9. More impressively, because he can fit pitches into tight spaces, he coaxed ample weak contact, indicative in his cumulative 50.9 groundball percentage and otherworldly 10.9 line-drive percentage. Based on his pitching style, its no surprise Huff dominates the ping pong table.
Recently, the mainstream media has started to take notice. Silver-haired soothsayer, Peter Gammons, proclaimed on-air two weeks ago the rookie would win 12 games this season. His prognostication isn't an exaggeration.
Health setbacks (strained elbow/back) have occasionally plagued him, but, if he can avoid the injury imp's bite, he has decent odds of winning the Indians fifth rotation spot this spring. Cleveland skipper Eric Wedge has faith in the youngster. From the Cleveland Plain-Dealer:
"He has a chance to make the club. The opportunity is real...We'll give him a strong look."
Even if he doesn't outperform Aaron Laffey, Jeremy Sowers and Zach Jackson, Huff still has a chance to become this year's John Danks. You just know Carl Pavano will fall victim to a random chimp attack by midseason.
Already available in the Y! game, the groundball-inducing lefty is someone to blurt out in the late rounds of deep mixed and, definitely, AL-only leagues. Assuming he nets 20 starts...
Fearless Forecast: 120 IP, 8 W, 3.92 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 98 K
Photo via AP