Prospect Throwdown: Hellickson vs. Pineda
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Today we examine arguably the two most major league ready right-handed starters in the minors, Jeremy Hellickson(notes) and Michael Pineda(notes). While Hellickson has been an endearing fantasy prospect for quite some time, Pineda burst onto the scene in ’10 following a season where at times he was downright dominant. Both offer fantasy appeal in ’11, and could wind up as two of the top starters within three-to-five years. Let’s take a closer look at each and see who comes out on top in our first Prospect Throwdown of the season.
This one is really a no-brainer, as Hellickson has had a clean health record thus far in his minor league career. A sore elbow limited Pineda in ’09 to only 47 innings. The prevailing thought is that if an elbow barks once, there is an increased likelihood that it could howl in the future. Not much of a debate here.
Hellickson has smooth mechanics that he’s able to repeat each time he throws, allowing him to throw all of his pitches from the same arm angle, which also adds a high element of deception to his arsenal. The lone knock on him is that he tends to get too straight up and down on occasion, which leads to sporadic bouts of wildness.
Pineda is the polar opposite of Hellickson, as he has a high-effort delivery, although one that he’s very good at repeating. He throws all of his pitches from a repeatable three-quarter arm slot, so he also offers quite a bit of deception in his arsenal. Many scouts question his arm action, as it is very “whippy” with an “inverted W” delivery. This means that both arms form the shape of an upside-down W just prior to releasing the ball.
One thing that was considered average about Hellickson was his fastball, which prior to ’10 sat in the low 90s and didn’t have a great deal of movement. In ’10, he added a two-seamer and a cutter, which along with his four-seamer gives him a variety of different movements to keep hitters guessing. He’s also able to reach back for a bit more velocity.
The big selling point for Pineda as a top prospect is the plus nature of his fastball, which now sits in the mid to upper 90s. He throws a very heavy ball with good sink, and has good movement on the pitch that allows him to work up in the zone with it also. This is the bread and butter that made him one of the best strikeout artists in the minor leagues last season.
The pitch that sets Hellickson apart from other prospects, and gives him such a reliable floor, is a plus changeup that gives lefthanders fits. He also throws a tight curveball that gives him another strikeout pitch. All are thrown fom the same arm angle.
While Pineda has made great strides with his secondary offerings, the pitches still lag behind his deadly fastball. He throws an above-average slider with good movement which is a solid strikeout pitch for him, but has a tendency to lose feel for it, causing it to flatten out. His changeup could still use more consistency.
While I’ve made my affection for Michael Pineda no secret in the past, I simply can’t justify declaring him the winner over a prospect the caliber of Jeremy Hellickson. In my mind, the health factor is too much of a concern here, and it’s clear Hellickson also has a big advantage in his mechanics and secondary offerings.
I leave you with this final thought, to give you something to think about and ponder. Michael Pineda is nearly two full years younger than Jeremy Hellickson. In dynasty formats, he comes at a much cheaper price than Hellickson, and could offer similar, if not greater upside.
Pineda has a very good chance to significantly outperform his draft position and value in ’11. Hellickson may be overrated heading into fantasy drafts, especially considering the challenging nature of the offensively improved AL East. While Hellickson is the winner, the scorecard is quite close – at least according to this judge.
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